My Life System #81: Fiction Immersion

I wrote previously about my liking for thrillers: “A good story transports you to a different world – it is the equivalent of dreaming with eyes open. Some authors that I like include Daniel Silva (Gabriel Allon series), Michael Connelly (Bosch and others), Anthony Horowitz, Scott Turow and John Grisham (legal), David Baldacci, Joel Rosenberg, David Ignatius, Brad Thor, Jeffrey Deaver (Lincoln Rhyme), Ken Follett, and Ruth Ware (Agatha Christie type thrillers).”

While thrillers are a good escape and there is no shortage of titles that come through the year, every so often I read a book which is different and leaves a mark. One of the best books I read was “Klara and the Sun” by Nobel laureate Kazuo Ishiguro. It is a book which must be read slowly because each sentence is so beautifully crafted. The book immerses us in the world as seen through the eyes and ‘mind’ of Klara. It is set in a near-future where Artificial Friends (AFs) are created to alleviate human loneliness. Klara, an extremely observant solar-powered AF, is chosen by a young girl named Josie to be her companion. The story follows Klara’s journey to understand the complexities of human emotions, relationships, and mortality as she tries to save Josie’s life by seeking the mysterious power of the Sun. The book explores themes of love, artificial intelligence, ethics, the essence of consciousness, questioning the nature of life and what makes us human.

While reading the book, I was completely immersed in it. It was a very different experience from reading murder mysteries and thrillers where the race is to the finish line. I did not want the Klara book to end. Even after I had read it, the book stayed with me. It contemplated a future that was not far off, and thanks to the exponential innovation we are now seeing in AI, that future could happen much sooner than we expect. Klara is such an endearing creation and one begins to wonder if machines can have feelings or it is just the algorithms at work, blurring the line between human and machine.

Another book I read recently was “Notes on an Execution” by Danya Kukafka. I came across it after it won the 2023 Edgar Award for Best Novel. It explores the psyche of a serial killer (Ansel Packer, in second person) and the women who shaped him. The book is about the last 12 hours before his scheduled execution. As Jacqueline Bublitz writes: “In a chapter poignantly titled Elsewhere, we get to imagine the lives of the women and girls he murdered, if only they had been left alone. These moments that might have been are both beautiful, and beautifully ordinary. Traveling to other countries. Holding babies. Remembering the eating of an orange in the sun. We see what the man who took their lives could not. That an entire universe was contained within each woman. Life after life to be lived. She was always more than her ending, the worst thing that happened to her. And he will only ever be the worst thing he did.” The book is very well written and brings the tension alive.

A good fiction book is about immersion – travelling through space and time into the characters that the author creates. It weaves together elements of setting, plot, and character development to create a vivid and engaging world that captivates us as readers, inviting us to lose ourselves in the story. For those few hours, the words on the page (or screen) intersect with our thoughts and create a mind meld. Through immersive writing, the author evokes a range of emotions, allowing us to empathise with the characters’ experiences and explore the intricacies of human relationships and life’s complexities. We can envision ourselves in the fictional universe a good author crafts, with detailed descriptions and believable dialogue. This resonance provides an escape from the mundane on a lazy weekend afternoon or a late night after a long workday, offering a portal that connects the author’s writing and our imagination. Immersion in a good fiction book fosters a deeper understanding of the human experience – very different perhaps from our own. The book leaves behind questions, some answers, and many memories that linger long after the final page is turned.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.

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