His most famous work is his Utopia, a book in which he created his version of a perfect society and gave his name to such conceptions ever after as "utopias." The word is of Greek origin, a play on the Greek word eutopos, meaning "good place." In the book, More describes a pagan and communist city-state in which the institutions and policies are governed entirely by reason. The order and dignity of the state in this book contrasted sharply with the reality of statecraft in Christian Europe at the time, a region divided by self-interest and greed for power and riches. The book was also an expression of More's form of Humanism (Maynard 41). The term can also have broader application as a reference to any plans of government or schemes for social improvement which present the possibilities of a good society.
The society depicted in Never Let Me Go can be seen as a utopia for some and a dystopia for others, and an objective analysis would find it to be a dystopia because it does not serve the needs of anyone in certain ways. For the majority of the population, of course, this is a society that offers a good life and that also promises major medical possibilities, including the possibility of the replacement of organs on a grand scale so that lifelong health can be assured and so that life can even be much prolonged for those with a clone. For the clones, of course, this is clearly a dystopian society that gives these individuals no choice, that curtails their life for the benefit of others, and that is structure on a questionable moral position. Indeed, this last point is what makes this a dystopian society to an objective observer, for everyone in the society is guilty of immoral behavior by the act of creating these clones and then treating them as they do even before they are harvested for organs.
The issue relates to our world in the ongoing debate over human cloning. The reality of cloning was made apparent with the cloning of Dolly the sheep in 1997. Prior to that, cloning had been confined to plant life and small organisms, and the cloning of any higher life form was in the realm of science fiction. As soon as a sheep was cloned, people became concerned about the possibility of human cloning and what that would mean, leading to a report from a council appointed by the President and to various comments on the ethical and moral implications of human cloning.
Reproductive cloning for human beings raises many concerns. Widespread use of cloning for any group would decrease the genetic diversity of the population, and cloning certainly reduces the genetic diversity even between a couple using this technology. The cloning of sheep shows this, for it produced individuals that were weaker and more subject to disease than the parent had been. Cloning would mean that the child produced would have only one parent, increasing the danger of any genetic abnormality and reducing the effect of combinations of genes as takes place in normal human reproduction. Certainly, this possibility would be harmful to the individual so produced and raises a number of ethical concerns when discussing the cloning of human beings.
Another disadvantage cited is the idea that the widespread use of cloning would contribute to the "breeding" of humans, making this easier and creating a variety of problems as a consequence. This possibility would raise the chance of trying to breed in or out certain traits, raising issues about how tall or how intelligent we would want our children to be. This technology could thus lead to designer children, which would also mean that when the technology did not work, such children might have to be eliminated or treated as unwanted.
Ishiguro has obviously taken certain ideas from these arguments and is reacting to them. He knows that human cloning may become possible even if it is not now, and he also knows that if people could clone a new body for organs in order to save their own lives, they might do so. He has also heard the arguments on both sides, and especially the arguments about the morality of human cloning. He pictures a society that has made the wrong choice and what this would mean primarily to the beings created for the satisfaction of the needs of the "human" population. For that population, a version of utopia has been created that has elements they might not like but which have been set apart so they do not have to see them. Schools like Hailsham are where a particular kind of business is done for the public, raising cloned children and preparing them for the time when they will be sacrificed for the needs of the "regular" population. As noted, this might seem a utopia to the larger population, but it is a dystopia because it carries with it a moral break that taints everyone.
This type of literature is often characterized as science fiction and really is a form of that genre. It is usually set in the future, but it can also be an alternate reality as is the case with this novel. The world shown is often one left after a disaster, though this is not the case with Never Let Me Go. Indeed, the fact that it is not makes it all the more relevant to our time because it is suggested that such a world could evolve naturally if we make the wrong choices. The disaster is those choices, not a bomb or war. The novel goes more to the heart of the ethical issues involved by not including some of the more common elements of dystopian literature, such as a lowr class living in reduced circumstances while the wealthy live better than ever. This book is not that sort of social statement and instead has both the victims and the victimizers living well as far as material things are concerned. Where they do not live the same lives is in the fact that the majority population lives normally while the clones have no future and know it. Their natural self-interest has been suppressed, while their sense of sacrifice and service to others has been enhanced. They have no choice in the matter and are not treated as if they have souls.
This novel is science fiction, though that fact has been doubted by some with too narrow a definition of science fiction. In general, science fiction deals with the impact of science on society, and this novel certainly does that. The author does not get into the science to any great degree and is not interested in detailing how the cloning is achieved or even how the organs are harvested and used. He simply says that these things occur, and in truth, that is enough to show the medical reality behind the social order that develops. What the author wants to show is the effect of this science on the people of the society, both those who are born normally and those who are cloned. He is interested in the moral issues raised, the answers given, and the way people cope with whatever reality they have to face and how they find the strength to live with that knowledge. The science is only what causes such a society to be possible. What is more important is what happens to the people when they adopt a science and ignore their moral supports.
The reality of this world has an effect on the children, of course, and it has a more subtle effect on the caretakers who participate in the process but who suffer in different ways because they know that what they are doing is wrong. They may try to hide these feelings, even from themselves, but they cannot stop these feelings altogether. Even Miss Emily, who seems the coldest of all, reacts at times in ways that show she is troubled by what she does and that her certainty about how right this is may be only an attempt to justify what she has to do.
Ishiguro chooses this type of novel for this exploration of the issue because doing so frees him to ask what would happen if there were such a world. He also chooses it because it is an extension of our own world and so relevant to the decisions we have to make or may have to make in the next few years. He asks questions many people are asking about cloning and its morality, and he shows what might happen through his characters and so makes these arguments more real and more powerful.