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Never Let Me Go is a 2005 science fiction/romance/drama novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, author of The Remains of the Day. The plot concerns three friends, Kathy, who narrates, Tommy and Ruth, who as children are students of Hailsham, an unusual boarding school in the isolated English countryside. As Kathy nears adulthood, the truth about Hailsham and its students is gradually revealed to the reader.

A movie adaptation was released in 2010 starring Carey Mulligan as Kathy, Keira Knightley as Ruth, and Andrew Garfield as Tommy.

The novel contains examples of:

  • Activist Fundamentalist Antics: Inverted - no matter how horrible things get, no one ever shows any outrage against the system. Two of the three protagonists have emotional outbursts of dissaproval and almost hate, but always aiming at themselves.
  • Alternate History
  • Boarding School
  • Cloning Blues
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: Not stated outright for some time, but a Genre Savvy reader is going to have a tough time shaking the feeling that something awful is behind the students of Hailsham.
  • Crapsack World: A world where harvesting humans for parts is the norm scores fairly high on the crapsack meter.
  • Creative Sterility: Averted - the stated reason for why it is so important for the students of Hailsham to be creative. The teachers wanted to prove that clones were just like everyone else.
  • Creating Life Is Awesome: The artificial humans are kind and compassionate, and so are the humans who try to help them. Ironically, society doesn't want them to be good - it's easier to justify exploiting them if one can pretend that they are soulless.
  • Cure for Cancer: the clones.
  • Dying Alone: Ruth's greatest fear in the first parts of the story. Later replaced by regret and a desperate hope that her loved ones will at least be allowed to have each other.
  • Expendable Clone: the students were created to be expendable for medical purposes.
  • Extranormal Institute
  • Fantastic Aesop: If you interpret the story as purely literal rather than Rule of Symbolism, it all boils down to cloning people so you can cut them up for spare parts is bad.
  • Free-Love Future: Since the students can't have children, sex isn't a taboo for them and everyone is pretty open about it.
  • I Just Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Ruth, in the later parts of the story.
  • Inconvenient Hippocratic Oath: Creepily averted. In the film version, the hospitals are always shown slowly and deliberately murdering people. Obviously the "And I shall do no harm" code only applies to certain patients. And the worst part is the constant undercurrent of humiliation and shame as the victims are so clearly and ultimately shown that they are considered to be without real human value.
  • Internalized Categorism: The perhaps most painful aspect of the story is that the characters never overcome their social conditioning. The government plan to murder them for no reason other then harvesting their internal organs, and they really don't want to die. They spend the story agonizing over their lives being cut short, grasping for straws as they try to find loopholes so they'll be allowed to stay alive a little longer, and feeling guilty about taking out their angst on each other. But none of them ever dare to admit even to themselves that the system is unfair, that they actually deserve to be allowed to live. They have been given an identity as sacrificial victims, and while they hate their place in life they fail to break free from this imposed image of who and what they are.
  • Life Will Kill You: The film version ends with the protagonist thinking about how ordinary people are Not So Different after all, how we are all living our lives on death row.
  • Monochrome Casting.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: Many TV advertisements for the film version made it look like your typical romantic drama. Nope, no science fiction or cloning in this movie...
  • One-Letter Name: Their surnames are only a letter. Part of how the system tries to dehumanise them.
  • Orphanage of Love: Hailsham doubles as this, since all its students are orphans.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: Oh, this great system, saving so many lives...
  • Questionable Consent: The protagonists and others are getting exploited in the most brutal way, and they have all been conditioned to unquestioningly accept the system.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Nobody even tries to do anything about their situation, then they die.
  • Sugary Malice: Ruth has a bit of this, fueled by her fear of being left alone. Far worse, however, is the clinical kindness that the system shows its victims while pushing them down into despair and death.
  • Totalitarian Utilitarian: The system, saving so many lives. Also the protagonists themselves, conditioned to disregard life and dignity for the greater good.. their own lives.
  • Tragic Dream: Kathy and Tommy hoping to prove that they were in love so that they could have a few more years together. The reader knows this isn't going to work and the naivete of the characters in thinking that it will is rather heartbreaking. Worse yet, this is really Ruth's dream, with her getting them together in a desperate attempt to save them.
  • Triang Relations: Elements of type four.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: And how. Just about everything that's spoiler sensitive on this page is all but explicitly revealed in the trailer for the upcoming film.
  • Twenty Minutes Into the Future
  • Viewers are Morons: Not exactly, but test audiences for The Movie were so confused about when the film takes place (a very isolated area a la The Village or The Island? An alternate universe?) that they didn't pay attention to the characters' relationships or the ending. To fix this, a title card was added (with the author's approval) at the beginning puts the film in an alternate universe version of The Nineties.
  • Walking Transplant: All the students of Hailsham were created for this purpose.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Whether or not clones are or should be considered human.
  • Would Be Rude to Say Genocide: People "are completed" on an industrial scale. And "completed" actually equals "murdered".