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50 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on April 9, 1999
Format: Paperback
At some point along the way on your journey through "Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World"--in my case, not until I had read the last page and closed the book--it may occur to you, Why, this isn't a modernistic, subversive, radical treatise on the ravages of contemporary society and the havoc that technology has wreaked on us, it's just an old-fashioned book about aging! The two halves of the book--"Hard-Boiled Wonderland" and "The End of the World"--represent, to my mind, youth and adulthood, respectively, and the protagonist--as well as the author--appear to find themselves poised in thirtysomething limbo, trying to decide what they want their lives to be like from hereon out. "Hard-Boiled Wonderland" certainly seems to be the more fun of the two worlds--exotic women, delicious food, cool cars, high-paced city living, and infinite possibilities for what career to choose, which woman to settle down with, and what town to live in. But Wonderland is certainly more dangerous--all that high-tech mafia business, gruesome violence, flesh-eating monsters, broken-into apartments, splitting headaches, and hangovers from those crazy nights drowning your confusion in whiskey. It's enough to make a thirtysomething guy long for a little peace and comfort. That's where "The End of the World" comes in. End of the World is everything Wonderland is not: one monogamous partner, gruel for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, no mode of transportation other than your own two feet, and nothing more exciting to do than stare off at the mountains or the smoke stack from the Power Plant or wait for the herd of beasts to come trampling through the town every evening. Your career is decided for you--you will "read dreams" from unicorn skulls in a musty old library--and you will settle down with such-and-such woman, who's the only available woman around, and you can never leave the high-walled town or even find out what's outside it. You can't even go outside in the daytime to see the light without your special dark glasses on. All this comfort starts to seem a little dreary to the narrator (who has no idea how he arrived there and can't remember his life beforehand), and he has to make a choice near the end of the novel whether to follow his Shadow (i.e., his soul) back into the exciting but treacherous spirit of his youth or to continue on forever in the calm but melancholy End of the World he has "created." I won't spoil the ending, but suffice it to say that it's a little surprising, makes more sense the more you think about it, and ultimately feels utterly natural. And despite the surface experimentalism of the novel--witty and inventive as it is--this theme of living in one's youth forever or accepting the idea of old age is probably one of the oldest themes in literature.
In such an experimental novel, the author is taking a risk that the unique style in which he writes to convey the message he has to give may affect our enjoyment of the book. Unfortunately, the two worlds are so polarized--for good thematic reasons--that they're difficult to read about: Wonderland is just a little too chaotic, the End of the World is just a little too dull. It's the type of book that's easier to appreciate than to enjoy, or more enjoyable to reflect on than to actually read. That said, this was still a wonderful book, my favorite book by Murakami only next to "The Wind-up Bird Chronicle," and it haunted me for a long time afterward.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on September 14, 2008
Format: Paperback
I am about to finish reading the Japanese text, using the English translation as a help. The novel is OK, but what I noticed is that entire bits of it are missing in the translation. Not just sentences here and there - sometimes entire scenes. That happens over and over again. Sometimes boring bits are cut, sometimes obscure ones, but also funny ones. Not sure why. Maybe a page limit was imposed on the translator (the English edition I have does have exactly 400 pages). Other than that, it is a good translation.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on October 8, 2007
Format: Paperback
I have read most of Murakami's work and continue to believe that he is one of the best and most imaginative writers today. His storylines are always inventive and have a way of sucking you in. "Hard-Boiled..." is no different in that respect. Here we have a story shrouded in mystery about a narrator who works as a Calcutec, a computer programmer of sorts, for the System, a government-type organization that controls computers and the exchange of information. The Protagonist finds himself at the center of a war between the System and the Factory, a second organization trying to gain control of the way information is transferred. The plotline alternates back and forth between the protagnoist's search to figure out his own importance in this information and technological war and an alternate universe (so to speak) where people are separated from their shadows and live in a place only referred to as The Town. As the story drives forward, the two plotlines converge and eventually blend into one another. As is the case with all of his work, he draws you in with such ease and you read the book as effortlessly as you would the newspaper, only with much more urgency and excitement.

My major problem with the text was the vagueness of the world he sets out. I understood that the mystery surrounding the characters was necessary given the unknown frontiers of the mind that the book aims to explore, but the world and the war between factions doesn't have enough meat to it to grip you as some of the other worlds Murakami has created have been able to. There was something missing, a visual element, that made it very hard to feel some of the tension and suspense he was building.

So this is a good book, but not Murakami's best. I would say that anyone could read it and enjoy it, but there are better things out there if you have a limited time and/or budget to spend on fiction.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 7, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Bottom Line First: My introduction to Haruki Murakami was 1Q84. 1Q84 (Vintage International) I was and am a huge fan of that work. Having read this one I understand why he is not universally popular. Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World contains almost all of the same elements and structure of the later book and the language did keep me reading. I felt duty bound to finish it but I cannot report enjoying the method or the conclusion.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
It has been my habit to try and read the work of writers I enjoy in the order that there works were published. This technique allows you to follow the writer as their craft and world view matures. Often I read something recent that gets me interested, then I seek out the authors' first book and so forth. As of now, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World is about as early an example of Murakami's work as I can find. If this had been my first of his books, I may never have looked at 1Q84.

In Hard Boiled World we have something of a Science Fiction meets hard boiled fiction similar in concept to The Man Who Knew Too Much. The unnamed narrator is a Calcutec which mean he has the ability to process and encode huge amounts of data directly in his sub-conscious. As in 1Q84 his world is radically changed once he goes -literally - down the rabbit hole - once again in the form of a latter down from an already fracturing reality. He is unknowing made the center of a huge experiment and spends ½ the book dealing with people in The System (literally called the System) the "Semiotecs" people who seek to destroy , or do bad things with data and a few other forces, some magical others who may or may not be friendly, (even if they systematically destroy his heavily secured apartment.

The ½ is also meant as a literal. In the other ½ of the story unfolds in chapters that alternate with the more conventional story line. This ½ tells us about something of a fantasy world. It is a rather dull grey place. It lacks memory, emotions or much of anything except the mystery of its existence and an evolving relation to the more conventional alternating story line. This world may be a satire on the dullness of being a modern corporate drone or it may just be the matching half of the battle for the mind of the narrator.

Murakami and his translator use language masterfully to tell a complex story. It is almost worth the read to enjoy the language. There are passages that invoke Cyber punk, western materialism, the concept of good and evil as two aspects of the same institutions and a variety of other thought provoking subjects. Consequently the discussion of all these themes and topics is brief rendering the grand themes trivial.

The book is too long. I get that a long miserable escape should be written to help the reader to share the misery, but it can be done with less tedious detail. One fast example: everything related to the leeches could have been deleted at no cost to the story line. The "Inklings" are an interesting set of foul creatures, but why they are necessary, except as a icky Macguffin is another good question.
ALMOST A SPOILER:

The ending is something of a Lady and the Tiger meets Frankenstein kind of situation. I can understand part of why the narrator makes his choice. What he chooses makes no sense.

I have not given up on Murikami, But Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World is not a title I can recommend.
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VINE VOICEon October 23, 2014
Format: Paperback
This is not my favorite Murakami. It is in fact two stories which interconnect at the end at the convergence of consciousness and the unconscious.

The first part of the story, “Hard Boiled Wonderland,” is almost cyberpunk and involves the narrator (no name) being called to a professor’s secret laboratory far beneath Tokyo and hidden behind an underground waterfall from the INKlings, a dangerous subterranean race that eats rotten flesh. The professor wants the narrator, whose unconscious has been programmed to work as an encryption device, to perform a secret data shuffling task for him. The narrator is a Calcutec who works for the System, whose job it is to protect data. Fallen Calcutecs have defected to the Factory and have become Semiotecs, who in turn try to steal the data. The professor is working on a new technology for “sound removal,” and the narrator later learns that he has just a few days before he sinks into his unconscious, the “End of the World,” for eternity.

The second part of the story involves the narrator going to a small, strange, isolated town, “The End of the World,” which is surrounded by a massive wall. Everything in the town is very somber and directed, and everyone is given a job. No one can leave the town. When he enters the town his shadow is removed and kept apart from him, although the narrator and his shadow meet several times to discuss a possible escape. The narrator’s job is to be the Dreamreader, reading the dreams trapped in ancient unicorn skulls kept in the town library. As the narrator slowly discovers the secrets of the town through the help of the Librarian and the Colonel, it gradually becomes apparent that no one in the town has a shadow or, it turns out, their own minds. The narrator finally realizes that his job as Dreamreader actually serves to remove the last traces of mind in the town.

The two stories switch back and forth in successive chapters, and it gradually becomes apparent that while “Hard Boiled Wonderland” is the present, “The End of the World” is the narrator’s unconscious and the two are on converging paths. This strange book has some very interesting images. I particularly like the unicorn herd that moves through and grazes in the town daily, and how the narrator trains them to eat from his hand. I also find the scenes where he is reading dreams from the ancient unicorn skulls at night in the darkened library to be rich and fascinating.

In general I find the characters to be two dimensional and the story to lack emotion. The story is distant and cold. Maybe this is a problem with the translation from the original Japanese, but I have never had a problem of this type with any of the other Murakami novels I have read. The novel starts out promising and moves into a world of imagery, but the characters are so emotionally restricted that they themselves cannot fully relate what is going on. I wonder if by the end of this book Murakami writes himself into a corner, his back up against the wall, so to speak, with no way out.
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on September 12, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I love Murakami and I enjoyed this book, but to me it was not one of his better efforts. His best books combine the magical-realist elements with a real, relatable humanity; in his best books, I feel he's tapping into (my) deep human needs and worries and making them concrete in the form of these odd little fantasy worlds, answering questions I didn't even know I was asking. Perhaps because the "real" world in the book (or anyway the world that seemed more real) was also rather sci-fi, I didn't relate to either world as much as usual. There is an odd and interesting inversion here, in that the world that appears in the book to be the fictional one is in some ways the more natural and familiar.

Yet there is still that sense--for me so powerful and troubling--of another presence nibbling around the edges of your consciousness, trying to draw your attention to another (deeper?) reality. It's powerful stuff, but not my favorite Murakami.
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on August 24, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
I haven't read any Murakami since souring on him back in 2011, so I picked this up from the library and tried to give his work another chance after falling off the bandwagon. To be sure 'Hard boiled wonderland...' contains his usual blend of striking and surreal imagery. But as ever, the dialogue, the characters, really the whole narrative, as delightfully kooky as it is, just seems to be him blandly re-shuffling the exact same tropes and ideas that he always does.

Dual interlocking narratives, hermetically sealed off shadow worlds, menacing water monsters, lengthy chases through underground tunnels...he comes up with so many amazingly weird images and set pieces, yet it always seems presented with this tone of shallow, cheaply sanitized politeness. I love phantasmagoria as much as anyone, but phantoms are a lot stronger when you have an actual world with actual people to contrast them with
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on March 25, 2002
Format: Paperback
Make no mistake, this book is an easy and enjoyable read; I read the majority of it on a flight from Boston to LA. The first chapter is great but the rest of the book unfortunately fails to live up to the high standard it sets for itself. I think it is easy to overrate this book; the entire underpinning of the book is a bunch of Star Trek-like scientific babble about cryptography and consciousness that has little bearing on reality and serves little purpose other than to provide a deus ex machina to move the characters along the road the author wants them to move down. It is not a fantastic and amazing book, but it is a good book and there are worse ways to spend your time.
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on June 12, 2012
Format: Paperback
This book was my introduction to the works of Murakami. Having read a lot of praise for him finally I had decided to initiate the literature journey to his world.
I can say I was a bit utterly disappointed after finishing the book. I sensed that definitely, Murakami had a unique and vast imagination. However whatever he had on his mind, the world his imagination created, was not described the way it should have been done. There are missing pieces which create some holes when the reader tries to make-up in his mind what kind of an image the author is trying to convey. I think of the novel as two lines which converge however they are both blurry and the one line they create is not clearer.
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on February 18, 2015
Format: Paperback
I gave this 3 stars because I love Murakami's other work and didn't think it deserved a 2 star rating.

This book, though, just did not click with me like most of his others do. I found myself wanting it to be over the entire time. It read slowly. I wasn't engaged, capitvated, intrigued. Just bored and confused. I struggled to visualize the world he created, whereas normally his books create mezmerizing images in my mind. It also depressed me.

Again, though, Haruki Murakami is one of my favorite authors, I just really didn't like this book.
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