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Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche Paperback – April 10, 2001
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Top Customer Reviews
"Underground" documents the coordinated efforts of members of the Aum cult to release Sarin gas on several subway trains in the midst of rush hour. Murakami takes what seems to be a roundabout approach and turns it into the very heart of the matter. Instead of clinically documenting each cult member's actions and the statistics of how many wounded and how many dead in a linear, start-to-finish timeline, Murakami tracks down those who were affected, from the relatives of the dead to those with minor side-effects, and interviews them not only about the attack and the effects it had, but how people reacted, how it changed their views on life and government and religion, and mostly, about the people themselves; where they work, what they do for fun, what kind of people they are. Murakami turns a true-crime document into a snapshot of Japanese life.Read more ›
The first two-thirds of the book are dedicated to the survivors and relative interviews. While touching, shocking and surprising, after the first dozen or two, they begin to take on a numbing quality. So many of the stories share so many themes ("I had to get to work...", "I'm not so much angry as confused", etc.) that, in retrospect, they run together. In fact, the two things about the attack that stand out most in my mind are that (a) while some of the survivors and family members are incredibly angry over the situation, most are not so much angry as confused and hurt, and (b) while almost everyone agrees that the situation was handled incredibly poorly by the emergency services and lives were lost as a result, no one wants to sue. They merely wish to get on with their lives.
Where the book really shines, though, is in the Aum interviews. Murakami profiles members of the cult who came from different backgrounds, had different aims in joining Aum and saw different sides of it as members. In this section, we begin to see the breakdown of the "salaryman phenomenon" in Japan at a personal level. People who joined were mostly intelligent, if highly misguided, and wanted more from their lives than office work could give them.Read more ›
The book centres around the Tokyo subway gas attack that was perpetrated by members of the AUM "cult". They created a special "Science" division with some rather prominent people that, under the cult leader's directions, produced Sarin for the attack. Sarin, originally used by the Germans in WWII, was placed into plastic sacks that were then wrapped in paper. AUM specialists were trained to puncture these packages with specially-sharpened umbrellas on the subway line during morning rush hour. They then escaped at predetermined locations leaving the sacks (rapidly leaking their contents across subway car floors) in the subway.
A scary amount of effort by some rather intelligent people; a very interesting commentary on the complex interweaving of a moral-less science with a horribly-twisted psyche. The death toll was a lot less than it could have been considering the circumstances...
Murakami's genius lies in the fact that the reader is presented with the rather "simple" stories taken from interviews. Only a few interviews does Murakami actually intervene; everywhere else you have only the first person.
The emptiness of modern Japanese life that Murakami potrays so brilliantly in his other books hits home with disturbing force in these oral histories. People walk, much like robots, passed dying people in order to make it to work on time. People who are obviously suffering from the gas (partial blindness, breathing difficulties, etc.) "must get to work" and carry on as if the day was like any other. Scary.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Murakami is my favorite author, and his investigation into the Tokyo sarin attacks is fascinating. It's almost entirely transcribed from interviews and can be slow going. Read morePublished 7 months ago by C. Ferguson
Thought-provoking and heartfelt portrayals of the Japanese involved in the Aum subway gas attacks. I appreciated the way Murakami let the victim's words stand by themselves, but... Read morePublished 9 months ago by M. Takeno
A rare kind of book for HM but trully captivating dialogs and interviews. I highly recommend this to any fan of Murakami or anyone interested in japanese culture.Published 9 months ago by sebastian
Wow. This book tracks down those most affected by the 1995 sarin attacks. It is an excellent view into life interrupted.Published 12 months ago by Ole J. Forsberg
Undergroud is a really cool book. I bought it, not knowing whether it would be Murakami's take on the whole thing, or half interview half research on the case. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Philip
You should read this book because the Pivot to the Pacific is going to bring the social and pyschic dynamics of Japan and Asia ex-Japan to America and Europe. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Nikolai Kim
The first half of the book where he interviews the victims is very repetitive. After reading 3 interviews I felt that the rest were unnecessary. Read morePublished 15 months ago by BlueDog
I had high hopes for this work. I suspected it would include a lengthy collection of banal interviews by people who'd experienced various aspects of the attack, and in that I was... Read morePublished 15 months ago by T. Cue.