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Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World: A Novel (Vintage International) Paperback – March 2, 1993
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From Publishers Weekly
Murakami's lightning prose more than sustains the elaborate plot of this thriller, set in a Tokyo of the near future.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
The last surviving victim of an experiment that implanted the subjects' heads with electrodes that decipher coded messages is the unnamed narrator of this excellent book by Murakami, one of Japan's best-selling novelists and winner of the prestigious Tanizaki prize. Half the chapters are set in Tokyo, where the narrator negotiates underground worlds populated by INKlings, dodges opponents of both sides of a raging high-tech infowar, and engages in an affair with a beautiful librarian with a gargantuan appetite. In alternating chapters he tries to reunite with his mind and his shadow, from which he has been severed by the grim, dark "replacement" consciousness implanted in him by a dotty neurophysiologist. Both worlds share the unearthly theme of unicorn skulls that moan and glow. Murakami's fast-paced style, full of hip internationalism, slangy allegory, and intrigue, has been adroitly translated. Murakami is also author of A Wild Sheep Chase ( LJ 10/15/89); his new work is recommended for academic libraries and public libraries emphasizing serious contemporary fiction.
- D.E. Perushek, Univ. of Tennessee, Knoxville
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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It's almost a novelty not to have a rambling story about World War II turned into the underpinnings of the character arcs. Instead it's almost a voyage into cyberpunk. Almost.
There are clearly nods to classic hard-boiled detective stories, and then there are things that make it different from his other works... Like a hero who really prefers chubby women, but ends up with a very skinny one anyway. I don't know what that's trying to say to me. Of course, there are references to a lost cat, and a protagonist who spends a lot of time telling us about how he cooks - when he's not discussing his musical preferences. Because? Murakami right?
I never know whether Murakami's work is genuinely "literary" fiction, or he's just having a laugh. Norwegian Wood struck me as "what people expect from a novel", but like Iain Banks, Murakami decided not to let himself be tied down by boring things like reality, and adds his own improvements.
The Grandfather character is incredibly annoying, popping up to drive the plot, and seemingly to blame for anything that needs to be explained away. This leaves us with an unlucky protagonist whose life seems to have been turned upside down by the careless interventions of this dangerous lunatic of a man, genius or otherwise.
Compared to IQ or Wind Up Bird, this is not as good, but it feels more self-contained, and less like you have to read every single thing the author ever wrote just to "get" half of it. At the end, I didn't care a lot what happened either way. To my mind, this story lacks a satisfactory conclusion. It's not just missing a few pages, or a different choice, rather it's missing half a book. It would have been fascinating if we saw the protagonist's post-end-of-the-world recovery and the new reality that emerged from it, and how that world is dramatically different from the world he thought he was in. That would have made the earlier parts worthwhile, given them some point, but as is, they're just an unanswered question that leaves far too much for the reader to provide.
Still, I gave this four stars. Murakami is always good, in his way, but it's literary comfort food. Nothing really challenges of confronts, and nothing matters too much. We have a character arm, but it's a shallow parabola, we have kooky characters, but they come and go, mostly go. It's enjoyable reading, and when you're done, there's plenty to think about and talk to other Murakami fans about. It's a known quantity. Dependable. Safe. Surprising only in the expected ways. Those aren't bad qualities in a book, but they don't make a great read, just a good one.
About my individual reading, I am a third year in college duel majoring in philosophy and international literary and visual studies. From my studies, I have grown especially fond of Murakami's work. It is particularly unique-- a real snapshot of Japanese modern fantasy undertoned by a sort of commentary on western idealism.
In the end, Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World is perhaps my favorite of Murakami's work (I've read most of them). It truly represents Murakami's style. Murakami's masterful use of imagery, symbolism, and metaphor makes for a great reading. The supernatural elements of the work are just as great and fantastical as you are probably imagining.