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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 the Audio CD edition.
Top customer reviews
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.
Hard Boiled Wonderland is such an experience: it is an odd, eccentric, comic, whimsical, and thought-provoking fantasy that blends in parallel worlds settings with deep introspection about existing. It is a novel that investigates and tries to define levels of reality. Often, we see from the narrator's vantage point a wide range of thought about consciousness. The author questions one's level of being and existing, and the various emotions that define us and our world. The mind, it seems, it quite a vast place, capable of infinite possibilities. There are many levels of meaning contained within this novel.
The first part of the book feels like working out of a labyrinth. The setting and story alternates in each chapter between two worlds, the "wonderland" and "the end of the world." The "wonderland" story involves a narrator who is sort of an antihero. Working as a Calcutec, he is responsible for sifting information through his subconscious, which he gathers for a group called the System. When he takes on a job for a wacky Professor, he wakes up into vagueness about the world around him. Within this world there are groups trying to steal the data, such as the subterranean Inklings, a Thug and his brute of a sidekick, and Semiotecs. The Professor's daughter gradually opens him up to his surroundings and the Professor's plans. The "end of the world" chapters involve a narrator living in "Town", an indistinct and generic place that has a false utopia feel to it. The members of its society are content enough, but lack much emotion or feeling one way or the other. Everyone in Town must have a role, so the narrator is given the role of reading dreams through a unicorn skull. Much like the narrator in "wonderland", this narrator has only a hazy recollection of his past, and is given bits and pieces of information along the way.
Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World has a deep level of symbolism and metaphor that make it a fascinating journey to think about. It's a novel that uses many fragments and pieces that develop into a vision of what the narrator is experiencing. There's a distinct creativity in how these two worlds are presented. This was my first read by Murakami, but I plan on exploring more of his books.
This is really a brilliant read on several levels.
Most recent customer reviews
If you don't, then it might be the best one to start with Murakami.
Well developed characters that we have all known.Read more