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A Wild Sheep Chase: A Novel Paperback – April 9, 2002

4.3 out of 5 stars 265 customer reviews
Book 3 of 3 in the Trilogy of the Rat Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Immensely popular in Japan, the author's first novel to be published here is a comic combination of disparate styles: a mock-hardboiled mystery, a metaphysical speculation and an ironic first-person account of an impossible quest. The narrator is a modern Japanese yuppie: divorced, in a mildly exciting relationship and a much less exciting job as an ad copywriter, he lives unexceptionally until a photograph throws his life into chaos. The snapshot, which he uses to illustrate a newsletter, shows a field of sheep with one unique crossbreed, and the picture is special enough to have attracted the attention of both the nomadic friend who sent it to him and a right-wing Mr. Big who, moribund, wants the source found before he dies. The Boss's henchman, a sleek, scary majordomo, gives the narrator one month to track it down, and the story that ensues is a postmodern detective novel in which dreams, hallucinations and a wild imagination are more important than actual clues. With the help of a fluid, slangy translation, Murakami emerges as a wholly original talent. $30,000 ad/promo; Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club alternates.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

This novel, the American debut of a popular contemporary Japanese writer, will have a familiar ring to Western ears. The narrative moves adroitly through mystery, fable, pensive realism, and modernist absurdity to tell the tale--at least on the surface--of a Japanese man caught up in a puzzling quest for a somewhat mystical sheep. The spare style echoes Raymond Carver, Dashiell Hammett, and Raymond Chandler, with matter-of-fact absurdities reminiscent of John Irving and, in less inspired moments, Tom Robbins. While the climax of the story is somewhat unrewarding, many readers will enjoy being pulled along by the playful and engaging style and fluid structure. Interesting as an example of current Japanese writing and as an unusually hip and irreverent look at contemporary Japanese society, this would be a nice addition to larger fiction collections.
- Mark Woodhouse, Elmira Coll., N.Y.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 353 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (April 9, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 037571894X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375718946
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (265 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,176 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
...and I use the term freak in the most reverent of ways. I also use it to describe the author; because while the main character is a freak in his own right, he's one of an entirely different caliber.

A Wild Sheep Chase takes us to Tokyo Japan 'round 1980 and dumps us into the sharp but entirely unexercised, and increasingly apathetic mind of our 30 year old (male) main character. Funny, I just checked the book because I couldn't remember his name. I couldn't find it. I may be wrong, but I don't know if the author gives him one.

Anyway...

Newly divorced, incessantly smoking, and always musing in very interesting ways about largely uninteresting things, I found myself pulled into this novel immediately. "We" soon find ourselves embroiled in an epic and supernatural mystery with only a half-tank of gas. When tasked by an uber-powerful businessman to find a certain certain one-of-a-kind sheep or face financial ruin (if not death), our adventurer shruggingly agrees, and half-heartedly pursues.

The slurring pace of this book, filled with philosophical musings, "David Lynch like" weirdos, and a spattering of phenomenon, was a rare treat for me.

Murakami is a wonderfully gifted creative writer. His prose (even though translated) is at once elegantly crafted and playful. I recommend this book highly.

Christian Hunter

Santa Barbara, California
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
The genius of Murakami's "Wild Sheep Chase" (like the genius of his other works) is the total believability of his characters and plot. Everyone who reads this work is immediately engrossed and sucked in, and only realizes how truly bizarre the whole thing is when they try to tell someone else about the book.
The narrator of "Sheep Chase" begins as something of an Everyman. His mate leaves him, his job pays him well but isn't very satisfying, he is intelligent but little in his life seems to stimulate him to thought. You wouldn't say he is going through life with blinders on, but nor is his life totally examined, either. Life is, more or less, something that is just happening to him. You could probably think of a dozen people you know who would easily fit his character.
Still, this is a Murakami novel, after all, and pretty soon he is, in the words of Tolkein, simply swept away, a stranger in a strange land with no idea of how he got there. A perfectly ordinary photo that he uses in a brochure catches the attention of a powerful political figure, "The Boss", who has been inexplicably lying on the verge of death for some years, hanging on as if by some supernatural power. The photo, it's discovered, has a special sheep in it. A type of sheep who's breed does not exist. A minion of The Boss makes him an offer he cannot refuse: find that sheep...
He meets up with a young woman who, among other things, is a call girl for an exclusive members-only club, and does ear modeling on the side. Together, they set off to find this elusive sheep-that-doesn't-exist, all the while trailing the narrator's old friend, The Rat, who seems to always be one step ahead of them.
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Format: Paperback
Murakami is an acquired taste, but fortunately he's very easily acquired. His novels are typically a mixed bag of comic absurdity, pathos, suspense, and philosophical speculation but written in a straight-ahead, colloquial style. *A Wild Sheep Chase* is no exception. Here a struggling adman ends up recruited by a mysterious client in black to find a sheep that has appeared in an insurance company advertisement our hero's firm has designed. The sheep in this ad is special...it takes over people's consciousness.

That's the least of what you need to know to understand what kind of novel *A Wild Sheep Chase* is. And yet for all its imaginative "wildness," the novel has a traditional, hardboiled-style first-person narrative that easily draws you into the story. In fact, I'd say that three-quarters of the pleasure of this novel comes from spending time with the likeable, hard-luck narrator. Witty but not a wisecracker, laid-back but no Joe Cool, fatalistic but not cynical, he's a guy who is thoroughly convinced of his mediocrity and okay with it. He's got the kind of applied equanimity to life's vicissitudes that you wish you had, taking things as they come, taking things as they go. He knows life is heading for loss and sadness, but he's not whining about it. If he's not the kind of guy you could ever be, than he's the kind of guy you wish you had for a friend--and that makes spending 350+ pages in his company a pleasurable experience. And that's a good thing because if I had one criticism about *A Wild Sheep Chase* it's that it's about 70 pages too long. In the last third of the novel, there's a lot of description of the narrator sitting around waiting for the climax to occur when it could have occurred pages and pages beforehand.
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Format: Paperback
This was the second of Murakami's books I've read (previously read "Sputnik Sweetheart") and I can easily see myself becoming addicted as I have fought all urges to buy "Dance Dance Dance" before I work down my pile of previously purchased books.

Murakami is particularly gifted in working with imagery and symbolism which are the qualities that give this book its dreamlike atmosphere throughout. Everything takes on a feeling of "unreality", as if we are walking through a waking nightmare which can turn disastrous or horrifying at any moment. I was reminded of my own nightmares where I struggle to speak or perform some act that increasingly seems impossible, or reach for a person or object that manages to remain just out of reach. When I wake from such nightmares I'm left bothered and questioning for the remainder of the night, sometimes days afterwards, questioning with nothing there to offer me solace or comfort. I analyze every angle and image and am often left with nothing but a mystery that will not leave me.

That's what "A Wild Sheep Chase" did to me.

What does it mean to be "sheeped"? Who is The Rat? What will become of the Sheep Proffessor? Murakami seems content to not let us know. I'm perfectly willing to not know.

This book is not for you if you must have answers to all questions. I could attempt to make comparisons with other authors, but I feel he is unique (to me at least). The only comparison I could make outside of literature is to say reading the book is like watching David Lynch attempting to be slightly more accesible- and I pray that never happens.

What remains is a feeling of a need to re-read, knowing there are mysteries that will reveal themselves in time and with patience. Meanwhile, I itch for more of his work. The titles need to be devoured.
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