It’s going to be very hard to review this, because I don’t want to tell you what this book is about. There are two parts – “Hard-boiled Wonderland” and the “End of the World”. I do not want to tell you too much, because as with every Murakami I think it is as much your own experience as a reader that is important. So to give you too many clues would lessen that experience. It is a footpath you must explore yourself, unaware of what you’ll meet down the line.
It is described as sci-fi and futuristic but I think it is much more about the modern world, just simplified down. The book was written in 1985, in which time Japan was experiencing a growth in information based economy. I think it is important to be aware of the context in which it is set. 1985 is my birth year so I don’t remember much of this decade – let alone what it would have been like in Japan.During the 1980s, the Japanese economy shifted its emphasis away from primary and secondary activities (notably agriculture, manufacturing, and mining) to processing, with telecommunications and computers becoming increasingly vital. Information became an important resource and product, central to wealth and power. The rise of an information-based economy was led by major research in highly sophisticated technology, such as advanced computers. The selling and use of information became very beneficial to the economy. Tokyo became a major financial center, home of some of the world's major banks, financial firms, insurance companies, and the world's largest stock exchange, the Tokyo Securities and Stock Exchange. Wikipedia
For the sake of convenience, I will say that this book is about the juxtaposition of opposites, but that isn’t what it is really about at all. It is simply and purely, Murakami and if you’re a fan of his I think you’ll love this book.
It’s not quite as twisted as Kafka on the Shore, it feels a bit more fantasy then the other books of his I have read (Kafka on the Shore, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, A Wild Sheep Chase, Norwegian Wood and After Dark) but in other ways, it feels less surreal and the weird feels normal. Murakami has the ability to write something which is completely bizarre and otherworldly, but it doesn’t always feel as weird as it should.
In some ways, it’s a bit easier to perhaps understand then Kafka or Wind-up, but maybe that is because I have started to become more familiar with Murakami’s work. It will still leave you with questions and perhaps with the feeling you haven’t understood it all completely, but that doesn’t entirely matter. There is, I think, no one answer or interpretation to any Murakami’s writing.
As with all of his books so far, he makes reference to a lot of novels, a lot of music and a lot of old Hollywood films. I always feel that to get an even better understanding of Murakami, I need to read every book mentioned, listen to every song by every artist and watch every film that gets featured. With this book in particular, I think reading Rudin by Ivan Turgenev would be quite useful for when I eventually re-read this book as I hope to do one day. It is not necessary to read any of the other novels he mentions, it is just that he inspires within me the desire to read further afield.
Murakami has introduced me to a lot of music. Since reading After Dark I decided to pay attention to the artists and tracks referenced – this time around I discovered Bob Dylan. I know he’s been around for years and years but I never actually really bothered to listen to his music. So I got a couple of his albums and I can’t believe what rock I have been living under. Some of them are of course familiar, I’d just never bothered to really pay attention.
Anyway, take a moment and listen to Blowin' in the Wind, by my new favourite artist: Bob Dylan