Thursday, July 7, 2011

Natanya Reviews Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World


Title/Author: Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami
Publisher/Year: Kodansha International Ltd., 1991
Where I got it: Libraryyy
Why I read it: I loved Murakami’s Norwegian Wood and Kafka on the Shore, so I wanted to read more Murakami books!

From Goodreads:
This is a narrative particle accelerator that zooms between Wild Turkey Whiskey and Bob Dylan, unicorn skulls and voracious librarians, John Coltrane and Lord Jim. Science fiction, detective story and postmodern manifesto all rolled into one rip-roaring novel, "Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World" is the tour de force that expanded Haruki Murakami's international following, tracking one man's descent into the kafkaesque underworld farce, compassion and detachment, slang and philosophy. The result is a wildly inventive fantasy and a meditation on the many uses of the mind.

[Note: I’m trying not to say too much about what actually happens in this novel because it’s really better to go into it not having any idea what’s going on, so sorry for the choppiness of this review. Also, Murakami puts my mind all over the place…he just has this amazing way of doing that. So that also contributes to the messiness of this review.]

So I’ve only read two of Murakami’s books (plus part of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle), but I do think it is safe to say that Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World is Murakami through and through. It is structured with two different plotlines in alternating chapters, one taking place in modern-day Japan, and the other in “the Town,” which is a strange, utopic town in an unknown location. I loved having these two plotlines because they each maintain a certain degree of mystery, but it was clear that the reader would eventually understand how they are linked. I actually had a lot of fun making little connections between the two storylines, and the line between the two worlds gets blurrier and blurrier, even once you learn what the second world is. Both worlds have fantastical elements, but I love that Murakami’s fantasy is more like a quirky magical realism, where it exists but it doesn’t turn the novel into a hardcore fantasy novel. Murakami’s magic is so small but so powerful; it’s barely present, but he gives us glimpses into the possibility of a whole magical world. It kind of reminded me of a light (in terms of the amount of fantasy, not in terms of the book as a whole) version of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere (which I reviewed last summer and didn’t like as much as I liked Murakami’s novel).

While this novel has aspects of both sci fi and fantasy, I really hesitate to categorize Murakami’s novels because they have so many different things going on. I’d put them in their own category, really, and because of that I think that they appeal to a broad audience. Of course, you do have to be prepared to be confused at times, and Murakami definitely does not tie up everything totally neatly at the end. By the end, there were a number of things that still didn’t make sense, and that bugged me. I’m assuming it was purposeful, but it would have been nice to have gotten just a little bit more explanation. I also wasn’t crazy about the ending. I’m not sure if it’s that it wasn’t what I wasn’t expecting because I really don’t even know what I was expecting. I knew things wouldn’t end up perfect, but I felt somewhat unsatisfied by the ending. But again, I really don’t know how else I could have expected it to end.

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World is the kind of book that gets you thinking-- thinking about thinking, and about the mind, which is a major focus of the novel. I was exhausted by the time I finished reading it (exhausted in a good way, though), and though it wasn’t absolutely amazing, it was certainly a great book. Depressing, but great. So basically, as I said at the beginning of this review, it was very Murakami.

4 stars

3 comments :

  1. I haven't read any of Murakami's works, but I really want to after hearing so many good things about him. This one looks good. Great review!

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  2. He's a great author. I love how he makes you think. His endings always surprise me. Great review!

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  3. I've read KAFKA ON THE SHORE, and I think Murakami's writing is just amazing. I've been meaning to read more by him but just haven't gotten to it yet.

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