Tuesday 15 January 2013

What better in snowy January than to stay in and read...

Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

Haruki Murakami


Fast becoming one of my favourites, Haruki Murakami writes a beguiling blend of realism and fantasy that always leaves me gasping for more. Whatever weird oddities he throws at his protagonists, they just shrug and get on with it – suspending all judgment, never fazed.

Hard-boiled Wonderland… with its curious paperclips and mysterious lifts takes us in the direction of science fiction and, in alternate chapters, fantastical creatures roam what seems a fairy-tale town. But the skill of Murakami is to give us some empathy with the rootless male protagonist so that whilst the plot twists precariously around I found myself caring that his best jacket had been slashed and all his whiskey bottles broken.

Maybe not so hard-hitting as The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles, but then this is a less epic novel – much more in the tradition of excellent sci-fi (the likes of We/1984/Fahrenheit 451). It seemed self-contained. Maybe a good way to describe it would be “perfectly round”, as if somehow the story does not keep going outside of the world of the book. Unlike other books, I did not leave it envisaging the future or the past of the characters, devising my own plots, or writing further chapters in my head. And also in the mode of sci-fi it challenges us with notions of humanity in an age of new technologies. The mysterious forces behind events, guiding the action from afar, reminded me somehow of Asimov. Although I guess they could equally remind one of conspiracy thrillers, or Cold War novels. At any rate, I devoured Hard-boiled Wonderland…, racing to the end, reaching the final page almost breathless. And I was left with that now familiar Murakami-sense of having been denied the happy ending, but given the closing the story demanded.

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