Friday, June 12, 2015

Book Review: Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami

I've owned this book for a few years, but never officially picked it up to read. All I knew about Murakami going into this book is that he is a "surrealist writer", which always intrigued me. I know how surrealism applies to art, but I had no idea what defines it in writing. I will also confess that I'm attracted to off the wall titles, and this one takes the cake in that respect, lol.

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World tells the story of an "information shuffler" who works for "The System", which is some kind of government run clandestine organization. The man is contacted for a job without knowing what he will be expected to do, only to learn that he will be employing his unique "shuffling" skills to encode the life's work of a crazy scientist. The scientist's lab is accessed through a normal office building, but then you have to hike underground, going through an underground waterfall and avoiding creatures called Inklings until you arrive at the lab. The shuffler does his job and promises to bring the shuffled data back in 2 days. He goes home only to have his door busted down by some mobster-types who want to get in the loop on the old man's research. The bust up his apartment and slash his gut to make it look convincing, telling him that they want him to report to them in the future so they can get a cut of the profits to come. In the middle of the night, the old scientist's granddaughter calls the shuffler to say that her grandfather has disappeared and she knows that the shuffler is the key to preventing the end of the world. The shuffler tries to meet the girl, and they start on a crazy adventure. Simultaneously, a separate story is going on about a secluded town that is surrounded by a wall and filled with "golden beasts" that turn out to be unicorns. A man is a newcomer to the town, he is assigned the job of "dream reader", his shadow is taken from him, and he is left to live the expected life there. These two stories alternate with each chapter throughout the book.

This book was fairly crazy, as I'm sure you can tell from my kind of out-there description. I did enjoy it though. Now that I have read Murakami, surrealism in writing makes perfect sense and in the exact same way that it does in art. His landscapes are well described, but they are always incredibly off the wall and don't seem to make sense. I had to eventually look up when this book was written to get a full idea of the scenes in Tokyo, and I was really surprised that this book was published originally in 1985. The technology talked about in the book is extremely advanced for its time, but still very plausible sounding. It deals with brain science and repressed memories and encoding data in ways that made total sense even though they are not yet possible. In spite of the crazy subject matter, the book still was easy to follow. It was certainly a ride, but one that I enjoyed :) I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

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