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Walter KirnIt’s when his technique is inconspicuous and not when he’s waving his wand above the hat that Murakami’s spell is most persuasive. Moving outward from obscure Mari through her shifting circle of friends, Murakami takes in widening perimeters of a nocturnal urban habitat. We get a strong sense, though we’re not quite certain how, of the city’s fugitive social ecology, of the bargains and compacts among its tribes and classes. Women are prey for the most part and band together, particularly the poor and the unmarried. Men venture forth more boldly, lone marauders, though sometimes they leverage their power by forming gangs. Behind and underneath it all are the monstrous, semiautonomous grids and systems — police forces, garbage trucks, fiber optic networks — that labor to keep order until morning. The night is a chaos of sprees and errands, of trysts and stickups, escapes and rescue missions, but dawn is a return to productivity.
— The New York Times