Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

( 71 )

Overview

Japan's most widely-read and controversial writer, author of A Wild Sheep Chase, hurtles into the consciousness of the West with this narrative about a split-brained data processor, a deranged scientist, his shockingly undemure granddaughter, and various thugs, librarians, and subterranean monsters—not to mention Bob Dylan and Lauren Bacall.

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Overview

Japan's most widely-read and controversial writer, author of A Wild Sheep Chase, hurtles into the consciousness of the West with this narrative about a split-brained data processor, a deranged scientist, his shockingly undemure granddaughter, and various thugs, librarians, and subterranean monsters—not to mention Bob Dylan and Lauren Bacall.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Murakami’s bold willingness to go straight over the top [is] a signal indication of his genius . . . a world-class writer who has both eyes open and takes big risks.” –The Washington Post Book World

“He has become the foremost representative of a new style of Japanese writing: hip, cynical, highly stylized, set at the juncture of cyberpunk, postmodernism, and hard-boiled detective fiction. . . . Murakami [is] adept at deadpan wit, outrageous style.” –Los Angeles Times Magazine

“Fantastical, mysterious, and funny . . . a fantasy world that might have been penned by Franz Kafka.” –Philadelphia Inquirer

“Rich in action, suspense, odd characters and unexpected trifles . . . [a] provocative work.” –The Atlantic

“Murakami’s gift is for ironic observations that hint at something graver. . . . He is wry, absurd, and desolate.” –Los Angeles Times Book Review

“[A] mix of American fun and Japanese dread.” –Esquire

“An intertwining DNA model of seemingly contrary elements . . . a combination of Kafka’s castle, Borges’s library, and the Prisoner’s TV village.” –Village Voice Literary Supplement

“Off the wall . . . hilariously bizarre . . . splendid . . . a remarkable book . . . Alfred Birnbaum . . . has captured the crazed, surreal feel of Murakami’s Japanese.” –The Times (London)

“His novels . . . are set on fast-forward: raucous, slangy, irreverent.” –Details

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
There ought to be a name for the genre Murakami ( A Wild Sheep Chase ) has invented, and it might be the literary pyrotechno-thriller. The plot here is so elaborate that about 100 pages, one-fourth of the book, elapse before its various elements begin to fit together, but Murakami's lightning prose more than sustains the reader. Embellished with witticisms, wordplay and allusions to such figures as Stendhal heroes and Lauren Bacall, the tale is set in a Tokyo of the near future. Thanks to a wonderland of technology, an intelligence agent has had his brain implanted with a ``profoundly personal drama'' that allows him to ``launder'' and ``shuffle'' classified data, and all that he knows of the drama is its password, The End of the World. But after interference from a scientist and from the Semiotecs, a rival intelligence unit, the subconscious story is about to replace the agent's own perceptions of reality. Intertwined with the agent's attempts to understand his plight are scenes from The End of the World. Murakami's ingenuity and inventiveness cannot fail to intoxicate; this is a bravura performance. (Sept.)
Library Journal
The last surviving victim of an experiment that implanted the subjects' heads with electrodes that decipher coded messages is the unnamed narrator of this excellent book by Murakami, one of Japan's best-selling novelists and winner of the prestigious Tanizaki prize. Half the chapters are set in Tokyo, where the narrator negotiates underground worlds populated by INKlings, dodges opponents of both sides of a raging high-tech infowar, and engages in an affair with a beautiful librarian with a gargantuan appetite. In alternating chapters he tries to reunite with his mind and his shadow, from which he has been severed by the grim, dark ``replacement'' consciousness implanted in him by a dotty neurophysiologist. Both worlds share the unearthly theme of unicorn skulls that moan and glow. Murakami's fast-paced style, full of hip internationalism, slangy allegory, and intrigue, has been adroitly translated. Murakami is also author of A Wild Sheep Chase ( LJ 10/15/89); his new work is recommended for academic libraries and public libraries emphasizing serious contemporary fiction.-- D.E. Perushek, Univ. of Tennessee, Knoxville
Kirkus Reviews
Winner of the Tanizaki Literary prize (the Japanese equivalent of the Pulitzer), by acclaimed young Japanese novelist Murakami: a stunning combination of the contemporary and brash with elegiac allegory, all topped off by a strong measure of cyberpunk. The "hard-boiled" hero, 35 and divorced, is a man of possessions—a collection of imported whiskeys; interests—old American movies and cooking; but no emotions. Which, coupled with his brilliant work on computers, makes him the ideal candidate for a mysterious aging scientist holed up under the sewers of Tokyo. Here, protected by a waterfall and by flesh-devouring creatures, the INKlings, from the two competing information organizations that control everything in the country, the scientist has devised a perfect secret code by operating on the brains of selected computer workers. The hero, summoned to the scientist's lair, is presented with a unicorn's skull and told of a project called "The End of the World." Alternating between these encounters with the scientist, the scientist's granddaughter, and bully-boys bent on finding out what he knows, there is the story of the ancient walled town at the end of the world. In this home of one-horned beasts, a young man arrives, is separated from his shadow, and is set to work interpreting the dreams of the skulls in the library. The two worlds increasingly connect and at the end fuse, with the hero, though certifiably dead, for the first time morally and emotionally alive and resistant to the society's pervasive control of the individual. One of those rare postmodern novels that is as intellectually profound as stylistically accomplished, by a writer with a bold and originalvision.
Publishers Weekly
Murakami's two stories--which alternate, chapter by chapter--are told by two narrators, who split duties here. Ian Porter is the baritone, thoughtful and deliberative; Adam Sims is lighter spirited, flightier, and more amused by the bizarre comedy of Murakami's puzzle box. Both readers are well chosen, expertly picking their way across the minefield of this intoxicating, perplexing story. And their balancing act mimics the book's alternation of tones, styles, and stories. The recording is studded by occasional studio sound effects that are hardly necessary, but do manage to cleverly amplify the woozy, trippy disorientation of the tale. A Vintage paperback. (May)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679743460
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/28/1993
  • Series: Vintage International Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 68,928
  • Product dimensions: 5.11 (w) x 7.99 (h) x 0.84 (d)

Meet the Author

Haruki Murakami
Haruki Murakami
Writing in a style that is deceptively plainspoken, Haruki Murakami finds a dreamlike common ground between Japan and the West, conscious and subconscious. His heroes lose themselves in quests that we may not always understand, but are hopelessly compelled to follow.

Biography

The The story of how Haruki Murakami decided to become a novelist says a lot about his work, because it is as strange and culturally diffuse as the works he writes. While watching a baseball game in Toyko in 1978 between the Yakult Swallows and the Hiroshima Carp, Murakami witnessed an American hit a double. At the crack of the bat, Murakami -- who had never had any ambition to write because he assumed he didn't have the talent -- decided that he should begin a novel. He then started his first book, in the night hours after work.

If you're waiting for a connection between the double and the epiphany, there isn't one. It's often that way in Murakami's fiction, where cultures blend and seemingly incongruous, inexplicable events move the story forward. People disappear or transform as quickly as the worlds around them, and the result is a dreamlike atmosphere that blends mystery, magic realism and sci-fi while remaining unmistakably distinct from all three.

Murakami was brought up in a suburb of Kobe by parents who were teachers of Japanese literature; but the literature of his parents did not interest him and he read mostly American authors, listened to American jazz and watched American shows. For this reason, though his books are set in Japan and originally written in Japanese, they do not seem terribly foreign to English speakers. South of the Border, West of the Sun's title derives from a Nat King Cole song; and you're as likely to find a reference to McDonald's, Cutty Sark or F. Scott Fitzgerald as you are to anything Japanese.

Murakami began his career with the coming-of-age novels Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball 1973, but he hit his stride with A Wild Sheep Chase, a novel about a twentysomething ad executive who is drawn into the quest for an elusive, mutant sheep. The novel appeared in the U.S. seven years after its 1982 publication, introducing American audiences to this unclassifiable author. It contained many of the traits that mark Murakami's novels: a solitary male protagonist who drifts just outside society; first-person narration; and philosophical passages nestled within outlandish, unconventional plots. An admiring New York Times Book Review called Murakami a "mythmaker for the millennium."

The author's commercial breakthrough in Japan had come with the publication of Norwegian Wood in 1987, which sold two million copies. The story of a man who becomes involved with his best friend's girlfriend after the friend's suicide, it stands alone as the author's most straightforward, realistic work. Murakami acknowledges the book's impact on his career, and stands behind it; but he is also aware that it represented a departure from the surreal books that had made him a "cult" author with a modest following. "After Norwegian Wood, I have not written any purely realistic novels," Murakami said in a 2001 publisher's interview, "and have no intention of writing any more at this time."

Murakami's return to surrealism with Dance Dance Dance (the sequel to A Wild Sheep Chase), however, did not slow his career growth. Further translations of his work and publication of his stories in the New Yorker assured a growing following in the States, where his best known (and, to some, his best) work is The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which appeared here in 1997. It's a masterful work that draws together all of the themes Murakami had been exploring in his fiction up until then: modern ennui, the unpredictability of relationships, a haunting backdrop of Japanese history.

In addition to his sublime and profoundly strange short stories and novels (Sputnik Sweetheart; Kafka on the Shore; Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, etc.), Murakami has made occasional forays into nonfiction -- most notably with Underground, a compilation of interviews with victims of the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway, and his 2008 memoir of the New York City Marathon, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. He has also translated several works by American authors into Japanese, including title by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Raymond Carver, and John Irving.

Good To Know

Murakami owned a small jazz bar in Tokyo for seven years after college, an experience that he enjoyed and called upon when creating the main character of South of the Border, West of the Sun, who also owns a Tokyo jazz bar.

Murakami's first three novels, -- Hear the Wind Sing, Pinball 1973, and A Wild Sheep Chase -- comprise The Trilogy of the Rat.

His most often cited influences are Raymond Chandler, Kurt Vonnegut and Richard Brautigan.

Murakami told an interviewer from Publishers Weekly in 1991 that he considers his first two novels, Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball 1973 "weak," and was not eager to have them translated into English. The translations were published, but are not available in the U.S. Third novel A Wild Sheep Chase was "the first book where I could feel a kind of sensation, the joy of telling a story. When you read a good story, you just keep reading. When I write a good story, I just keep writing."

Daniel Handler, aka children's author Lemony Snicket, is a vocal fan of Murakami's who once wrote a review/paean to the author in the Village Voice entitled "I Love Murakami." "Haruki Murakami is our greatest living practitioner of fiction," he wrote. "....The novels aren't afraid to pull tricks usually banned from serious fiction: They are suspenseful, corny, spooky, and hilarious; they're airplane reading, but when you're through you spend the rest of the flight, the rest of the month, rethinking life."

Murakami has taught at Princeton University, where he wrote most of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and Tufts University. The twin disasters of a gas attack on the Tokyo subway and the Kobe earthquake in 1995 drew the author back to Japan from the United States.

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    1. Hometown:
      Tokyo, Japan
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 12, 1949
    2. Place of Birth:
      Kyoto, Japan
    1. Education:
      Waseda University, 1973
    2. Website:

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 71 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(44)

4 Star

(18)

3 Star

(6)

2 Star

(2)

1 Star

(1)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 71 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 18, 2011

    My favorite Murakami book

    Although Windup Bird Chronicles is better known, I enjoyed this book much more. There are parallel stories here, told by story-tellers with different voices (or is it one story-teller?). Uncertainty here is well worth the mental effort to work things out. If you're confused at first, press on! This is a quick read, and ultimately, a satisfying one.

    I would recommend any of Murakami's books. I understand there is another to be released quite soon. I can hardly wait!

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2012

    Another great Murakami read

    The characters were well developed, mysterious and comical at times. I loved how the imagery in both story lines mimicked each other. Only thing that held me back from 5/5 was the somewhat predictable revelation of why the 2 worlds exist.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2012

    Intoxicating

    This book reads like an episode of Lost, at once intelectually fascinating as well as deeply moving. I feel like i need another read throgh to fully appreciate and untangle-if such a thing is even possible-the two overlapping stoies. Despite the underlyig complexity, this book is the most accesible Murakami i have read (with After Dark and The Wind Up Bird Chronicle being the othrr books i have read so far).

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2012

    Great intro to Murakami

    Wierd and compelling

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 9, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Wow!

    I chose this book for a school project because I had been wanting to read something by Haruki Murakami. It is quite amazing! Murakami must have a very unique imagination. I loved his writing style and the characters that he created. I would definetely recommend this book, however it is not for the faint of heart. To say it plainly, it is a little odd, weird, crazy at times. But I like that. :) Anyways, I look forward to reading more of his books as he is a very talented writer.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 25, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Great Characters

    This book is a quick read that keeps the reader interested throughout the book. There are two stories taking place (alternating chapters) which merge together at the end. I loved the characters in this book. They are all unique, interesting, and important. Good book

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A GREAT book from Haruki Murakami.

    I really enjoyed reading HARD-BOILED WONDERLAND AND THE END OF THE WORLD. This story was very inventive. The dream library is definatly a place I would like to check out; although I would not want my eyes changed. I found the protagonist to be a person I could relate to. He was a man caught up in a world that he had no control of. And like all puppets, he wanted to know the future and where he fitted into it. His 'present' being what it was that created that thirst. I highly recommend this book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2000

    Hard Boiled Wonderland is pure genius

    Murakami's Hard Boiled Wonderland is the best book that I have ever read.The multiple themes blend together with such wit.Murakami's writing skill is on a higher level.The book leaves you in suspense 24-7.I was always looking forward to seeing what was going to happen next in the book.It is hard to describe the feeling that the book gives you.All I can say is buy the book,I promise you will not be disapointed.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2012

    One of my favorites!

    One of my favorites!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 24, 2011

    Great Contemporary Japanese Fiction

    Haruki Murakami is easily one of my favorite authors, and this particular book is, in my eyes, one of his best works. Two tales run beside each other throughout the book, seemingly unrelated until a climactic finale. It is a realistic fiction story with a fantastic, paranormal twist. It is a book that you should read more than once if you intend to catch all of the little details along the way. If you're looking for somethooo

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 31, 2010

    Great book, confusing organization

    This book is amazing, the characters the plot, the parallelism between both stories. Yet the writing style made me read it incorrectly at first being so engrossed by the first chapter I read every other chapter to finish "Hard Boiled Wonderland" then went back and read "End of the World". But afterwards I read both stories side by side and it shows so many more levels of the story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Gripping and Original

    In Murakami's mysterious world of "Calcutecs" and "Symeotics" one man finds himself stuck in the middle of an information war. What he doesn't know or understand is that the end of the world is near and he is the key.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2006

    Marvelous Insanity

    The best way to describe this novel is marvelous insanity. At first nothing seems to fit together, but as the story progresses the two simultaneous plots meet seamlessly. I enjoyed every letter of it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 4, 2006

    one of murakami's best

    i've read most of murakami's works and this one is the most seamless, perfectly packaged novel from beggining to end. i felt that HBW and ETW was a bit different from all of Murakami's other novels. Murakami generally writes about metaphysical dimensions, and abstract/ out of reach 'worlds'. This novel was the only one where that world was more clearly defined and explained in detail. It was like seeing it in color, as compared to the dreamlike and greyish settings visited in other novels. this isnt a bad thing at all. it gives the story a more definition. furthermore, HBW and ETW one of murakami's more action packed stories. great great book. highly recommended

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2006

    Fabulous

    I loved this book. I went insane trying to figure out how the two different stories were connected. I would recommend this to anyone who wants to read something interesting and different.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 2005

    A wonderful read

    This book is fantastic. It is tied for first place with 'Kafka on the Shore' for favorite Murakami book of mine. It was ambitious and imaginative. Murakami tells two stories at once, of two different worlds, that he ties wonderfully together at the end, AND the beginning. It doesn't make sense yet, read it and it will.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2005

    A great read

    Having read many of Murakami's books, I have to say that Hard Boiled is one of the best, topped only by the 'Wind Up Bird'. I picked it up after a hiatus of reading due to exams and as a Murakami fix before the new book hit stores, and I found it truly amazing. I cannot wait for 'Kafka' and hope that it will be able to match the writing and plot of 'Hard Boiled'.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2004

    Shadows and Simulacrum

    This book is structurally and thematically more complex than anything else he's written to date(except maybe Wind-Up Bird Chronicle). HBW+ETW is enjoyable on multiple levels, though I found that I did not fully appreciate the conclusion until the third read (probably a failure on my part, though I've heard that he rewrote it several times before deciding on the current conclusion). Jean Baudrillard is a theorist whose work I found makes for an interesting and appropriate companion to this title, but if you're not into lit. theory the genius of this book is that it's still accessible. Danny Boy, paperclips, unicorns, and genius . . .

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2004

    Hard-boiled wonderland and the end of the World

    I have read almost all of Murakami's work. This book keeps you in suspence. As you are reading it, you look forward to the turning point when the two stories will merge. Great!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2003

    Best Effing Book I Have Ever Read

    To Read Is To Know.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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