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

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Book Information  
AuthorHaruki Murakami
TitleHard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
GenreScience Fiction
Book Reviews / Comments (submitted by readers)
Submitted by Archren 
(May 04, 2006)

The protagonist of Haruki Murakamiís book must remain unnamed. In fact, all of the characters in the novel are referred to only by description or title, never by name. That is only one of the oddities in this enjoyable work of (SF? Fantasy? Surrealism?) fiction.

Donít let the description put you off: this book is not hard to read, nor is it incoherent. It never breaks its internal consistency. It is simply that it is made of weirder stuff than average. For instance, in alternating chapters we have a present day science fiction story, and an odd fantasy-type of story involving a man inside of a walled town which he cannot leave. And it has first person narration in both of its tracks. These two stories mirror each other in unpredictable ways. Sometimes an event or character will be foreshadowed in the fantasy line, sometimes in the SF one.

The SF plot has some of the trappings of cyberpunk: the protagonist is a foot soldier in the information wars. In this near-future, corporately speaking, there is the System and the Factory. He is a Calcutech employed by the System. He can utilize the hemispheres of his brain independently to encode and decode data for security storage. His life gets very complicated upon taking a job for the Professor, who appears to be a mad genius, and even has a plump and pretty granddaughter. Many people want what is in the heroís possession so his apartment gets trashed and his gut slashed. He delves into a subterranean world inhabited by mutants in order to find out what is happening.

For all that, however, this is actually a very introspective and fatalistic story. The hero rails against his fate much less than a Western protagonist would. He spends a lot of time thinking about his life and his place in life, and the fantasy plot is richly metaphorical for his inner life, as well as being true to its literal meaning. The overlap of SF and fantasy tropes in the service of character illumination is rich and interesting.

Donít think from my analysis that this is a dark and depressing book, however. It has a lot of humor in it, and a light tone to the writing. Iím very glad that Murakamiís books are being translated into English, and Iím definitely going to read more of them.

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