Monday, January 30, 2012

"The elevator continued its impossibly slow ascent."

Just in the nick of time, I finished one Japanese book in translation for the Japanese Literature Challenge 5, hosted by Bellezza, which ends tomorrow. Unexpectedly, this book also worked for the 2012 Science Fiction Experience so I was able to get double credit out of this one. The novel was recommended to me by Natalie after my first experience with Haruki Murakami and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and she did a great job. I liked this one even more than that one!

I'm not sure that I will be able to give a good summary of the plot because information is slowly doled out and part of the enjoyment of reading this book is going on that journey with the unnamed main character. He is a mentally-altered man whose job is to process and encode sensitive data for a corporation called The System. His most recent client is a man known only as Grandfather and his data must be something truly special because, as soon as the main character gets home, his world is literally turned upside down. And in alternating chapters, we learn of another main character -- another unnamed man who moves to a city surrounded by a Wall. It's a unique place full of unicorns and detached shadows. This man is assigned to be the Dreamreader, a job with a mysterious purpose. The intersection of these two mens' lives might just be the End of the World.

As Japanese literature, I really enjoyed this one. The translation (by Alfred Birnbaum) was very smooth and readable. I didn't have any issues with it. The bits of the story that happened around normal Japanese culture were interesting and enlightening. There was definitely a non-Western sensibility to it but it never felt completely unfamiliar.

As a science fiction book, this was also a really good story. There were a couple of long scientific explanations that actually didn't bore me and the ideas of human modification for financial gain were sufficiently frightening to make me hope that this scenario stays in the realm of fiction. I'm actually surprised that this book isn't talked about more in the science fiction world. It's one that I will be thinking about for a long time.

Searching for a happy, peaceful wonderland,


  1. I've only read one Murikama (Kafka on the Shore) but I'm too intimidated reading more--even though I loved Kafka. I haven't heard a lot about this one and actually didn't realize it was considered science-fiction! One day I'll pull another of his books off the shelf! Glad you liked this one so much!

  2. I have never even heard of this one by him before. I have only read Norwegian Wood, but I am supposedly reading 1Q84 at the moment...

  3. OK … now this is the kind of Murakami book I was expecting to read … and then I picked Norwegian Wood which is nothing like this at all!! Leave it to me to pick his most straightforward book. I want the weird stuff!

  4. Trish - This one was actually pretty straightforward and had a good translation. It might be a good choice for you!

    Kailana - I had this one and 1Q84 to choose from and I went for the shorter one. It sounds like a good choice since most people are either underwhelmed by 1Q84 or totally overwhelmed while reading it!

    Jenners - Well, this wasn't definitely wasn't as weird as The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. That one made no sense at all. This one made sense but was pretty strange!

  5. Yay! I'm so glad you liked it. I am determined to re-read it this year since I often say it's one of my fave Murakamis but it's been so long since I read it, I wonder if I'll still love it as much now.

    1Q84 is definitely divisive. I was in the underwhelmed, verging on bored, group so I think you made the right choice picking Hard-boiled. :)

  6. As a Murakami passionate I would recommend other books because this one has produced the same quantity of followers as refusals. My personal choice: a wild sheep chase or norwegian wood. I shall follow you blog from now on, congrats!

  7. Natalie - It is definitely a good balance of mystery and adventure and Japanese culture. Though it's science fiction, it might be one of his more accessible books! I'll still be reading 1Q84 later this year but I will adjust my expectations.

    David - I definitely plan on continuing to explore Murakami's novels. He is a unique author!

  8. I have been wanting to try this author and some Japanese literature! I will be keeping my eye out for this one!

  9. Tif - I think this would be a good starting point with Murakami. It's got a bit of his strangeness but the story has a nice flow and a real ending!