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Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the WorldHard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“You’re wrong. The mind is not like raindrops. It does not fall from the skies, it does not lose itself among other things. If you believe in me at all, then believe this: I promise you I will find it. Everything depends on this.”

“I believe you,” she whispers after a moment. “Please find my mind.”

Even though I read this two months ago, I am still processing the many memorable, often beautiful and sometimes terrifying images that Murakami has left imprinted on my mind. As a Murakami fan, I have read enough of his work to establish an impression of his writing style; but ‘Hard Boiled’ has blown that to pieces.

This novel is one that challenges notions of the psyche, memory and self. It plays around with theories of Quantum Physics as the story is batted back and forth from one separate, insulated world to another. Can a person exist in more than one place at a time? If so, what happens when one entity becomes aware of the others existence? What would you do if you were caught in such a dilemma? What happens when that much-needed membrane of ignorance is broken?

Murakami, with his fistful of crazy characters and seemingly random symbols and metaphors grapples with these and other off-the-wall questions by constructing a hybrid narrative that is part cyber-thriller and part folkloric mythos. As the chapters alternate from one reality (or unreality) to another, the reader begins to see surreal correlations between the two worlds.

Right and left, left and right. Like two sides of a brain that run side by side, but can never be reconciled or come in contact with each other; so the two nameless protagonists of this story begin by skirting along the veil between the conscious and unconscious worlds. On one side lies the Hard Boiled Wonderland; the metropolitan hubbub that is Tokyo city. On the other is the End of the World; a haunted village where shadows wither and die and strange golden beasts graze the plains. Two men exist in these places; two men who begin to question the laws of the places they live. On the periphery of their senses, they both feel the presence of the other and so begins a battle of awakening.

The delicate symmetry between the realities is juggled with expertise by Murakami, who in this novel is beginning to show that he is very capable of managing a large and eclectic cast of characters. What I found enjoyable was the ‘merging’ of the two worlds and especially the originality of the more fantastical aspects of the story. It was nice to see some Japanese mythological creatures appearing in unexpected places (the INKlings or kappa make many appearances).

This is one of those books that one can’t really talk that much about. Saying anything more about the plot or characters would give away a lot of spoilers. But one thing is for sure, this is definitely worth reading, if only for the cliffhanger ending.

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