I read this book whilst travelling in Africa and I vividly remember me sitting late into the night under my mosquito net breathlessly chasing the protagonist ever further into his surrealist labyrinth. The unusual character of the setting - a European reading a book in Western Africa by a Japanese author - simply added to the powerful sense of disorientation. What sticks to my mind two years after reading this book is Murakami's uncanny ability to conjure up images of great physical power. His prose is suggestive to a degree that it literally spills over into the other senses: I cherish the memory of a number of strong aural, visual and tactile impulses related to various episodes in the book. The centrepiece, for me, is Lieutenant Mamiya's epic narrative of his war-time experiences in Manchuria and Mongolia: a dark metaphysical fable where beauty and death mingle in a deeply poignant way.
I have since read no other of Murakami's books. Glossing over some of their back covers I can't escape the impression that settings, moods and plots seem to vary only a little from book to book. I'd rather stick to the Wind-up Bird Chronicle, then. It'll give me re-reading pleasure for the years to come.