Michael's Reviews > Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami
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Apr 28, 13

bookshelves: asian-literature, 1980s, magical-realism, literary-fiction, book-club-literary-exploration, litexp13
Read from April 05 to 22, 2013

In the future, Tokyo remains the technology powerhouse it is today. With the major advances in technology, data security has become more valuable; problem is all codes can be broken if you know how. The Calcutec is a human data processor/encryption system who has been trained to use his bio-algorithms implant and subconscious for encryption. A new comer to a strange, isolated walled town known as “The End of the World” is assigned a job as a dream reader. As he finds acceptance within the town, his mind begins to fade; or has it only been suppressed?

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World tells the story of a split between two parallel narratives from different worlds. The consciousness and the unconscious mind; “Hard-Boiled Wonderland” refers to The Calcutec’s life as an encryption machine while “The End of the World” is his subconscious world. The two stories are told in alternating chapters as the reader slowly discovers the mysteries connecting these two worlds together. Hard-Boiled Wonderland is a homage to Raymond Chandler and hard-boiled fiction, as well as to science fiction and cyberpunk and “The End of the World” has similarities to Franz Kafka’s The Castle.

The major theme within this book is the nature of consciousness; both narratives are constructed around this general idea. While the odd numbered chapters refer to the conscious mind and the even-numbered chapters the subconscious, it is interesting to note they link together with similar themes; for example the song Danny Boy appeared in consecutive chapters. Even characters are shared between consciousnesses; the object of the narrator’s desire, the librarian is a perfect example of this.

Beyond that, the concept of subconscious being able to be controlled or shaped plays out in the entire book. This brings me to another major theme within this novel; the morality of science. The scientific experiments been done on the narrators mind in the attempt to separate the conscious and the subconscious in an attempt create more secure encryptions is an interesting topic. It reminds me a little of Frankenstein when it looks at the dangers of science and its moral implications. The Professor’s experiment killed about twenty people and while he feels remorse for the tragedy he also feels like it was the right choice in the name of progress.

While there are many more themes that would be interesting to explore I wanted to look at character. In both narratives there are no names for any of the characters, each is referred to by their occupation or a general description; from the Narrator, known as The Calcutec, the Librarian, the Old Man, the Professor, the Big Guy and the Chubby Girl. I never really payed too much attention to this while reading the book but referring to a girl as “the Chubby Girl” did bother me; it wasn’t till the very end that I was bothered by the lot. I couldn’t understand why this book was so frustratingly vague and incomplete with character and setting descriptions, I don’t know what the reason behind it would be, except for maybe removing any obstructions that might hinder the understanding of the novel.

Even the narrative is offering a very limited view of what is actually happening but slowly most of the mysteries do become clearer but the entire focus was on the subtext of this book. This wasn’t meant to be about great characters or scenes; this was all about exploring the themes as a way to get Haruki Murakami’s thoughts on the subject across. In a sense, this is what Murakami excels at; if it wasn’t for these well thought out ideas his books would just be odd and weird. This is my second Murakami novel and the first one I’ve actually enjoyed.

I’ve finally discovered what makes Haruki Murakami an author to take notice of; I didn’t find the same thing with 1Q84, I thought it was long winded and repetitive but Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World really worked for me. I have some issues with the novel, obviously the vagueness was one of the major ones, but overall this was a really interesting journey for me.

This review originally appeared on my blog; http://literary-exploration.com/2013/...
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Reading Progress

04/06/2013
15.0% "Off to a rather weird start, not sure what's happening but still enjoying it"
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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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Ismael Galvan A great read. Prepare to trip out. I read your review of IQ84, perhaps this will redeem him for you.


Michael This is my third book of his, I like his style, I just had some issues with 1Q84


message 3: by Melanie (new) - added it

Melanie Intriguing!


Michael Worth checking out Melanie, I think you might enjoy it


message 5: by Forrest (new)

Forrest Still have to read this one, and I like Murakami's work.


Michael Hope you get a chance to do that soon


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