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Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

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'A narrative particle accelerator that zooms between Wild Turkey Whiskey and Bob Dylan, unicorn skulls and voracious librarians, John Coltrane and Lord Jim. Science fiction, detective story and post-modern manifesto all rolled into one rip-roaring novel, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World is the tour de force that expanded Haruki Murakami's international following. Tracking one man's descent into the Kafkaesque underworld of contemporary Tokyo, Murakami unites East and West, tragedy and farce, compassion and detachment, slang and philosophy.'

400 pages, Paperback

First published June 15, 1985

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About the author

Haruki Murakami

627 books111k followers
Murakami Haruki (Japanese: 村上 春樹) is a popular contemporary Japanese writer and translator. His work has been described as 'easily accessible, yet profoundly complex'. He can be located on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/harukimuraka...

Since childhood, Murakami has been heavily influenced by Western culture, particularly Western music and literature. He grew up reading a range of works by American writers, such as Kurt Vonnegut and Richard Brautigan, and he is often distinguished from other Japanese writers by his Western influences.

Murakami studied drama at Waseda University in Tokyo, where he met his wife, Yoko. His first job was at a record store, which is where one of his main characters, Toru Watanabe in Norwegian Wood, works. Shortly before finishing his studies, Murakami opened the coffeehouse 'Peter Cat' which was a jazz bar in the evening in Kokubunji, Tokyo with his wife.

Many of his novels have themes and titles that invoke classical music, such as the three books making up The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: The Thieving Magpie (after Rossini's opera), Bird as Prophet (after a piano piece by Robert Schumann usually known in English as The Prophet Bird), and The Bird-Catcher (a character in Mozart's opera The Magic Flute). Some of his novels take their titles from songs: Dance, Dance, Dance (after The Dells' song, although it is widely thought it was titled after the Beach Boys tune), Norwegian Wood (after The Beatles' song) and South of the Border, West of the Sun (the first part being the title of a song by Nat King Cole).

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 7,929 reviews
Profile Image for Andrew.
46 reviews84 followers
May 1, 2007
This is your brain (an egg). This is your brain on Murakami (an egg sprouting arms and legs and attempting to hump other eggs while doing the Electric Slide and attempting to save the world to a killer soundtrack).

If you like Murakami, you'll like it, although it doesn't blend the two twisted sides of Murakami's writing as well as a book like "Norwegian Wood" or "Kafka on the Shore." In each of those novels, the reader gets transitions within chapters, and his talents for myth-telling in both the mystical and mundane worlds is woven together like two different colored pieces of yarn, fraying and blending at the end. A depressed hippy juggles his daily life - student and record-store shop employee who occasionally trolls for women with his amoral college roommate - with his intensely personal life - a boy growing into a man, learning about love, heartbreak and death. A talking cat accompanies a small boy on his adventures, the boy eating a lot of diner food and not really doing much but hanging out at the library. These are the things you get with Murakami, but they usually coexist fairly nicely, driving toward a space where fantasy and reality decide to have a nice conversation.

"Hard Boiled Wonderland And The End Of The World" is aptly titled, because it really is two separate stories - the "And" is paramount - they are woven together, but more like two noodles can be woven together, but never quite mesh. Oddly, the formal structure of the book - one chapter in reality, one chapter in myth - lends itself to reading the two stories as each lending to the other, but one could almost (until the very end) read each one as independent of the other. Murakami's "reality" is far-flung and outlandish, but it obeys its own rules, and takes the reader for a nice tragic ride. The "myth" is much more prosaic and sedate, but is clearly too serene to be reality. Perhaps it is Murakami's commentary on life: truth is stranger than fiction, especially when the fiction is based on the truth is based on the fiction...

The novel could be an ouroboros, but instead it is a little like the hospital symbol of a serpent wrapped about a knife. To understand this, read the book. I can't describe it any better than this. It gets a four, because it's frankly a little too self-reflexive for me - no main character should really ever say, "Stuff like this only happens in novels," as far as I'm concerned - but it is a stylistic precursor to Murakami's most famous and best work (that I've read), "Kafka on the Shore," so you get to see how Murakami's style evolves, a dualistic peek into the development of a dichotomous author.

Profile Image for Kenny.
495 reviews866 followers
April 16, 2021
Unclose your mind. You are not a prisoner. You are a bird in fight, searching the skies for dreams.
Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World ~~ Haruki Murakami

Buddy read with my friend, Srđan.

There is so much to say about Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World; I'm just not certain I'm the one to say it. I was never able to quite connect with the characters or the plot on an emotional level. Part of the problem is that Murakami attempts to blend so many different literary genres and only partially succeeds here. Is this a hard-boiled detective novel, or a sci-fi novel? Is it a romance novel or dystopian fiction? I'm not sure even Murakami himself can answer that. And, to make matters more confusing, Murakami threw some fantasy in here for good measure, along with a dash of cold war spy thrillers. It is obvious, that Murakami has a love for the hard-boiled detective novels of the 30's, 40's and 50's, and while his Hard-Boiled Wonderland portion of the book is interesting, it's also obvious that Murakami has a lot to learn from Phillip Marlow.

Another issue with the Hard-Boiled Wonderland portion of the book, are the random references to Western culture sprinkled throughout the book. References are made to films, film stars and musicians for no reason other than to reference them. These references do nothing to further the story in any way, yet paragraphs and even pages are given over to them.

Confused? So was Murakami. And yet, this book is fascinating. I could not put it down.


Murakami promises much in this work. And, to be honest, he delivers much. Perhaps too much. Murakami's Tokyo is a wonderland. And we do end up at venturing to the end of the world. Along the way we encounter unicorns, gangsters, mad scientists, chubby girls clad in pink, subterranean monsters, seductive librarians, dream readers, mysterious forests, and the hallucinogenic effects of music between the mind and the sub-conscious mind.

Adding to this wonderland is the Calcutec's penis. There is tremendous interest his manhood and it keeps popping up at the most inconvenient moments.

Where Murakami best succeeds is with the End of the World portion of the book. It is a stark contrast to the neon saturated, Tokyo of Murakami's wonderland. In this world people surrender their shadows, extract and read dreams and live in fear of a mysterious wall. Yet even in this drab world, the characters we encounter are no less colorful. Here, Murakami's writing is unencumbered by the ghosts of Marlow, Cain, Bradbury, Jung and le Carré.


Upon finishing the book I was bothered with the lack of an ending. Characters disappeared for no reason. Plots were dropped as quickly as they appeared. The book was overwritten and in need of editing, and still the ending was rushed.

This was only my third Murakami, and second full-length novel of his. So, I am still quite new to his work. While I found the book to be utterly fascinating, I am certain it is far from his best work.

In the end, I do recommend this book. Even second rate Murakami is better than many writers best efforts.

Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56.6k followers
September 10, 2021
Sekai no Owari to Hādoboirudo Wandārando = Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, Haruki Murakami

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World is a 1985 novel by Japanese writer Haruki Murakami. The English translation by Alfred Birnbaum was released in 1991.

A strange and dreamlike novel, its chapters alternate between two bizarre narratives—"Hard-Boiled Wonderland" (a cyberpunk-like, science fiction part) and "The End of the World" (a virtual fantasy-like, surreal part).

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیست و یکم ماه جولای سال 2012میلادی

عنوان: سرزمین عجایب بیرحم و ته دنیا؛ نویسنده: هاروکی موراکامی؛ مترجم: مهدی غبرایی؛ مشهد، نیکونشر، 1390، در 512ص؛ شابک 9789647253536؛ یادداشت این نسخه از متن انگلیسی برگردان شده؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان ژاپن - سده 20م؛

سرزمین عجایب بی‌رحم و ته دنیا، رمانی متفاوت از «هاروكی موراكامی» است كه دو راوی آن را روايت مي‌كنند؛ جناب «غبرایی»، ‌مترجم اين كتاب، اين داستان را اثری معماگونه می‌دانند كه مضامين آن جستجوي شادی‌های زندگی هستند، سرزمین عجایب بی‌رحم و ته دنیا در واقع نوشتاری است که به قصد مقابله یا رد داستان معروف «آلیس در سرزمین عجایب» نوشته است؛ «موراكامی» با این داستان در صدد هستند آن سرزمین عجایب را به نقد بكشند و بگویند آن‌جا آنقدرها هم زیبا و مطلوب نخواهد بود

فصل‌های فرد کتاب در «سرزمین عجایب بی‌رحم»؛ می‌گذرند، راوی این سرزمین عجایب، بیرحم جوانی است، که از ضمیر ناخودآگاه خویش برای رمزنگاری سود می‌برد، او برای یک سازمان شبه‌ دولتی کار می‌کند، در حالیکه گروهی دیگر، که برای کارخانه کار می‌کنند، در پی رمزگشایی و ربودن اطلاعات هستند؛ اما فصل‌های زوج که در «ته دنیا» رخ می‌دهند؛ به مراتب دل انگیزتر هستند؛ گاهی نوشته های «موراکامی» را باید دوبار یا همان دوباره بخوانم؛ شاید هم این فراموشکار چون پیر شده ام، چنین و چنان باشد؛ انگار باید یواش یواش سایه ام نیز را تحویل دهم

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 14/08/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 18/06/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Jenn(ifer).
159 reviews952 followers
April 4, 2013

Maybe you’ve heard it said before: in every joke there is a grain of truth. Well, as many of you may remember, I’ve been known to pick on Jay Rubin now and again for what I perceive to be his clunky translations of Murakami’s flawless prose. Because it couldn’t possibly be that Haruki is a clunky writer. Get that thought out of your head right now!! So I like to kid poor Jay and make him the scapegoat, but the more I think about it, the more validity I find in my little quips. You see, dear reader, MY top three favorite Murakami novels were translated by this guy:Alfred Birnbaum. Hmmm, coincidence? I’m not so sure…

Translations aside, as I mentioned in my little place holder review, Murakami’s books are like comfort food for my soul. Let me explain this further. Like Haruki, I have a deep-seated love for music of all genres, and as a result I have a rather bloated music collection. Yet sometimes, for whatever reason, nothing I listen to pleases me. It is in these moments that I turn to Wilco. They never let me down. Something about the music is just so … cozy. It doesn't make me mopey; it doesn't pick at my scabs, trying to open a healing wound; it doesn't make me wallow in the murky waters of nostalgia. The music manages to contentedly complement whatever mood or psychic place I’m in.

What does this have to do with Murakami? Well, I feel the same sort of cozy feeling when I read one of his novels. When the experimental fictions are crushing my brain or nothing else is really revving my engine, I pick up a Murakami novel and all is right with the world again. I know I’ll be treated to a delicious, savory meal, a blend of musical delights, many an otherworldly adventure, and a couple of romps in the sack. Better than any date I’ve had in years.


(Or am I?)

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World was no exception. In fact, in what I’ve come to love about Murakami, it is the rule. Mind bending, thought provoking, dreamlike and just a little bit sexy. Oh, and did I mention? Unicorns!


Once, when I was younger, I thought I could be someone else. I'd move to Casablanca, open a bar, and I'd meet Ingrid Bergman. Or more realistically - whether actually more realistic or not - I'd tune in on a better life, something more suited to my true self. Toward that end, I had to undergo training. I read The Greening of America, and I saw Easy Rider three times. But like a boat with a twisted rudder, I kept coming back to the same place. I wasn't anywhere. I was myself, waiting on the shore for me to return.

Here’s a little Wilco song that feels right at home with a Murakami novel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgWJwx...
Profile Image for Florencia.
649 reviews1,912 followers
January 10, 2018
And I couldn't be any other self but my self. Could I?

There is always a possibility.

In the summer of 1962, a poet wrote a song that would later become the last hymn to be heard as the end of the world approached. That is the song I chose to be my companion while writing another non-review; a song that is being followed closely by the mellifluous gusts of wind that break the silence of this monochromatic night.
Being my first Murakami, quite frankly, I didn't know what to expect. This is, without a doubt, one of the most original novels I have read this year. And I can't only ascribe this notion to the creativity of the plot, since the variations of the language used to illustrate it were another element that left me quite impressed.
I felt disconnected. Converting numbers in my brain was my only connection to the world. Most of my free time I chose to spend alone, reading old novels, watching old Hollywood movies on video, drinking. I had no need for a newspaper.

For a moment, I walked out of the comfort zone provided by classics and plunged into the world of more contemporary expressions in which I still feel like a slightly awkward guest. Murakami's writing stirred my senses from beginning to end. It did justice to the concept that was always hovering over this story: the duality of things around us, the dichotomies within ourselves. For this is a book that includes two different worlds that may or may not coalesce into one single reality someday. The first world is “Hard-Boiled Wonderland”, where I found a peculiar voice; a somewhat stark, unvarnished writing. Words that tried to conceal the tiniest trace of emotional connection, congenitally unable to do otherwise. Detached words probably under the influence of an old pledge to keep distance from the world as a desperate attempt to protect themselves, to prevent their fragile system from blowing to smithereens. Words uttered by a narrator who was able to drink gallons of alcohol and then face inconceivably difficult situations and the most disgusting creatures ever, while thinking about sex on every given situation but still capable of disclosing colorful beads of a philosophical nature, which he tried to camouflage with waves of indifference, or rather fear wearing the translucent robes of indifference.
Who remembers stars? Come to think of it, had I even looked up at the sky recently? Had the stars been wiped out of the sky three months ago, I wouldn't have known... My world foreshortened, flattening into a credit card. Seen head on, things seemed merely skewed, but from the side the view was virtually meaningless—a one-dimensional wafer. Everything about me may have been crammed in there, but it was only plastic. Indecipherable except to some machine.

The second world is, ironically enough, “The End of the World”, where Murakami's writing acquires a more expressive tone with which places and people are vividly portrayed. There, a narrator depicts a seemingly perfect world echoing an ancient nirvana, an empty world, a tempting world; descriptions that also convey one significant distinction: everything might be happening now. Only living will remain. Undisturbed, peaceful living.
Facts unfold following the familiar cadences of a foreign narrative and I – stunned, in deep thought, marveled at how every piece falls into the right place, slowly, cautiously, with desperate detachment and stoic passion until the puzzle is almost complete – contemplate once more how life bifurcates and reveals two realities intrinsically different and yet strongly connected: one belongs to the actual world and the other to the realm of the mind. Everything might be connected in this world surrounded by walls . But then again, perhaps everything is an illusion, nothing is connected and we are truly alone. Hopefully, that too could be another figment of one's imagination.
You tell me there is no fighting or hatred or desire in the Town. That is a beautiful dream, and I do want your happiness. But the absence of fighting or hatred or desire also means the opposites do not exist either.

Despite the differences that perhaps exist only in the mind of this inexperienced reader, both forms of writing converge eventually. That is what made me change my opinion, since four solid stars became a glimmering 5-star rating after reaching to a certain point amid the distinctive ebb and flow of this novel. From that moment on – a moment which I will keep to myself, hoping you find yours – an unbridled desire to know more took over my body and I couldn't put this book down until it was over. Shortly after, I realized the mistake I had made, since I wasn't prepared for the billows of emotions that were about to sweep away every vestige of a former calm. (Not many are able to resist the allurements of the literary anxiety.)
That's the way with the mind. Nothing is ever equal. Like a river, as it flows, the course changes with the terrain.

After stepping in the middle of seven sad forests, and being out in front of a dozen dead oceans, questions began to haunt me, relentlessly, until some invaded my whole being and there one still lingers, for I haven't found any word willing to form a decent answer.
Here, in the palm of my hand, I have the story of a man facing an impending fate, remembering distant errors that will never be mend, old lyrics and classic scenes, the discrepancies between desire and reality, between who we are and who we would like to be; the little we say, the echoes of regret through the mountains of things unsaid; the departure from a world with the aftertaste of nothingness to enter one resembling everything. Despair, disillusionment, hell, reality; himself. Love, fear – love. Multiple shades of existence encapsulated in twenty-four hours. A woman, a song, the park under the sun. Some limited happiness had been granted this limited life. One last peal of a winter bell. The sounds of the end of the world.


Could I have given happiness to anyone else?

Sep 26, 16
* Also on my blog.
** Photo credit: via wallhere.com
*** I started writing it in June, then life and other books, now catching up.
Profile Image for Cecily.
1,118 reviews3,975 followers
February 23, 2021
Hard-Boiled Wonderland and The End of the World

"Do you really expect me to know what's going on?"

The two stories are told in alternating chapters. HBW is a gritty urban cybercrime and infowar adventure, where Calcutecs hired by the System are programmed to shuffle data outside their consciousness, to encrypt it, and Semiotecs from the Factory try to steal it. It’s told in the past tense. TEotW is set in a Town that feels folkloric, enclosed by a perfect Wall, where no one has a shadow, and golden “beasts” (unicorns) are let in every day and sent out each night. It’s told in the present tense by a newcomer who has been assigned the role of Dreamreader.

At first, they seem utterly unconnected, except for being opposites: realistic and mythical, dystopian and utopian, hot and cold. But gradually HBW becomes a little more fantastical and TEotW rather less utopian, and you notice trivial things cropping up in both: librarians; unicorn skulls; the end of the world; the fact no one has a name, merely a title or description; paperclips, and synaesthesia (smells triggering memories and musical notes triggering colours).

It’s a novel of balance in the telling as well: always a page-turner, but never confusing; intriguingly puzzling, but dropping just enough timely clues for the reader to anticipate the connections.

The two strands dance ever closer together, but the fact they don’t definitively merge in a crystal-clear solution was perfect.
"There are things that cannot and should not be explained."

Image: “City at the Night” by Guy Billout (Source)


The stories whizzed by, but there’s depth as well as the more obvious breadth.

In HBW, any shadows are metaphorical, but they’re central to TEotW where, as in older stories (see Connections, below), they are associated with self, mind, soul, and memory.

As you create memories, you’re creating a parallel word.
In this Town, memory is unreliable and uncertain.
When the world is weird, you need memories to assess reality, but which realities are you comparing?

Without the despair of loss, there is no hope.
I remember the Eureka moment when I realised that if there was no evil in the world, the least good would become the new evil. (But why didn’t I extrapolate and use that as justification for not striving to be good?) Even though a child can figure that out, a master storyteller like Murakami can burnish multiple facets of the idea to great and twisty effect.
In time your mind will not matter. It will go, and with it goes all sense of loss, all sense of sorrow.

God figure
I cannot forsake the people and place and things I have created.
The Professor is a clear god figure , but there’s another, less obvious one.

Death or immortality?
Maybe you can’t die here, but you will not be living.
If you had 24 hours to live, you’d want more time, and to use it wisely (not drying someone else’s clothes in a laundromat), but maybe there’s another way? Opposites, again. But in stories, there’s always a price to pay.

I think there’s more to this theme than I “got”. The Professor is researching sound-removal that’s more powerful than mere white noise, many musical names are dropped, and a character’s memory loss includes music (but they experience colours associated with notes). And then there’s this exquisite multisensory evocation of the sound of the horn that is used to summon and expel the beasts:
The gentle tones spread through me… Navigating the darkling streets like a pale transparent fish, down cobbled arcades, past the enclosures of houses… It cuts through invisible airborne sediments of time, quietly penetrating the furthest reaches of the Town.

Image: The novel has metafictional aspects, layered like a Matryoshka doll - or like the house that contained this painting of a dolls’ house that has paintings on its walls. “Dolls’ House of Petronella Oortman” by Jacob Appel, c1710 (Source)


The wiggling of her bulbous behind… reminds me of a head of Chinese cabbage in a wet skirt.
The Professor’s 17-year old granddaughter is frequently referred to as "the chubby girl", though she’s also described as being attractive, despite being obese. Thirty five years later, it reads uncomfortably. However, she is actually a strong, intelligent, independent heroine in her own right, so I think it reflects the unsavoury thinking of the narrator more than the author.

There are a few unsubtle, overlong, and comically gobbledigook-filled infodumps. The technical details of what the Professor is doing are intriguing and extraordinary, but it’s not essential to comprehend every detail.

The relationship that is most central to the difficult decisions and dramatic revelations of the final chapters was not one I could really believe in.


Just a few that occurred to me. I’m sure there are many many others, especially in cyber/noir genre:

• Kafka’s The Castle also has a new arrival to a strange, enclosed town, where even the snow is sinister. See my review HERE.

• Peake’s Gormenghast books also portray an almost mythical walled town, subject to archaic ritual, the reasons for which are lost in time, and which it may be impossible to leave:
There is nowhere else... you will only tread a circle... everything comes to Gormenghast.
There is no beyond.” (from TEotW)
See my review HERE.

• Le Guin’s The Ones Who Walked Away from Omelas from 1973 offers a key to Murakami’s tale.
This is the price of your perfection.” (from HBWaTEotW)
See my review HERE.

• Hans Christian Andersen’s The Shadow is one of many older stories about people being separated from their shadows. See my review of that, which mentions three others, HERE.

• Apatt's excellent review of this, here, mentions Miéville's The City and The City, which I reviewed HERE. Good spot!

• Most obviously, because of the title, but perhaps least relevantly in terms of plot, Lewis Carroll’s Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

David Mitchell cites Murakami as a major influence, and as his own books are all connected into a uber-book, it’s relevant to mention him here. Number9Dream is the closest to HBW (see my old, brief review HERE), though it may be even closer to other Murakamis I haven’t yet read.

Many novelists, composers, musicians, and their works - classical and contemporary - are mentioned throughout.

With the right director and a large budget, it would make an excellent film or video game - and HBW a theme park ride.

Image: Figure running into(?) tunnel (Source)


• “The morning sun tore through the clouds… the frosty breath of more than a thousand beasts dancing whitely in the air.”

• “As the autumn deepens, the fathomless lakes of their eyes assume an ever more sorrowful hue.” [The beasts]

• "I cannot stay in this place, yet I do not want to leave."

• “The voice of the light remains ever so faint; images quiet as ancient constellations float across the dome of my dawning mind. They are indistinct fragments that never merge into a sensate picture.” [Dreamreading]

• “A mosaic of winter sky shows between the branches.”

• “The problem is, the Town is perfectly wrong. Every last thing is skewed, so that the total distortion is seamless.”

• “A huge black net of sleep that had been poised in ambush fell over me.”

• “Sex is an extremely subtle undertaking, unlike going to the department store on a Sunday to buy a thermos.”
Profile Image for Baba.
3,562 reviews861 followers
May 3, 2023
Two stories told in alternating chapters that converge to a degree as they progress. They explore concepts of consciousness, the subconscious and identity. Not one character is given an actual Name! A surreal, yet strangely mesmerising tale by Murakami. 7 out of 12, Three Stars.

2010 read
Profile Image for Ben.
74 reviews942 followers
November 18, 2009
Whew, blew me away. The influences from Orwell and Kafka are clearly here. Existential meditations, amazingly imaginative, the multitude of interesting and important thoughts that can sprout from the reader's mind. The whole thing is pure genius.

"That's the way it is with the mind. Nothing is ever equal. Like a river, as it flows, the course changes with the terrain."

Typically, Murakami works his way through your subconscious, toying with recognitions of the past and future, in that magical state much like a dream (but slightly different), where you lose time, and explore and recognize parts of yourself; all while occasionally getting hit with an outburst of powerful consciousness. Some of his novels (Norwegian Wood and South of the Border, West of the Sun, for example), play with the more sentimental sections of the subconscious; but this, this is an overt exploration of the dreamlike state -- an ingenious, different world with human beings with human thoughts and emotions like us, yes. But really you're thrown into two different surreal lands, both existing simultaneously; one world in which life is more "real" than the other; that, we assume as our base, or our "reality." In that reality, we have our narrator: our narrator has run into an amoral, genius scientist, who plays with our narrator's brain. In the subconscious of our narrator's brain, we have our "other world" (also known as "the end of the world"). This is the world that seems less real. It is a world where people have literally lost their minds. No, they aren't crazy: in fact, it's just the opposite. Without their own minds, they have no meaningful life; no strong emotion-- no music. No love. Just work. In "reality" our narrator has a limited amount of time before he falls into his subconscious (the end of the world?) and lives there eternally. In his subconscious world, he is trying to escape, and has limited amount of time to do so, there, as well.

Of course, no plot summary can do this book justice-- it's full of thought provoking nuance, and is probably best read twice.

"It's not so strange that when your memories change, the world changes."

There are a number of different theories that come to mind after finishing this. Some are still hitting me, and you know what? Each theory is fascinating and important in its own way. I don't want to put any spoilers in here, but I'd love to discuss this novel with anyone else who has read it.
Profile Image for Steven  Godin.
2,380 reviews2,256 followers
August 11, 2022

Despite this having 'the End of the World' in it's title, I felt there was very little of the foreboding and eerie feeling from something like 'After Dark', which, in my opinion, is vastly underrated, and easily the best novel I've read by him so far. That felt more like a nightmarish noir; one that really got under my skin, while this effort fell more into the realms of Studio Ghibli fantasy and sci-fi, which isn't really my thing. I liked the double narrative style; which actually wasn't as complex as I thought it would be, so it's relatively easy to read, and Murakami's use of linguistic trickery; which appears every now and again, was pretty cool. Again there are lots of western culture references; which seems to be one of his specialities, and characters that seem to have sex on their minds at the strangest of times: like crawling through a sewer, is another thing I've noticed in some of his other work too. Someone mentioned this is like a cross between Kafka and Philip K. Dick, and I can kind of see what that person was getting at. I'd also add that I could see from one of the two narratives, a little bit of The Tartar Steppe in there too. Yes, I quite liked this; I was intrigued for the most part, but on the downside, the characters felt far too flat-minded; much like cardboard cutouts, meaning there is very little emotion in the story; if any, and even though it sounds wildly imaginative and inventive, we do get fobbed off a bit, and I found a promising theme; that of the narrators shadow: which seemed to hold all the answers, just dwindled and went nowhere in the end.
Profile Image for Kristin Myrtle .
113 reviews36 followers
January 22, 2012
This is a complex novel, one that required two reads for me. It tells two stories in alternating chapters. In the first we meet a mild-mannered data processor, only all his "processing" is done inside his head. See... he can do this thing, or he had this thing done to him that allows him to access both hemispheres of his brain simultaneously yet separately. He gets recruited for some top-secret government project led by some mad scientist type, who lives holed up in a cave (under a waterfall) with his buxom daughter. She is curious, virginal and perpetually attired in pink. Oh ya, and this mad scientist has this uncanny ability to remove sound. All the sound, all the sound in the world.

The second story involves another man. He has arrived in a new village. One entirely surrounded by high walls, really, really high walls. Unicorns graze and sleep in this peaceful hamlet. But in this town, mysteries abound. He is assigned a job. He is forced to give up his shadow and is put to work reading the old dreams out of unicorn skulls. The town inhabitants alter his eyes and sequester him to the "library" where all the skulls are kept. He meets a lovely assistant, he works hard, long hours in the dark. He becomes accustomed to it. All the while he is determined to have his shadow returned to him.

Are these two stories connected? And how? And these two men, are they the same person, two distinct people, or different aspects of one subconscious? Why do these two stories alternate? What does the shadow signify? And the unicorns? (Not to mention the skulls.) All these questions are what keep this novel going. And along the way you get the usual delightful Murakami musings. And Murakami's words, his prose, his verbage, the way he can turn a phrase... it all continues to STUN me, it FLOORS me and fascinates me. And this novel is no exception. Although I still haven't quite figured it out. Yet.
Profile Image for Matthias.
107 reviews339 followers
September 5, 2016
In the unlikely event that Haruki Murakami's name on the cover is not in some way a quality label to you, guaranteeing profoundly outlandish scenarios and magic, he threw in the term "wonderland" to make sure everyone knew what to expect. Does the story deliver on all the promises this wonderful title embodies?


I decided to re-visit this book after having read it around 3 years ago (before my reviewing habit kicked in) because I remembered it being an instant favorite but didn't remember why exactly. I had some vague notions of course, but pinpointing the thing that drew me in, really making a case for why others should read it as well, I could not. Can I do it now?

No. But I'll try anyway.

What I can say is that this is:
a. the best Murakami I've read;
b. a superb introduction to this great author.

While in the other books I've read by him it felt as if all the characters were conspiring to make things as strange as possible for the reader, thinking so far outside of the box the mere notion of a box seemed ludicrous, in this one they seem more sympathetic. Especially the protagonist. He seems like he's a good friend of Murakami, introducing him to you, but regardless of their bond, the main character is on your side. When Murakami comes up with something fantastical, he'll go with it, sure, but not without raising his eyebrows to you, signaling "I don't know what the hell is going on either, but it's fun, right?"

Yes, yes it is my friend. And the complicity between the protagonist and the reader will be the thing holding you in your seat when the Murakami rollercoaster ride gets really wild and upside down.

I don't want to give away too many details on the story, I think it's best discovered by reading it for yourself in all its glory. It deals with one of my favorite topics: the mind, its powers, its mysteries, its pitfalls. The joys of losing yourself in thought, the dangers of a closed mind, the connections with the heart: they're all poured into wonderful metaphors that together make for a great adventure.

The novel alternates between two settings: the Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World.

Which is real? What is their connection? Can both exist in harmony?

Which would you rather live in? A place of passions and dangers, but only for a limited time? Or a place of peace and tranquility, forever? Is an answer even possible?

Not in my book, maybe in this one. The unnamed protagonist in this story tries to answer these questions in the midst of information wars between the System and the Factory, in a village completely surrounded and isolated by an impenetrable Wall, in a race against time, running from sinister enemies in underground tunnels, all the while trying to make sure his shadow can keep up. I tried to cover a lot of what's in the story here, but I didn't even come close to getting it all. This isn't the kind of story that can be summarized into a blurb.

It's exciting. It's deep. It's funny. Its settings are mysterious and thought-provoking. Oh, and there's a map! I love stories that come with maps. There was a lot of time spent simply gazing at that map, imagining to walk the river shores into the woods, dreaming away.

In short: an all-time favorite. It also has my favorite quote of all time.

A quote on how everything is fine. And always will be.

Take a moment, sit back, relax, and read these words that never fail to impress me, no matter how many times I've read them:

The sun sliced through the windshield, sealing me in light. I closed my eyes and felt the warmth on my eyelids. Sunlight traveled a long distance to reach this planet; an infinitesimal portion of that sunlight was enough to warm my eyelids. I was moved. That something as insignificant as an eyelid had its place in the workings on the universe, that the cosmic order did not overlook this momentary fact.

Reading this book has been like soft rays of sunshine finding their way to my eyelids, an experience I wish to highly recommend to everyone.

July 23, 2019
I am SO disappointed right now! I read a short story collection by Murakami a short time ago, and I loved it! I loved his writing, and I mostly liked the imaginative side of the stories. This book, despite the fact that this was full of imagination, it ended up being a confused, weird mess, that I just couldn't wait to finish.

This book was creative, but it just bored me endlessly. None of the chapters fused together to make a readable story, and it left me feeling frustrated.

I got the feeling that Murakami sees women as just potential sex objects, and, there was an obsession here, about having sexual relations with "chubby women" I mean, what's the deal with that? Also, the misogyny stood out here like a sore thumb:

"Very few women can sharpen knives properly"

Obviously, that particular statement irritated me, somewhat. Women can't sharpen knives properly, but they are fine to lay down with, right Murakami?

I feel pretty deflated writing this, as his other book was so good. I just wish that I could have gotten more from this one.

Profile Image for Jr Bacdayan.
211 reviews1,683 followers
August 21, 2016
You’re taking a shower. Two streams fall onto you at the same time. One stream is cold and revitalizing while the other is hot and soothing. One’s heat fills the room with a foggy mist while the other clears your head driving it awake with its coldness. Each one supplements the other and the effect creates an experience more complete than had the two not been together. An icy torrent showing how crystal clear things are, and a scorching torrent enveloping things with a blanket of moisture, both drive together to reveal you in your truest form and cleanse you of any impurity and grime.

In Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World Murakami once again presents parallel stories as he’d done in more famous works like Kafka On The Shore and Sputnik Sweetheart. But somehow in this book more than in any of his other works the relation between the two narrations is more personal; one could even describe it as intimate. And as you progress with your reading, you do realize the implications of each story to the other. And you start to appreciate the duality that Murakami has created across a single thread of consciousness. You nod approvingly and realize what intricate, delicate, fragile string must hold the entire account together. Murakami’s genius cannot be denied.

In this novel that moves from beasts to coding to information laundering to anatomy, paperclips and pre-70s pop culture and many other disparate themes one shines a light and sees the conscious self above all only to realize the unconscious self is holding the lantern. This book is probably what it’d feel like to be in a dark room and then stumble onto a mirror and by moonlight see the reflection of your brain exposed jutting out of a gape in your skull. You do not fully know yourself, not even you know who you truly are. Your unconscious is some dark place probably filled with unicorns. Don’t try to understand it. Realize the significance that there is some part of you, you don’t control. Accept that life is mysterious and so are you. But hey I’ve never really been a connoisseur of the subconscious; I’ve got no solid background aside from the standard Freud and Jung. Who am I to tell you who you are? I’m here just urging you maybe get to know yourself a little better. You’d be surprised. You’re more than a just a box of chocolates, as our friend Forrest would put it. Hey you’re another world entirely. You’re like the cross between Stendhal, Dylan, and that attractive person from the gym. You’re the man in black, the woman in pink, that dude that shocked the world. You’re whatever you want to be and something else entirely. Appreciate yourself, what you know, what you don’t.

Sometimes I come across people who try to read Murakami because they think his books are ‘Instagram worthy.’ They say he’s ‘deep’ and ‘aesthetic’ and he writes relatable things and he’s famous so he has to be good. But these readers often end up confused more than anything. There’s nothing sadder than someone being forced to read a book maybe because of pretensions or maybe because of peer pressure. Who knows? But if I know anything, and I’m not sure I do, literature should be happily undertaken and seen as some sort of reprieve from our taxing world and not as some sort of chore to sink your teeth into and forcefully finish. Reading an unwanted book probably does your unconscious more harm than it does your conscious good. But consider reading this book. You’ll probably enjoy yourself. If you didn’t, well, at least you tried. But remember to read for yourself, because you want to. Don’t read because I told you or somebody else did, or because you want to look good in the eyes of other people. There’s nothing more unfitting than reading this book because of anybody else.

At some part of the book Murakami writes ‘I am here alone at the furthest periphery of existence. Here the world expires and is still.’ This offers us a certain sort of clarity. A lot of the things we do, we do because others expect from us. Because we have responsibilities to family, to friends, to loved ones. We do because we don’t want to hurt others. But when all of that is cleared away, sometimes the things we do for others hurt the self we’ve hidden away. There are times the self is harmed by what’s good for everyone else. But not only that, it can be that the self is dictated by those around it. Maybe you do not realize but you like what you like because your friends like it too. Maybe your favorite book is only your favorite because your partner likes it as well. Maybe who you are is entirely based on who your friends and family are. The identity you’ve built dependent and patterned to those around you. And so when the world is stripped off, when you are alone far from everyone else, who are you? What is it that you like? What makes you happy? What drives you? Do you know?

This is a novel that stirs the depths of consciousness and looks into the self unlike any other. It’s a rewarding experience that unmasks a man and his daily repetitive activities to show the depths of who we are and the gravity of balance between our many facets.

Get in touch with yourself, with the truest self you can access and discover. Spend some time alone. Figure out what you want. Learn to love and appreciate who you are. You might be surprised.
Profile Image for J.L.   Sutton.
666 reviews868 followers
February 22, 2021
“Everyone may be ordinary, but they're not normal.”

Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by jenhuggybear on DeviantArt

Haruki Murakami's novels are filled with seemingly ordinary people, but with Murakami, ordinary takes on a whole new meaning. In Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, our protagonist's day at the office plays out in parallel worlds the existence of which he barely questions. Becoming a dreamreader of unicorn skulls? Nothing unusual here; let's get to it! "There's normal and then there's normal," responds our narrator.

Immersion into Murakami's worlds is very different than a fantasy or science fiction novel. While this immersion is still compelling, it also has a contemplative quality. I don't think Hard-Boiled Wonderland is his best novel, but I really like how the ordinary is elevated by Murakami into a lens on a world that is anything but ordinary. Makes me want to read (or perhaps reread) more Murakami! 3.75 stars

“Unclose your mind. You are not a prisoner. You are a bird in fight, searching the skies for dreams.”

“Only where there is disillusionment and depression and sorrow does happiness arise; without the despair of loss, there is no hope.”
Profile Image for RandomAnthony.
394 reviews111 followers
November 6, 2009
The Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World gets my vote the most unique and frustrating book in the Murakami catalog. I got the feeling that there’s a little bit of the fan in Murakami in this text; his love of PK Dick, Vonnegut, etc. seems present, and I imagine passages of the book were great fun to write as a tribute, if you will, to his influences. However, the cold, metallic neurophysiology, whether accurate or not (I don’t know much about brain chemistry, so I can’t say one way or the other) left me, for the first time in my long history with the author, hoping a long, clinical section near the middle of the book would end quickly. Luckily, the material bracketing that extended passage was strong although perhaps not coherent enough to place this book amongst Murakami’s best.

The book focuses in some ways on the conscious/unconscious reality/perceptual ground familiar to readers of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and After Dark. Murakami changes the context from the isolation of the well or mysterious rooms one can only sometimes enter to a place where brains are modified in ways that bridge or fail to bridge the conscious and unconscious minds for strategic purposes. In other words, Murakami places this book’s world, for better or for worse, firmly in the land of science fiction. The “other” realm, full of unicorns, retired generals, and demure librarians, is a rich, thoughtful meditation on the ways in which different parts of our consciousness interact. College students looking for term paper fodder related to fiction and Jung/Campbell would have a field day with this book.

But does that make for a great Murakami novel? No. While (in my eyes, and I know Murakami is one of those “love/hate” goodreads authors) most of the author’s work is transcendent and inspiring, The Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World earns those descriptors on rare and brief occasions. The book is good, interesting, even, but serves more as an intellectual exercise than a fun, “this is why I love books” read. For fans only.

Profile Image for Michael.
1,094 reviews1,510 followers
March 21, 2015
I’m sorry this one didn’t get on my radar sooner. It’s quintessential Murakami, blending genres in his signature weird and wonderful way—fantasy, sci fi, noir, fable, magical realism.

This novel from 1985 gives us a dystopia and a utopia for the price of one. In the former, our unnamed, thirty-something male protagonist works as a contracted Calcutec in Tokyo, a human encrypting device for the sanctioned espionage group, the System. Their main enemy in the “Infowar” are the Semiotecs, which serve the shadowy, illegal forces known as the Factory. The man takes on a job for a brilliant, maverick scientist (the “Professor”) whose recent discoveries have him hiding out from both factions in an underground redoubt far beneath the streets of Tokyo. These chapters alternate with a world where the protagonist is newly arrived with no memories in a town isolated behind a high wall (the “Town”, the “Wall”). The Gatekeeper forces him to part with his shadow (sure, why not, it doesn’t hurt), and he assumes his job as a Dreamreader, experiencing the shreds of human memories and dreams from unicorn skulls housed in the Town Library. Nice to have a job lined up, so go with the flow. He soon succumbs to the peaceful patterns of existence of this world and the kindness of people devoted to their various jobs such keeping the town running, harvesting resources, and tending to the herds of unicorn beasts.

We know we are in for a ride when we first follow our cool, unflappable hero from an austere modern office on a long journey to the underworld in the escort of the Professor’s teen grand-daughter and learn she has to use sign language to guide him because the scientist has somehow erased sound. And that the dark passages through caverns along an underground river are infested with dangerous swarms of creatures (“INKlings”) unleashed by the Factory forces. And that the man’s password for initiating the use of his brain for encoding the Professor’s top secret information is “End of the World.” Soon he learns he is part of an experiment, and that the secret everyone is after lies in new capabilities of his brain and mind and that time is running short to figure it out and take meaningful action. The Professor has given him the gift of a skull, which he figures is an important clue, and he spends a lot of time with a seductive librarian woman trying to identify it. Meanwhile, in the walled town, the man there also is working with skulls and developing a relationship with a librarian. And time is running short for him to figure out the town—should he try to escape before his shadow dies?

As a reader, I became hungry myself to understand these mysteries and the link between the two worlds. But all along the way I wanted to linger with the vitality of the warm-hearted characters experienced by the questing dual protagonists. There is much delight in simple pleasures of food and drink, affection and lust, and humor in playful conversation. In the dystopian world these pleasures are contrasted by many outside threats, while in the utopian world the promise of timelessness poses a more internal threat to their reality.

There are plenty of interludes for philosophical discussions that spin naturally out of the systems of the two worlds in the same way as Plato used his famous cave as a prop for posing fundamental questions. Some of these reflections are lighter than other. For example, our hero of the Tokyo Infowars is constantly spinning off reflections from old movies, songs, and books. He can spin a bit of aesthetic philosophy so simply:

Whiskey, like a beautiful woman, demands appreciation. You gaze first, then it’s time to drink.

He is a cool customer, so casually brave in situations of danger, but he is quite conscious sometimes of a profound emptiness at his core:

My life is nothing, I thought. Zero. Zilch. A blank. What have I done with my life? Not a damned thing. I had no home. I had no family. I had no friends. Not a door to my name. Not an erection either. Pretty soon, not even a job.

His awareness of his flaws makes him sympathetic to losers in literature, especially in Turgenev and Stendhal. For example, he identifies with Julien Sorel in “The Red and the Black”:
Sorel’s basic character flaws had all cemented by the age of fifteen, a fact which further elicited my sympathy. To have all the building blocks of your life in place by that age was, by any standards, a tragedy. It was as good as sealing yourself into a dungeon Walled in, with nowhere to go but your own doom.

Much more discussion by the characters in both worlds concern the nature of the mind and identity, their dependence on time and memory, and the reality of the unconscious. I won’t spoil the fun here, but I will tantalize you with some out-of-context nuggets:

Without the mind, nothing leads anywhere.

It’s not so strange that when your memories change, the world changes.

As you create memories, you’re creating a parallel world.

…we all carry around this great unexplored ‘elephant graveyard’ inside us. Outer space inside, this is truly humanity’s last terra incognita. … ‘Tisn’t a burial ground for collected dead memories. An ‘elephant factory’ is more like it. There’s where you sort through countless memories and bits of knowledge, arrange the sorted chips into complex lines, combine these lines into more complex bundles, and finally make up a cognitive system. A veritable production line, with you as the boss. Unfortunately, though, the factory floor is off-limits.

Of course, ever since the modern age, science has stressed the physiological spontaneity of the human organism, But as soon’s we start askin’ just what this spontaneity is, nobody can come up with a decent answer. Nobody’s got the keys t’the elephant factory inside us. Freud and Jung and all the rest of them published their theories, but all they did was t’invent a lot of jargon t’get people talkin’. Gave mental phenomena a little scholastic color.

Humans are immortal in their thought. Though strictly speakin’, not immortal, but endlessly, asymptotically close to immortal.

There’s no time to tautologies. That’s the difference between tautologies and dreams. Tautologies are instantaneous, everything is revealed at once. Eternity can actually be experienced.

I am a fan of science fiction, and this tale has enough scientific hand-waving to tickle the same pleasures I got from Stephenson’s cyberpunk tale “Snow Crash”. The fun wasn’t from the plausibility of the premise (that a computer virus that could infect human communication in the latter), but all the shenanigans that were built on it. You probably guess already that the utopian world here is an imaginary world from the perspective of the “real” world set in Tokyo. But it so brilliant to me how Murakami can us get twisted up in the prospect of such an imagined world having an epistemic reality, when both his worlds are so chock full of fantasy elements anyway. Simply delicious. It’s of the same order as the mind fracking of Mieville’s “The City and the City”, but a lot more satisfying in it’s cohesiveness and playfulness.
Profile Image for K.D. Absolutely.
1,820 reviews
April 3, 2011
This is an OK Murakami. My 8th and still counting. I will always admire his imagination, creativity and passion in writing. He will always be in my Top 10 Favorite Novelists list. But I am rating this as an OK book. Not my favorite Murakami. The reason? It just did not excite me.

Since I became an voracious reader and that happened partly because of Goodreads, I only religiously watch two shows: news (whichever I catch upon coming back home at night) and American Idol. Reading Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World is like what one of the judges, Jennifer Lopez, commented to my favorite contestant, Pia Toscano (picture below) when she sang a Motown song a couple of weeks back.
[image error]
Singing: Checked. Showmanship: Checked. Connection to the Audience: Unchecked.

Reading this book is like having a huge kitchen sink being thrown at you. It is full of mind boggling details about two worlds narrated alternately. Even-numbered chapters talk about Hard-Boiled Wonderland and odd-numbered ones talk about End of the World. There are so many characters (none of them named properly) and many conflicts that slowed down my understanding. It was good that I read this with a reading buddy and our pace was 2 chapters a day and we commented at the end of each day so that we were able to compare notes. It was good that she has stayed in Japan so she is familiar with its culture and she added spice to my reading. So, I thought I perfectly understood what this novel was all about and will not require a second reading for me. Unlike Elias Canetti's Auto-da-Fe that I thought I did not understand completely (because I rated it with 3 stars while my close reading friends rated them 5 stars), there is no Murakami mystery here that I thought I still need to unlock so toying an idea of re-reading is... cute.

Early this year, I read Jay Rubin's book on Murakami called Music and Words. It tells about Murakami and his passion in reading. Murakami is said to read around 250 novels a year and has been fascinated with Western literature, classic and contemporary. One of his main influences is Raymond Chandler, who is said to be the original hard-boiled writer. The End of the World narration here is similar to Franz Kafka's The Castle and the idea of a man being separated from his shadow can be found in Knut Hamsun's 1898 novel, Victoria.

Like Pia, Murakami's Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World rates:

Writing: Checked. Storytelling: Checked. Connection to Me: Unchecked.

J Lo is always quick to add her usual sweetener when she sees that these adolescent contestants are about to cry: "But know that I love you, baby"

I am still a Murakami fan.

And after the Elton John night, with Pia Toscano singing another ballad, Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me, Pia is now leading in the Bloggers' American Idol Choice survey!

Which means J Lo and I could be wrong. But we all are entitled to our own opinions, aren't we?

Go Pia!
Profile Image for Barry Pierce.
559 reviews7,435 followers
June 29, 2019
Y'know when you're watching a film and there's a shot or even a sequence that's just really cleverly done? Like all the long shots in Roma or the locust swarms in Days of Heaven or essentially all of Fitzcarraldo ? These scenes rip you from the suspended disbelief of narrative and force you to witness the film as a technical product. You think, ah! that was very clever, kudos to the person who did that. That brief moment when you couldn't care less about what is actually happening in the world of the film but only about how it was actually physically manufactured is the same feeling you get when reading Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. Who cares about what happens? It's more impressive to think about the fact that Murakami actually managed to write this.
Profile Image for Stephen M.
137 reviews605 followers
January 13, 2012
Right Brain

Upon the fields, yet of no snow,
frolic an acquiescence we yet to sow,
brilliant beasts, their golden fleece ready to unfurl,
trod this place, the end of the world.

Upon this fantasy, comes one of two
unnamed narrators who works in lieu
of status, volition; vagueness washes his mind,
all Kafkaesque, he becomes a dream-reading blind.

On a lost elevator in the counterpart plane
all events are concurrent and faintly the same;
the dyadic complement of the twin conscious
is a tech-savvy tokyoite obsessing on pink paunches.

Cracking the code of the city’s underground
in fits of silence and mercurial sounds
He loses his mind all Betty Davis style
while voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while.

The world unveils more pairs of people,
twin librarians, old men and a gatekeeper
who unlock their world in all its furious meaning
a sci-fi noir completes a fantasy of dreaming.

Who knew what convolution of dreams and ideas
could bring about such a spectrum of feelings?
As is this masterpiece that I’ve become most fond of,
Sekai no owari to hādo-boirudo wandārando
Profile Image for Jenna ❤ ❀  ❤.
789 reviews1,186 followers
August 20, 2021
"This was getting weird. Even if I believed him, I wouldn’t believe it."

This is the most philosophical of Murakami's books that I've read so far, and the most melancholic. It's also, along with Kafka on the Shore, my favourite.

It's twisty and vibrant and weird - in other words, typical Murakami. There are unicorns and dream worlds, libraries, librarians, and imprisoned shadows. And let's not leave out the mysterious, evil INKlings, hiding out in a nightmarish subterranean world.

I'm hesitant to write much because I don't want to give anything away.... it's more fun to figure things out as you go along.

It's mind-bendingly weird and left me aching.... and yet it was such a joy to read. If you're a Murakami fan, be sure to add Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. If you're not already a fan, this probably won't be the best book for you.

"The absence of fighting or hatred or desire also means the opposites do not exist either. No joy, no communion, no love. Only where there is disillusionment and depression and sorrow does happiness arise; without the despair of loss, there is no hope."
Profile Image for Andrew Smith.
1,052 reviews582 followers
September 13, 2022
A hard one to sum up: it's futuristic and surreal with two separate threads that eventually come together to make a cohesive whole. It took me a while to get into it but I did eventually warm to the characters in both storylines (told in alternating chapters) and I found the ending skilfully crafted and satisfying. With Murakami you're not always sure where it’s all going, but the journey's always an interesting one.

If I were to liken it to anything I’ve read before it would be Man in the Dark, in that it’s all about the internal workings of the mind. Like Auster’s novel, it’s clever – very clever. Not my favourite Murakami book but definitely one worth catching, particularly if you’re already a fan.
Profile Image for Meike.
1,518 reviews2,465 followers
April 8, 2020
The main attraction of this wild literary romp about the workings of the human mind is its daring clash of genres and its intricate composition: This novel has elements of sci-fi, fantasy, cyberpunk, dystopia, fairy tale, parable, American detective fiction, psychological novel, adventure/quest novel, novel of ideas, and even jump-and-run computer games (tunnels! shafts!). Murakami alternates between two worlds, and as the story progresses, it becomes clear how they are connected. "Hard-boiled wonderland" is the Tokyo of the near future, where an unnamed narrator works as a human data processor for a government/company called "the system". Unknowingly, he is tricked into participating in a secret encryption experiment which alters his mind and puts his life at risk. Meanwhile, at the "end of the world", an unnamed narrator arrives at a city that requires people to kill their shadows in order to lose their egos.

Murakami does a great job creating intriguing characters and playing out his own tropes (rain, food, supernatural powers, weird sex, mysterious women, ears/hearing, music, secret passageways - you know the drill). There is a lot of dialogue regarding the world-building though, and it's sometimes rather drawn out - at the same time, the arguments do not always seem stringent to me, e.g., soul, ego and identity are more or less the same, all represented by the shadow (fun fact: In German, "to have a shadow" also means to be crazy :-)). While the atmosphere is well-drawn, I frequently wished that the story would move quicker.

Still, I applaud Murakami for fearlessly indulging in outrageous ideas - the whole storyline surrounding the, yes, unicorns is wonderfully imaginative. Also, there are references to Franz Kafka, which is always a plus in my book. To be fair, I'm generally not much of a fantasy person, so it's no wonder that I prefer this author's more realistic texts, but I will read all of his novels - one fine day, I'll be a Murakami completist, for both Haruki Murakami and Ryū Murakami.
Profile Image for Max Moroz.
32 reviews530 followers
July 18, 2022
Modern day George Orwell (misogynistic!)
Profile Image for 8stitches 9lives.
2,787 reviews1,627 followers
June 14, 2017
Each time I read a Murakami novel, I realise just how much I love him. By far my favourite author, I adore the lengths he goes to to describe everything in precise detail. His books are definitely made to be read slowly and to savour - so that you can drink in all of the minute details. There is no other author who writes in such a beautiful way, sometimes you can go for pages and pages with nothing really happening but you read on as the writing is incredible. Such a unique author. I will never ever get tired of reading through his entire bibliography. Japanese authors write in a completely different style to others, which I love.
Profile Image for Apatt.
507 reviews781 followers
March 8, 2014
Eh? What the hell was that?

My first thought upon finishing this, my first Murakami book. A few hours later it hit me like a delayed reaction that I just read something very cool. In retrospect Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World is no weirder than something like PKD’s Ubik or China Miéville's The City and the City but it does have its own brand of weirdness and whimsy. The plot and narrative style of this book is like a combination of PKD’s reality bending shenanigan, Neil Gaiman’s whimsical characters and Murakami’s unique brand of whatever it is he is doing. Here is an example:
"Perhaps some fluctuation in the gravitational field had suddenly inundated the world with paperclips. Perhaps it was mere coincidence. I couldn’t shake the feeling that things weren’t normal. Was I being staked out by paperclips? They were everywhere I went, always just a glance away."
I have to say I was hooked from the beginning as the weirdness hit the ground running with a ride in an elevator with no buttons, floor indicator or discernable motion. Then we meet a fat girl in pink whose voice has somehow been muted like a TV set.

The book is structured as a dual narrative, one strand is set in Tokyo, probably in the 80s though the year is not mentioned, the other appears to be set in some kind of parallel fantasy world in a walled up town with unicorns. The chapters alternate between these two settings. Initially the “Tokyo” plot seems to concern information war, encryption and cyberpunkish neurological enhancement. Soon the story slowly morphs into a race to save the world then transform again to something very odd which I will not spoil for you. The more fantastical “walled Town” narrative has a Neil Gaiman-ish feel to it, a little whimsical and a little sad. How the two story lines eventually come together had me reaching for the aspirin.

The main characters are all well developed and interesting if somewhat eccentric. For some reason not a single character is named in this book, but they are all referred to by their job or physical attribute. The tone of the two narrative strands is very different. The Tokyo part is colloquial in tone, often ironic and sometime hilarious, similar to the prose of noir detective novel (but funnier) with a little Holden Caulfield thrown in. Special mention must be made for a scene involving a subway attendant that seems like something out of Monty Python. Here is an eccentric little sentence:
"You can tell a lot about a person’s character from his choice of sofa. Sofas constitute a realm inviolate unto themselves."
In contrast the “walled Town” chapters are a little melancholy, more pensive and surreal. Both narratives are fascinating though I have a slight preference for the Tokyo part because it made me laugh. The writing style, as far as I can tell from the excellent translation, is accessible yet unusual and sometime lyrical.

It is a very hard book to review and describe due to its oddness, I almost feel like I dreamed the book rather than read it. I suspect the less you know about it in advance the better. I am still not sure what to make of the ending, it is still whirling around in my head even as I write. I did not see that coming! Haruki Murakami is clearly a very unusual yet readable author, I wonder what he has in store for me next.
Profile Image for Soheil Khorsand.
306 reviews172 followers
March 16, 2021
سرزمین عجایب بی‌رحم و ته دنیا
رمانی‌ست تلفیقی از سبک‌های رئالیسم جادویی و علمی تخیلی، نوشته‌ی «هاروکی موراکامی» نویسنده‌ی مشهور، خلاق و دوست داشتنیِ ژاپنی که همانندِ رمانِ دیگری از او یعنی «کافکا در ساحل» که البته حدودا ۱۷ سال پس از این رمان منتشر شد به دو داستانِ مجزا اما کاملا مرتبط به هم می‌پردازند و هر دو داستان همزمان با هم به شکل موازی پیش می‌رود.

در ابتدا عرض می‌کنم که خواندنِ این کتاب نیاز به یکسری پیش زمینه که در صورتِ عدمِ آگاهی ذهنِ شما با داستان ارتباط برقرار نمی‌کند و نمی‌توانید روی داستان تمرکز کنید، بنابراین تمام تلاشم را کرده‌ام تا بتوانم هر آنچه که نیاز دارید که به عنوانِ پیش زمینه بدانید را برایتان بنویسم، از قبیل: نامِ رمان، شخصیت‌ها، نحوه‌ی فعالیتِ آنان و ... .
همانطور که در بالا عرض کردمِ داستانِ کتاب به دو بخش از دو دنیای مختلف تشکیل شده است بنابراین نویسنده‌ی خلاق و دوست داشتنیِ ما، نامِ کتاب را هم به دو بخش تقسیم کرده و هر بخش را به یک داستان تخصیص داده‌است:
۱-سرزمین عجایبِ بی‌رحم، نامِ داستان‌های فصلِ فردِ رمان است و داستان‌ها و ماجراهای آن را از زبانِ‌ راوی که مردی ۳۵ ساله است و از همسر خود جدا شده می‌خوانیم.
۲- تهِ دنیا، نامِ داستان‌های فصلِ زوجِ رمان است و داستان‌ها و ماجراهای آن را از زبانِ راوی در یک دنیای دیگر می‌خوانیم که توسط یک دیوار از دنیای دیگر جدا شده است و هیچ راهِ ارتباطی وجود ندارد.

شخصیت‌های هر دو داستان اسم ندارند و ما آن‌ها را به شرح زیر خواهیم شناخت:
شخصیت‌های داستانِ «سرزمین عجایب بی‌رحم»
۱- راویِ داستان، از او در کتاب به نام «کالکو-تک» یاد می‌شود و این اسم بخاطر شغلِ او از مخففِ ترکیبِ دو لغتِ انگلیسیِ «کالکولیدر(ماشین‌حساب)» و «تکنشن(تکنسین)» گرفته شده و سیستم که یک سازمانِ شبهِ دولتی‌ست توسط دانشمندِ پیر بر روی مغزِ او یک عملِ جراحی انجام داده و تراشه‌ای در مغزِ او جای داده و توانِ پالایش و پردازشِ پیشرفته‌ی داده‌ها و همچنین زندگی در دنیایی دیگر را به او داده‌اند.
۲-پیرمرد(دانشمندِ محقق)
۳-دخترِ چاق(نوه‌ی پیرمردِ دانشمند)
۴-کتابدار(دختری ۲۹ ساله)
۵-پسر کوچیکه و پسر گندهه(۲ نفر شَرخَر)
۶-کرم‌های جاسوس(هکرها)

شخصیت‌های داستانِ «تهِ دنیا»
۱-راوی که در بدوِ ورود به تهِ دنیا سایه‌اش توسط نگهبانِ دروازه بریده‌ شده است و ذهن‌ِ او از او گرفته شده و نمی‌تواند به خاطراتِ خود دسترسی داشته باشد و در این دنیا فقط یک وظیفه دارد آن‌هم خواندنِ رویاهای قدیمی‌ از داخل جمجمه‌هاست.
۲-سایه‌ی راوی که پس از بریده شدن و قطع شدن از راوی زنده‌است و در بخشِ دیگری در تهِ دنیا به دور از صاحبش زندگی‌ می‌کند و زندگی یا مرگش بستگی به عواملی دارد.
۳- دروازه‌بان(مردی قوی که نگهبان تهِ‌ دنیاست)
۴-کتابدار (دختری جوان!)
۵-سرهنگ(پیرمردی که در گذشته نظامی بوده)
۶-سرایدار(تکنسینِ نیروگاه)

و اما در مورد داستان کتاب، به هیچوجه این رمانِ خواندنی را اسپویل نمی‌کنم و به محتوایای داستان و یا نقلِ‌ قولِ بخشی از کتاب نمی‌پردازم و صرفا به دلیلِ اینکه آنقدر کتاب از موراکامی(این کتاب ۱۲مین رمان بود) خوانده‌ام که بدانم خواننده‌های جدیدِ کتاب‌های او در کدام بخش‌ها ممکن ‌است خطِ داستان را گم کنند و یا محتوای داستان را درک نکنند، به همین جهت شرحِ مختصری به زبانِ ساده می‌نویسم تا بدانید در داستان چه خواهید خواند و نکات کلیدیِ لازم را شرح می‌دهم چون وقتی به انگلیسی هم بخوانید بخاطر استفاده از لغات تخصصی ممکن است از درکِ برخی لغات و استعاره‌ها ناتوان بمانید.

در داستان اول یعنی فصل‌های فردِ رمان، سازمانی شبهِ دولتی توسطِ دانشمندان و محققانِ خود م��غولِ تحقیقاتِ سری است و توسطِ یکسری کالکوتک که به شکل پروژه‌ای آن‌ها را استخدام می‌کند به رمزنگاری و رمزگشایی داده‌ها که در داستان تحتِ عنوانِ (پالایش و پردازش) می‌خوانیم می‌پردازد. در این داستان پیرمردِ دانشمند یکی از محققانِ این سازمان بود که بنا به دلایلی که در داستان می‌خوانیم تصمیم می‌گیرد از این سازمان جدا شده و در محلی عجیب برای خود آزمایشگاهی سری می‌سازد و مشغول انجام تحقیقاتِ‌ بیشتر روی اختراعاتِ قبلیِ خود از قبیل: «حذف کردن قدرتِ شنوایی» و یا «حذف قدرتِ ادراک» از انسان‌ها می‌شود و روی یک موضوعِ سری نیز در حال تحقیق است آن‌هم «استخراجِ اطلاعات از داخل جمجمه» و «قرار دادن دنیای خیالی، خاطرات و افکارِ جدید داخلِ مغز و یا حذف و ویرایش برخی خاطرات و اطلاعات از مغز» است برای اینکه حتی اگر شخصی بمیرد بتوان اطلاعات و خاطراتِ او را از داخل جمجمه‌ی او استخراج کرد و یا تجربه‌ی زندگیِ جدیدی با خاطراتِ جدید به شخص داد. به همین منظور در آزمایشگاهِ او تعدادِ زیادی جمجمه از حیوانات مختلف گردآوری کرده و مشغول بررسی و تحقیقات است.
دانشمند زمانیکه در سازمان مشغول به کار بود اطلاعات تعدادی کالکوتک را ذخیره کرد و پس از بررسی متوجه اتفاقی عجیب شد که از بین ۲۶ کالکوتک تنها یک نفر از آنان زنده مانده و او نیز همانطور که مشخص است راویِ داستان است، پیرمرد توسطِ نوه‌اش(دخترِ چاق) که منشی و پیشکارِ اوست راوی را پیدا می‌کند و به آزمایشگاه خود فرا می‌خواند و ضمن بستنِ قراردادی به ظاهر وظیفه‌ی پالایش، پردازش و رمزنگاریِ‌ داده‌های تحقیقات را به او می‌سپارد اما در باطن... .
در راه تحقیقات آن‌ها دشمنانِ زیادی دارند که سوای خودِ سازمان که یک سازمانِ شبهِ دولتی است و مثلا اگر اطلاعات تحقیقاتِ دانشمند درز کند می‌تواند منجر به این شود که مخالفانِ حکومت و کشور را به جای بازداشت و بازجویی بکشند و با بریدنِ سر او اطلاعاتش را استخراج کنند یکی از دشمنان است و همچنین کرم‌ها یا همان هکرها هم هستند که کارِ آن‌ها این است که اطلاعاتِ رمزنگاری شده را به سرقت ببرند و در بازارِ سیاه(دارک وب) با قیمت‌های نجومی به فروش برسانند.
بنابراین در راه تحقیقات و حفظِ جان و تحقیقات، اتفاقات و ماجراهای بسیار جذاب و خواندنی را خواهیم خواند.
و اما در داستانِ دوم، راوی به دروازه‌ی ته دنیا می‌رسد و در هنگامی که نورِ خورشید کامل است نگهبانِ تهِ دنیا سایه‌ی پر‌رنگِ راوی را با چاقویی تیز می‌برد و او را به داخلِ شهر هدایت و سایه‌اش را از او جدا و به سمتِ دیگری به دور از او می‌برد. در تهِ دنیا انسان‌ها ذهن ندارند و بنابراین دسترسی به خاطراتِ گذشته‌ی خود ندارند البته تا زمانیکه سایه‌ی آن‌ها زنده بماند هرچند کمرنگ می‌توانند به ذهنِ خود فشار بیاورند بلکه چیزی به یاد بیاورند و راوی هم از این امر مستثنا نیست.
در تهِ دنیا هر شخصی وظیفه‌ی انجامِ کاری را بر عهده دارد و به راوی نیزِ شغلِ «رویاخوانی» محول می‌شود و برای این‌کار نگهبان با چاقوی تیز به درون چشمان او فرو می‌کند زیرا او برای انجامِ شغلش نیاز به چشم و نور ندارد و باید هر روز به جهت خواندنِ رویا به کتاب‌خانه برود و از دخترِ کتاب‌دار جمجمه‌ای دریافت کند و به شرحی که در داستان می‌خوانیم رویاها را استخراج کند.
بنابراین ما در ته‌ِ دنیا که یک آرمان‌شهرِ ساختگی‌ست و داستان‌های آن در فصل‌های زوجِ کتاب آورده شده، زندگیِ راوی و سایه‌اش، ارتباطات بین شخصیت‌ها و جنگ و جدل‌های راوی و سایه‌اش برای برگشتن به دنیای واقعی را می‌خوانیم.

جمع‌‌بندی توضیحات در موردِ کتاب
در صورتیکه خواننده این پیش‌زمینه‌ها را بخواند، علاقه‌مندِ مطالعه‌ی داستان‌های رئالیسمِ جادویی و علمی تخیلی باشد و همچنین قوی تخیلِ مناسبی به جهت غرق شدن در دنیای موراکامیِ دوست داشتنی داشته باشد من ضمانت می‌کنم از فصل اول کتاب تا انتهای فصلِ چهلم در کتاب غرق شود و نتواند کتاب را از خود دور کند. کشش داستان بسیار بالاست و طبیعی هست که من همانند تمامِ کتاب‌های موراکامی توصیه‌ام این است که حتما کتاب را به انگلیسی بخوانید اما چرا با این همه نیاز به این همه توضیحات دیدم دلیلش استفاده از لغاتِ‌ تخصصی در کتاب‌ هست، چون چه شما بخواهید همانندِ من به انگلیسی بخوانید و چه به فارسی بخوانید و به همراهش نسخه‌ی انگلیسی را مطابقت بدهید متاسفانه باید به لغاتِ تخصصی مسلط باشید چون با احترام به تعدادی انگشت‌شمار مترجمِ مسلط و توانمند اکثر مترجم‌های امروز آنقدر بی‌سوادند که مترجمِ گوگل از آن‌ها بهتر عمل می‌کند.

در انتها لازم می‌بینم از دوستانم بابت طولانی شدنِ ریویو عذرخواهی کنم اما همانطور که عرض کردم لازم دیدم برای این کتاب کامل بنویسم و اگر سوالی برایتان پیش آمد حتما پاسخگو خواهم بود. در هنگام مطالعه‌ی کتاب بارها در گودریدز عرض کردم که برای من این کتاب پتانسیلِ این را دارد که عنوانِ «بهترین کتابی که خوانده‌ام» را از «کافکا در ساحل» بگیرد و از آن خود کند اما در نهایت اگر من از ۱۰۰ نمره به کافکا ۱۰۰ بدهم به این کتاب نمره‌ای بین ۸۵ تا ۹۰ می‌دهم و ضمن اینکه کتاب رو بسیار دوست داشتم و قطعا با اطمینان ۵ستاره برایش منظور می‌کنم و به لیست کتاب‌های مورد‌ علاقه‌ام اضافه می‌کنم اما نتوانست کافکا در ساحل را در قلب من شکست دهد.

ضمنا فایلِ ای‌پاب کتاب را به زبان انگلیسی در کانالم قرار داده‌ام و از لینک زیر می‌توانید آن‌را دانلود نمایید

به پایان آمد این دفتر، حکایت موراکامی(یک رمانِ دو جلدی و دو رمان سه جلدی) همچنان باقیست... .
Profile Image for Brooke.
537 reviews292 followers
February 6, 2008
I'd previously read two Haruki Murakami novels, A Wild Sheep Chase, and After Dark, his earliest and most recent that have been translated into English, respectively. After hearing about how he was one of Japan's most beloved authors, I was really underwhelmed by those two offerings. Sheep was almost too bizarre to really appreciate, and After Dark was short and enjoyable, but nothing special. After reading Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World, however, I suddenly Got It.

The title refers to the two portions of the book - Hardboiled Wonderland is about a man who mentally processes information for a living - it's vaguely sci-fi-ish, but not enough to turn off readers who aren't interested in sci-fi. This nameless man finds himself running for his life underground when various groups suddenly decide they want him for their purposes. The End of the World is about a man who suddenly arrives in a unicorn-filled town that is surrounded by a Wall. He doesn't know how he got there or where he was before, and he must have his shadow cut away from him in order to live within the Wall. The novel goes back and forth between each half, which eventually start to tie together.

It's kind of similar to Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, but that comparison will only take you so far. Murakami's nameless protagonists are more introspective than Gaiman's Richard Mayhew, and in the end, the focus is on what's going on within, rather than the action outside.

Despite flipping back and forth between the two halves, the novel flows very well. It kept my attention so well that I was eagerly looking forward to picking it up each time I had a chance to read, which is something I haven't felt about the last half-dozen or so books I've read. The novel was written in 1985, but other than the mention of cassettes, there was no sign that it was written over twenty years ago.

I'm really glad I didn't give up on Murakami after being disappointed by his first two that I read. Hopefully the rest of his books will hold some of the magic that Hardboiled Wonderland has, because I'll really feel let down if I go back to being underwhelmed again.
Profile Image for Tara.
395 reviews18 followers
March 24, 2018
“More often than not I’ve observed that convenient approximations bring you closest to comprehending the true nature of things.”

3.5 stars. Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World’s strange, playful investigation into the complexities of the mind was innovative, thought-provoking and, quite often, utterly charming. Here dualism, which often runs the risk of oversimplification and hence of becoming uninspired (and ultimately uninteresting), instead functioned in a manner that was both enchanting and illuminating. To borrow from the above quote, it acted as a convenient approximation that brings the reader closer to comprehending the nature of consciousness, intelligence, memory, identity, and what it truly means to be human, to be alive. Conceptually speaking, the book was richly layered, intriguing, and generally very impressive.

The reason I’m not rating it any higher is, I believe, purely subjective: I wasn’t too keen on spending time in The End of the World, which is one of the two worlds that comprise the book. Many other readers, however, absolutely loved it there, so I’m fairly certain that my lack of enthusiasm reflects my own personal taste more than anything else. While I appreciated the realm’s role in the overall plot, it just didn’t grab me. I couldn’t really connect with it, and so reading about it always left me underwhelmed, eager to get back to the more captivating weirdness of the Hard-Boiled Wonderland. That world, on the other hand, was great fun to explore; I related to the protagonist, and enjoyed the humor, peculiar story, and hard-boiled writing style. I’d heard before that Murakami was influenced by Raymond Chandler, and that was readily apparent here. I’m a Chandler fan myself, and I loved how Murakami creatively and mischievously interwove the strands of cynicism and witty one-liners into his bizarre, surreal wonderland. Oddly enough, these two seemingly incompatible flavors actually complemented each other rather well.

On the whole, this was an inventive, skillfully constructed story. Its enigmatic atmosphere was wistful and dreamlike, very difficult to describe. And it ended on a gently haunting, beautiful note. When I put the book down, I felt both dejected and fulfilled at the same time. Pretty fitting, of course. So don’t let my somewhat lackluster rating deter you from giving this curious novel a try. If nothing else, you’ll definitely view paperclips in a new light from now on. I hear that a lifetime supply isn’t too expensive…
Profile Image for Szplug.
467 reviews1,229 followers
October 12, 2011
Glass-eyed, marbled prison stare,
Functionless form that with will
Would coldly rend limb from limb.
Toothy gates, e'er sealed against
What would gnash and tear, strongly
Aflow with the crimson blood
Of a savaged savage god.

Dooby, dooby, do.

No exit, the maze.
The jazz, it plays.
Dress yes, no stays.
Eat meat, greens graze.

Tunnel-tied dust interludes abound.

Fat girl wrangled.
Grandpa mangled.
Outside dangled.
Inside strangled.

Such are the days when the spring winds down.
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16 reviews
September 15, 2015

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"Some books are fast and some are slow, but no book can be understood if it is taken at the wrong speed"
Mark Van Doren [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Van... ]

"Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World" is captivating novel comprised of two disparate narratives, which bleed into each other. The gradual convergence of these story-lines, although it does not exactly pull an attentive reader up short, does have some dramatic effect on the perception of the story as a whole. In other words, the trick is quite old; and yet, Murakami makes a rather innovative use of it.

According to Wikipedia, Hard-boiled Fiction is a literary sub-genre, associated with pulp fiction and detective stories [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hardboiled]. Murakami pays tribute to the unique style of those noir stories by placing his own Tokyo-Wonderland in that particular frame of reference.

The story unfolds around a man who works for a non-governmental agency—the System—which, in the course of time, has acquired a quasi-official status. The protagonist makes a living as a Calcutec, i.e. as an information encryption specialist. A Calcutec's training essentially consists in establishing some artificial division in the trainee's brain. Once the "switch" is implanted, Calcutecs are able to proceed various data, as if they were in a subconscious state of mind—and in a sense, in a subconscious mode of being. Semiotecs are antagonists of Calcutecs. They work for the Factory—a mirror-agency of the System—which employs people to decode stolen data. When the main character gets assigned to a highly sensitive job for a brilliant but nonetheless weird scientist, a Kafkaesque chase begins underneath the labyrinthine streets of Tokyo.

"The End of the World" is the counterpart of the "Hard-boiled Wonderland". The narrator is a man with no memories of his past. One fine day he finds himself at a deadly peaceful village surrounded by an impenetrable wall. At the gate of the village the man is asked to surrender his shadow. "Shadows are useless anyway. Deadweight." says the Gatekeeper to him. The man hesitates to accept such a startling demand, but eventually he allows the Gatekeeper to separate him from his shadow. From then on he is the Dreamreader. Although he is not a prisoner or a hostage, he can leave the place no more; just like anyone else there.

Murakami prose runs along the pages at a leisurely slow pace (as usual). In my opinion, Murakami uses deliberately this down-tempo, because it is relatively easy for the writer to keep it over a long distance performance, without running out of breath. Moreover, it is relatively easy for the reader to follow this pace without either pausing every now and then in order to catch breath, or hurrying every once in a while in order to catch up with the author. Nevertheless, there are readers who find Murakami's cadence somehow tiresome; and accordingly, they believe that his works are in need of some serious editing.

There is a certain delay that sets in between the beginning and the end of Murakami novels. That's correct. However, I think that Murakami's prolonged endings are far more interesting than the need-for-an-editor-argument suspects. In a text like the present one, we don't have to go to great lengths to prove the point in question. Suffice is to say just a couple of things. If the writing of a novel gives to the writer a great deal of pleasure, it is only to be expected that the writer will do his best to sustain the pleasure–to make it last–for as long as he can. And yet, despite the author's best efforts, the made-up world of any satisfying novel is destined to come to an (inevitable) end.

Moreover, T. S. Eliot has already provided us with a valuable insight into the subject at hand:

"When a poet's mind is perfectly equipped for its work, it is constantly amalgamating disparate experience; the ordinary man's experience is chaotic, irregular, fragmentary. The latter falls in love, or reads Spinoza, and these two experiences have nothing to do with each other, or with the noise of the typewriter or the smell of cooking; in the mind of the poet these experiences are always forming new wholes."
(Eliot, 1921: http://personal.centenary.edu/~dhavir...)

All in all, perhaps we are a generation of spoiled readers. If you come to think about it, you will probably see for yourself that there is a certain attitude towards contemporary works of literature, which threatens to become the new mainstream: “I've purchased this or that book and (therefore) I expect it (not to say, "I demand") to fulfil my expectations, to satisfy me, to amuse me, to please me, to flatter me, to entertain me. . .etc.” But is this really what book-reading is supposed to be all about?

Before we move forward, let's take another step back and consider what Vladimir Nabokov is talking about, when he says:

"It should be understood that competition in chess problems is not really between white and black, but between the composer and the hypothetical solver. Just as in a first-rate work of fiction, the real clash is not between the characters, but between the author and the world… I do not seem to convey sufficiently the ecstatic core of the process and its points of connection with various other, more overt and fruitful, operations of the creative mind: from the charting of dangerous seas, to the writing of one of those incredible novels where the author, in a fit of lucid madness, has set himself certain unique rules that he observes, certain nightmare obstacles that he surmounts, with the zest of a deity building a live world from the most unlikely ingredients--rocks and carbon, and blind throbbings."

(Nabokov, "Speak, Memory" http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30...)

There is a secret (that is to say, a private) passage leading from the outer world to the inner space and vice versa. An accomplished artist, like Haruki Murakami, couldn't but have been instinctively aware of this voie privée from the very beginning. However, reading between the lines of “Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World" (written back in the early 80’s) the reader has the rare opportunity to follow the early attempts of a now-renowned author to enter the mystery. Murakami maps all the way down to an inner reality, which turns out to be far more solid than a novice writer would expect. And then, surprisingly, he goes beyond that: the inner world and outer world blurs into a world-within and a world-without, respectively.

At any rate, "Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of World", though is written in a (seemingly) easy flowing language, turns out to be an intricate and multilevel novel. In fact, the closer the reading, the more layers for the reader to discover. To make a long story short, "Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of World" is an overall pleasant excursion at the winding alleys of Murakami's fictional landscapes of the underground and the off-beat. An agnostic riddle wrapped up in a gnostic enigma.

You probably wish I'd say as an aside, a word or two about the “cat issue” in Murakami's novels. Well, if that is the case, there are no cats in this novel, either.
However, there are some references to human ears in general, and female earlobes in particular.
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