Matt'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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's review
Sep 01, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: contemporary-fiction, fantasy
Read from September 01 to 04, 2011

In Franz Kafka's often-overshadowed novel The Castle the main character is a land surveyor, who spends the entirety of the story trying to gain entry into a big walled castle to do his job. His efforts are basically to no real end, until he is finally told he is going to be allowed in while he is on his death bed. Haruki Murakami is often compared to Kafka, and I would say that Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World is the first of his novels that I have read in which this influence is on the forefront.

There are two stories being told in the novel. One of them follows an unnamed narrator as he works for a mysterious professor cracking codes, only to suddenly find that government agents and various groups of not-so-nice people want something from in. He basically gets dragged into the middle of an information war that seems to be straight out of a cyberpunk novel. There are moments throughout this arch that had me thinking of the ridiculous bureaucracy and government tomfoolery of Kafka's The Trial.

The other story, and in many ways, the other side of the same coin, has another unnamed narrator who comes to a strange walled city giving away his shadow for the gift of being able to read dreams from animal skulls. The Town in which he resides is completely walled around, and only the birds are able to escape. It calls back to the aforementioned The Castle in that the narrator essentially finds himself in the completely opposite situation.

It took me a long while to get into this novel. Actually, I didn't even realize it was two different stories until about a quarter of the way, so spent the early part confused. It wasn't until a little more than halfway through that everything started to come together in my head, and I started to appreciate the brilliance and, for lack of a better word, how Kafkaesque it really was. Being a fan of Kafka, I appreciate this, and ended up really enjoying the novel as it went on. I was convinced early on that this was going to be my least favorite of Murakami's works, but in the end I was really into it. It's no Kafka on the Shore or Norwegian Wood, but is certainly another mark in Murakami's ever-growing win column.
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09/01/2011 page 140
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