Feminist, Fictionista, Foodie, Francophile

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Review of Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the orld by Hauki Murakami



Call this Inception by way of The Wizard of Oz.  In fact, readers that loved either of those movies should embrace Murakami’s work which mixes a stylized reality with a dream world populated by people from the “reality.” The protagonist is a "calcutec," a human data processor perhaps inspired by William Gibson's Johnny Mnemonic.

The book slipstreams between science fiction, hardboiled noir, cyberpunk, horror, and literary fiction.  (There’s definitely a little Franz Kafka here.)  It's a dazzling, dizzying bit of writing that fits nicely into the "new weird" typified by China Mieville’s The City and the City, where two different worlds exist simultaneously in the same place.

Murakami is working with a palette that includes ambiguity, consciousness, and self.  In both sections of the book, the hero (an unnamed Narrator) is an outsider who’s being kept off-balance and trying to fit in. 

Perhaps the best way to read the book is to see it as a spy story in the Bourne Identity mold.  The Calcutec is a pawn in the info-war going on between the System and the Factory, and he ends up in End of the World severed from his shadow, the repository of memory.  The scenes where the narrator tries to help the librarian remember are filled with a delicate emotion that could be intense in performance.  (This material could easily be adapted into a play, with the different locations indicated by differing lighting.)

This novel is literate, adult entertainment with an edge of magic and a veneer of science fiction; a romp through the tropes of pop culture, and cross-culturally (and self-consciously) hip, in an almost cinematic way. In the end, this is a brilliant book.

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