Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World from the incredible Japanese author, Haruki Murakami, ranks as one of the favorites on reader’s lists of his works, and for a relatively short book of around four hundred pages, there is a lot of story going on in what is essentially two separate worlds. This book is the type that will immediately pique your interest, and before you know it, you’ll be wholeheartedly sucked in and won’t want to put it down until you’re done. The other fact about this book is that while it is considered contemporary or literary fiction by most, it is in all honesty, a straight-up science fiction novel.
The odd-numbered chapters are told from the viewpoint of an unnamed character in the “hard-boiled wonderland.” He is a Calcutec, a person who has the ability in his brain to process and encrypt data and to use his subconscious as an encryption key. In this world there is the System, which is part of the government, and that is who the Calcutecs are allied with; then there are the criminal Semiotects who work for the clandestine Factory. The Calcutec takes what seems to be a simple job for a mysterious scientist that turns into something much more, and he learns he’s a very special Calcutec.
The even chapters are told from another unnamed narrator in a place referred to as “the end of the world.” The reader knows the narrator has arrived here recently, a strange place sealed all around by a great wall; there’s a map at the beginning of the book of this place and its various buildings. The narrator also knows that he has been separated from his shadow, who is getting sick. He is assigned his new job of “Dreamreader,” where every night he goes to the library and reads dreams from the skulls of strange beasts. The narrator is very uncertain of this place and knows he needs to escape, the only question is how?
Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World is a prime example of why so many readers like Murakami, as his sets up an enigmatic world that forces the reader to question, as their curiosity grows and grows. The elements of this book make it a great work of science fiction that may not have all the answers, but will leave the reader contemplating it long after they’ve finished it.
Originally written on March 17, 2012 ©Alex C. Telander.
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