Chapter 1: an ultra high-tech building with an especially remarkable elevator (although without the usual, mundane details like floor buttons), loose change that suddenly doesn’t add up, a beautiful (chubby) young woman in everything pink who might have said “Proust” (or maybe “Truest? … Brew whist? … Blue is it? …”), and a lozenge-shaped electronic key that opens the door to <728>. Oh, and I can’t forget the flustered, lip-reading, Danny Boy-whistling, especially-good-with-tricky numbers, nameless protagonist. Your usual Haruki Murakami fare, right?
Chapter 2 (italics totally intentional): beasts sporting long golden fur – “[g]olden in the purest sense of the word, with not the least intrusion of another hue,” the horn-blowing Gatekeeper who herds the magnificent animals out through the right door of the West Gate every night and allows them re-entry in the morning, the local people who climb the Watchtower for just one spring week to watch the animals, and the newly arrived stranger-in-a-strange-land who is as yet unfamiliar with the seasonal rhythms of this unnamed walled-in world. Again, your usual Murakami fare.
Confused yet? No worries … Murakami has his recognizable tropes to give you just enough comfort: the somewhat slacker protagonist who is never quite surprised enough about the inexplicable events of his not-so-regular life, the teenage sidekick whose relationship with said protagonist brushes up against inappropriate but remains ultimately off-limits, the predictable messengers who either knock on/walk through/break down the front door, bedside books mostly written by dead white men, and hidden portals in and to the strangest places.
But lest you think you can ever just complacently read from page to page, Murakami will, of course, rock your world with his usual unexpected adventures. Jumping from odd to even chapters, you’ll track down a rogue scientist who can remove sound, feed a reference librarian with an insatiable culinary appetite, avoid the destructive path of the dynamic Junior/Big Boy duo, read dreams from animal skulls, search for anachronistic instruments in a land whose inhabitants cannot comprehend music, escape the INKlings through sewers and subways … and, as always, more, more, and more.
All the indescribable, unfathomable twists and turns that keep you addicted to Murakami … it’s all here in the hard-boiled wonderland of impossible equations and hunted skulls, and there at the end of the world with impenetrable walls and missing shadows.
Published: 1991 (United States)