This is my third Murakami; I am starting to detect a pattern. Or maybe underlying parallels between books.
Each book features a similar main character: an eccentric and not stupid, but fundamentally normal guy. Who finds himself caught up in a fantastic surreal story line and discovers his own wonderful uniqueness. All of these characters like beer and whiskey and listening to records.
Each book features a detective-esque quest which progresses but ends in a melancholy, unexpected conclusion. Each book features women who are normal and fantastic at the same time; they are the mirror of the male main character. For example, one female lead is normal and reserved except for her ears, which are beautiful in a cosmic, pulchritudinous sense. These ears also can detect and divine the future. These female characters are the salvation and oasis for the male characters who seemed fundamentally damaged and incomplete in some small, yet chronic way.
In the meantime, Murakami books speak profound truths uttered in surreal, Kafka-esque tones and babbling accents.
As perusal, it would be useless for me to attempt to describe the plot of this book to you; and as usual, Murakami pulls off ridiculous novelistic feats through sheer tactical brilliance. I will say that there is a mad-scientists who echoes mythically as God of the Underworld; a forward and plucky homeschooled teenage girl, a secret high-tech world of espionage and encryption, subterranean monsters, and a whimsical The Prisoner-esque world of imprisonment/quietude. It’s really about one man’s consciousness and the complexity and wonder of the human mind. That’s really as close as I can come.
Murakami’s secret I think is that he makes the fantastic sound and feel real; what is nonsense becomes possible, what is fantastic becomes plausible. It’s a world of magic, and now that I think about it has some similarity in appeal to the Universe of Harry Potter (i.e., magic everywhere, yet only lightly hidden; hidden because the modern world is too fast and haggard and harried to notice it).
So far Kafka On the Shore is by far my favourite, followed closely by a Wild Sheep Chase. Hard-Boiled Wonderland is a distant third; it is the most dream-like, the most wooly.
Now that I am really thinking about it, there is something of Greek Tragedy about Murakami. Something about Fate and Fatal Flaws leading to disaster; there is a similar pre-ordained choreographed sense to the action.
Murakami is like kaleidoscope – or a Rorschach Test – you must read it to discover the meaning for yourself.