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4.4 out of 5 stars103
4.4 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 4 August 2003
This is a beautiful book written in Murakami's usual lyrical style that brilliantly conveys the depths and complexities of the human consciousness. It is best described as a combination of genres, including fantasy, science-fiction and detective story, but really it is about one man's journey of self-discovery when he learns that the End of the World is near.
Murakami easily combines two stories that are full of surprises and compliment each other perfectly as the book progresses. The alternating chapters make the book easy to read and they also prove Murakami to be a skilled storyteller, as he so cleverly narrates two parallel tales. His characters are a group of striking individuals that seem at once fantastical and very real. Murakami's descriptions of a man evaluating his life and musing on what he has lost are engrossing and interesting, as well as fresh and inspired.
I loved this book and couldn't wait to start reading it again each time I put it down. I chose this book after having read another novel, Norweigan Wood, by the same author. Having read and truly loved both novels I would recommend Murakami as a brilliant and poetic storyteller with a fantastic imagination. This book is something different and definitely worth reading, even if it's not your normal type of thing!
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on 1 March 2006
This is the fourth or fifth Murakami book I've read, and quite easily the best after Norwegian Wood.
The book switches between two stories: a wonderfully curious and imaginative adventure through an alternative future-now Japan (Hard-Boiled Wonderland); and a mysterious exploration of a walled old city (the End of the World). The two stories eventually connect in a way that causes a wonderful collision of thoughts and questions in the reader's mind, but I won't give anything away by saying anything more.
Like all good dystopias, this is thoroughly well thought-through and researched; Kafkaesque comes to mind, as does Alice in Wonderland. But this is married with Murakami's postmodernist bent and a feeling that he's having as much fun as you are. Very enjoyable, totally escapist, and you'll want to dive back into this world once you've left it.
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on 26 February 2007
This book is likely to have a profound effect on anyone that reads it. There are some dreams that have a bleakness about them, a sense of jepoardy and emptiness that carries right through to the next day. You wake feeling detached from the real world and sit for hours lost in your own thoughts. This book taps into that universal feeling, that world sadness that washes over us from time to time.

Murakami manages to draw you into a place that is so different from the mundane routines we inhabit and yet so familiar. This book is compelling, it is complex, it is the human psyche turned into a story. It is, above all, an amazing novel.
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on 25 April 2011
This book begins as a surreal sci-fi/ thriller; a first person narrative. A sardonic hero descends into an underground lair of a mad professor. Like James Bond crossed with William Gibson. Then in Chapter Two the whole book takes a sideways swerve and changes in tone and style. Here Murakami uses the past/present tense to evoke an allegorical, fantasy, folk-tale atmosphere, this works better than the "Hard Boiled" sections. It is the story of a man arriving at a strange town which is surrounded by a high impenetrable wall where there is only one way in and no-one ever leaves. The inhabitants have only titles: the Gatekeeper, the Librarian. This alternating chapter structure continues throughout the book and at first the contrast between the two styles seems jarring and hard to reconcile; almost an elaborate exercise in literary styles. I'm a great fan of Murakmai's work but have to say that I found this book quite hard to get into. In the end though perseverance paid off - just. Murakami is nothing if not a master storyteller, and gradually the two parallel narratives draw you in, begin to bleed into each other and create resonances. There are the familiar Murakami themes: the passive male protagonist (you can hardly call him a hero) trying to make sense of a world where things happen, often violent, unexplained, out of his control; the capable, smart teenage girl who falls in with him and his misadventures; the obsessive references to food (especially Italian) and popular music (especially Bob Dylan); the Library as both location and metaphor for the mind (to make the point this library keeps not books but unicorn skulls); the becalmed, dreamlike town whose inhabitants are trapped in a strange passive limbo. These tropes will be familiar with those who have read his other (better) books like `The Wind Up Bird Chronicle', `Kafka On the Beach' and Norwegian Wood' . It's not giving too much away to say that it soon becomes obvious that the two very different heroes in each sequence are the same person and the his quest is into consciousness itself - another now familiar Murakami theme. He gets quite bogged down in the theory of all this and even provides some (very cute) diagrams. What is the significance of the unicorn skulls? Why is the unnamed hero being pursued and threatened by goons from the System? Will he get the girl? Which One? Will he be reunited with his amputated shadow and escape the Town? As in all good thrillers these questions are answered after a fashion but you don't read Murakami books for that sense of closure. The book does reach a conclusion but it was quite a while after I'd finished reading it that I realised what it was. It's that kind of book. The telling of the tale matters more to him and there are truly moving passages towards the end, especially in the elegiac End of the World chapters. In hindsight the whole book can be read as a meditation on consciousness and the end of life itself but that is really to place too heavy a burden on what is a light, readable if typically oblique book.
Would I recommend this book? Certainly. It's not top-notch Murakami but then second best Murakmi is a good more involving than much fiction currently on offer. If you've not read any of his books, this probably isn't a good starting point. For that go to `Norwegian Wood' or the wonderful `Kafka On The Beach'.
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on 12 January 2009
My husband gave me this book and Norwegian Wood as a gift when we first started dating. He said Hardboiled Wonderland was one of his favourite books of all time, and I had to read it. I had bought Kafka on the Shore first, and read it, and really enjoyed it, although I wasn't sure what to make of it really. Then I read Norwegian Wood. I hated it. I started wondering whether Murakami was really my style. Then I started reading Hardboiled Wonderland, and it really turned me off. He seemed completely obsessed with some 'fat' assistant, and that's all the beginning seemed to be about... So I put it down and didn't look at it for a while. Then I went through a spate of reading Victorian novels and got to a point where I was desperate for something more modern, and picked up Hardboiled Wonderland again... Once I got past the first few dozen pages, I started getting more and more caught up in the story. As with Kafka on the Shore, it involves two parallel worlds, and lots of wacky quirkiness ensues... but one of the worlds really drew me in with its strange ethereal dreamy quality. Like Kafka on the Shore, the ending was left a bit in the air, but somehow it felt more satisfying this time, and I was left with a really warm, fuzzy feeling at the end, of having just woken from a strange but lovely dream. I loved this book.
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on 16 October 2001
After the controlled realism of early-period Murakami (hard to get hold of in english), he moved into a self-conciously zany phase of writing - full of ultra-bizzare happenings and experimental plot twists. This is probably the best of those works (though 'A Wild Sheep Chase' comes a close second, with the yet-to-be-reissued 'Dance, Dance, Dance' in third place). I like this book, but like those other two it feels a little overloaded and slightly too unfocused, like he's getting something out of his system.
After these works, he wrote Norwegian Wood, in which he perfected the poised tragic realism he had written in before - and in doing so become a superstar in his native japan. He then moved on to 'third-period' Murakami, where he managed to counterpoint the weirdness of his second period properly with the sense of poised realism he had developed earlier in his early novels and "Norwegian Wood". This balancing act produced to my mind his greatest novel, "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles" - I'd recommend that above anything else, so long as you don't mind diving in at the deep end.
But if it's weird romps and postmodern games with genre styles you're after, then I'd say this and 'A Wild Sheep Chase' are the two to look out for.
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on 14 November 2010
I very much enjoyed this book by Murakami. It seems a bit more cerebral than later works, and it took me a bit more time to appreciate it than, say, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle or the masterpiece Kafka on the Shore, but certainly has its own strong points. The synchronicities between the two stories are very interesting, and there is a pervasive sense of symbolism. There is also more violence than in later stories, which I enjoyed less - but I imagine every story prescribes its own requirements. Sometimes, the story relies a bit too much on a vague, 'technological' description of certain phenomena, but that doesn't affect the overall story.

The idea of an 'end of the world' is, in itself, interesting. And, as so often, Murakami manages to invoke a melancholy of unresolved storylines, a sentiment that seems so close to life itself.
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on 17 January 2012
My favourite Murakami novel up to now, i think this guy is a fantasy master. With an ordinary recipe he keeps creating such miracles. You get the real picture when you think that this guy wrote that stuff in the '80s, he's out of the ordinary for sure.

As in many cases he uses an ordinary hero, a mediocre human being and writes about everyday stuff, however this makes it very difficult to stop reading. In the fantasy world he creates unbelivable pictures and atmosphere, makes the reader want to live in there even for a while! The use of the parallel stories makes the reading very vivid.

In the end many of us would act different than the hero and that's why i got quite dissapointed but at the same time it almost made me cry in the 2 last chapters! I was very sad when it came to an end.
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on 25 November 2014
I was a little uncertain about this one and left it a couple of months before writing a review. Murakami's prose is always fluent and readable, regardless of the translator. If you're not already a fan however, I wouldn't recommend this book as an entry point.

As you've probably read elsewhere there are 2 narratives here side-by-side. One is the story of a data analyst in what is either an alternate or near-future Japan that starts out quite grounded and becomes more fantastic as it progresses, the other starts off as a fantasy story and follows the reverse trend of becoming more "realistic" as the hero learns more about his surroundings.

There are some brilliant concepts at work in both strands, from the "real" history of unicorns, to people detaching and living separately from their own shadows, HBW&TEOTW is never boring. It is a bit frustrating though, the central device that eventually links the two stories felt a bit shabby to me and I didn't really buy into it. One character, a supposedly genius professor, is afflicted all the way through with a bizarre redneck accent for reasons that both escaped and irritated me. Promising ideas gestate and are then quickly abandoned (the INKlings?) and this novel quite possibly has more descriptions of the preparation and consumption of food than any other by the author (and that's saying something).

Bit of a mixed bag then for me, there's certainly plenty to enjoy in Murakami's diversions and philosophical musings and many pleasingly odd set-pieces, I think it's far from the author's best work, but others may disagree!
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on 4 August 2007
I've just finished this book, and i was hugely impressed with yet another slice of the immensley talented murakami's work.

Unicorns, conciousness, left and right brain...not something that initially would interest lots of people, but just for the sheer brilliance of how the two stories running parralell manage to intertwine, you must read this book.

I could fill this review with superlatives about the pace and atmosphere, but the way Murakami manages to display such imagination is nothing short of stunning, and speaks volumes about what is contained within this surreal tale. Excellent stuff yet again from one of the worlds greatest authors.
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