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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved this book
Like many other reviewers here I have read all of the English translations of Murakami's work. I am slightly surprised by the mixed/negative reviews here. At the same time I am a bit disappointed that we all haven't shared the same experience, because I loved this book. I think it is among his best work, and I think that it is a must-read for anyone looking to start on...
Published on 21 Feb 2008 by Cletus

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Thin Gruel
I read a fair amount of translated fiction, and Murakami is one of those writers I feel like I ought to like, but the few times I've tried, just haven't connected with. This latest novella seemed like another chance to check him out without a huge investment of time. The last book of his I read was his collection of short stories After the Quake, which were unified by...
Published on 18 Feb 2008 by A. Ross


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Thin Gruel, 18 Feb 2008
By 
A. Ross (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: After Dark (Hardcover)
I read a fair amount of translated fiction, and Murakami is one of those writers I feel like I ought to like, but the few times I've tried, just haven't connected with. This latest novella seemed like another chance to check him out without a huge investment of time. The last book of his I read was his collection of short stories After the Quake, which were unified by common themes of alienation and loneliness. Those themes are dominant in this brief story as well.

Set in night-time Tokyo, the book often feels much more like a script for a moody film than it does a work of fiction. Many passages adopt a first-person omniscient voice, written in the style of a script, directing the camera and describing what it/we see. After a while this gets annoying, and made me wish that Murakami had just gone ahead and made a film if that's what he wanted to do. The storyline, such as it is, is arranged around the coincidental intersections of people, which calls to mind the structure of recent films such as (Short Cuts, Crash, Magnolia, Babel, Amores Perros, etc.) where we follow characters in and out of each others lives.

These characters include: Mari, a 19-year-old sitting in a diner reading the night away, Takahashi, a 20-something trombone player who recognizes her from high school, Karou, the ex-wrestler manager of a love hotel, a Chinese hooker who's badly beaten at the hotel, Korogi, a mysterious handyman at the hotel, Shirakawa, the nondescript but disturbed salaryman who beat the hooker, the hooker's mysterious motorcycle-riding boss, and finally Mari's model sister Eri, who is stuck in some kind of prolonged Sleeping Beauty-like slumber. The final character is Tokyo itself, which like these nocturnal people, is still awake but somewhat surreal.

Once again, Murakami seems fixated on creating a mood rather than a narrative. One gets a good sense of the characters and the strange ambiance of the night, but it doesn't lead anywhere particularly interesting. Once again, alienation and loneliness are the main themes -- but all these tales of missed connections can only take you so far before you start wanting something more substantial. I suspect, however, that ultimately, Murakami just isn't for me. (Neither, for that matter, is the "other" Murakami, Ryu, whose graphically violent books focus on the same themes, but in a very different manner.)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful writing but not enough story?, 20 Dec 2009
By 
Alison "Kindle Allie" (Derbyshire, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: After Dark (Paperback)
I've only read one other book by Murakami (shame on me?!) and that was The Wind-up Bird Chronicle (possibly the most bizarre book I have ever read, but one that I can still vividly remember over 10 years after reading it). I felt a lot of similarity between After Dark and Wind Up Bird: surreal scenes, strange events and Murakami's unusual approach to writing. After Dark provokes you to ponder the deeper meaning of the events, although I'm not sure I really did get to full understanding!

I really enjoyed the beautiful prose in the book, it does feel rather magical and Murakami has this way of drawing you right into the book. However, I couldn't help feeling disappointed with the story by the time I'd finished it. There wasn't really much of an outcome - or at least not a climax of an ending. It did feel a little pointless by the time I finished although I admired the penmanship greatly. I'm definitely going to look up his most popular books because even with such a strange story, the writing is wonderful.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved this book, 21 Feb 2008
By 
Cletus (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: After Dark (Hardcover)
Like many other reviewers here I have read all of the English translations of Murakami's work. I am slightly surprised by the mixed/negative reviews here. At the same time I am a bit disappointed that we all haven't shared the same experience, because I loved this book. I think it is among his best work, and I think that it is a must-read for anyone looking to start on Murakami's literature. I lived in Tokyo and know Shinjuku quite well, so the description of the area is very evocative to me (you may already know that the look of Blade Runner is modeled on Shinjuku). Apart from that, I thought the dialog was nearly perfect, and that the expression of Japanese youth was very subtle but precise. Not to mention the sort-of love story and the sort-of love between the sisters. Both of these are very realistic and moving. Maybe my views are the exception here, but since the book is a short 200 pages, you don't have to invest too much time to decide for yourself.
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57 of 65 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars After Dark is the distilled essence of everything Murakami has ever written., 3 Jun 2007
By 
Sam J. Ruddock (Norwich, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: After Dark (Hardcover)
"It's not as if our lives are divided simply into light and dark. There's a shadowy middle ground. Recognising and understanding the shadows is what a healthy intelligence does. And to acquire a healthy intelligence takes a certain amount of time and effort."

2007 has been a good year for short novels. Ian McEwen returned to form with `On Chesil Beach,' his best work for years and I was desperately excited to get my hands on the long awaited return of Haruki Murakami with his latest novel, `After Dark'. After all, Murakami, like McEwan is one of the leading short story writers in the world and `Sputnik Sweetheart' remains his finest work to date.

The first thing to say is that this is a very short novel. At just 201 pages it took me barely 4 hours and I am not a fast reader. Some may say this is not value for money but does quantity really equal quality? This, like everything Murakami writes, is worth every penny you spend on it.

The story is that of Tokyo after darkness, when the sun goes down and the lights go on. It is the perfect setting for a Murakami novel: jazz records play leisurely in the background of late night bars, the streets are deserted and his usual ensemble of well meaning loaners in search of themselves have deep, revelatory conversations which unwind slowly over a cup of coffee and a cigarette. `After Dark' is like the distilled essence of everything Murakami has ever written.

Mari, a nineteen year old girl, is sitting alone in a coffee bar reading a thick novel and waiting for the night to pass. Takahashi is savouring his bands last all-night rehearsal and has stopped in for some coffee. It is almost midnight. Back at home, Eri Asai (Mari's sister) has been asleep for two months, a sleeping beauty. As we watch the strange events of the dense night unfold it is as if the night has been personified, and the people are just encroaching on its time. Revelation and transition is in the air, it is `After Dark' and the possibilities are endless.

The atmosphere lurks somewhere between awake and asleep, we feel the neon signs lighting up the darkness and smell the hazy smoke of insomnia in the gaps between the words. Murakami is incapable of writing a dull story and `After Dark' is no different. It may not be his best ever work, but once you pick this book up and feel the darkness enshroud you like a blanket you will not dare put it down until the morning has arrived and there is nothing to do but wait for night to return.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful observation of a city at night, 5 July 2009
This review is from: After Dark (Paperback)
Another brilliant novel by the master of the surreal in every day life. You could say that "After dark" is some kind of concept novel. The point of view is mainly the view of a camera, observing a city at night, zooming in one a few chosen characters centered around Mari, her sleeping sister Eri and Takahashi - a guy who used to be in the same class as Eri. The love hotel Alphaville also plays an important part this particular night. At one stage the author takes us to a room in a parallel reality that I don't find particularly satisfying, but having that surreal element is necessary to keep the reader engaged. My interpretation is that you enter some kind of dream.

The best thing about the book is that there's no real plot. It's just an observation from midnight to dawn. There are no conclusions or resolutions. But for young Mari it's a very eventful night which makes the book a coming of age story.

It's so beautifully written it makes me want to read it again. The dialogue between Mari and Takahashi is fantastic. Not much is said, but what is said makes it more important. It feels like you're inside Mari's world even if the author hasn't written what she feels and thinks. It's all conveyed through dialogue and atmosphere. In the course of the night a crime is committed, but it doesn't matter that we won't find out what happens after. It's enough to observe the involved characters and draw your own conclusions.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Murakami in fine form, 7 Oct 2009
By 
This review is from: After Dark (Paperback)
After Dark is a fine novel by Japanese author Murakami. In his typical style, the book takes two different narratives and as the book progresses starts to weave them together. The first fault of the book is that it is a bit too familiar, Murakami is presenting ideas and styles that anyone who has read his other works quickly will recognise. The book is still fine, with some very interesting characters and a neat ending.

The book meanders a bit around at times, not driving the narrative forward in the same exemplary pace as some of his other books did. The atmosphere works well but is not imposing enough, particularly when considering that it is set during night time, a perfect opportunity for creating harrowing atmosphere, something Murakami has done before, but doesn't achieve here.

It is a bit on the short side, but in the end, the book doesn't really have that much to say. It isn't well enough presented as a character study, not at least on the same level as some of his other works. Still, the book is moody, at times edgy, and doesn't fail in keeping the reader to continue reading. Maybe not his best, but still a novel worth reading, it continues to present Murakami's simplistic and accessible writing style which still remains very potent.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not his best, not his worst.., 12 Jun 2009
By 
Mrs. S. Payne (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: After Dark (Paperback)
I LOVE Murakami's books and although there are mixed reviews here, I actually enjoyed this one too. After Dark is really a snapshot of any given night in Tokyo; the mysteries of the city and its strange people that keep roam the streets. Mari is the main character in the book. She is a lonely girl reading a book at a table at Denny's. She has a random encounter with another character and this sparks off the chain of events that becomes the book. This story has the usual Murakami surrealism and weirdness but for me, it wasn't quite as good as Norwegian Wood. Still good though.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Five Spot After Dark, 21 Oct 2009
This review is from: After Dark (Paperback)
"After Dark" was first published in Japan in 2004, and was translated into English by Jay Rubin in 2008.

The book opens up in an `amusement district'- an area dedicated to gaming centres, karaoke clubs and bars. It's approaching midnight and - while plenty of others are enjoying themselves loudly - Mari Asai is sitting alone in a Denny's Restaurant. She's apparently missed the last train home - almost deliberately, by the looks of things - although she still occasionally glances towards her watch. She doesn't appear to be expecting any company either - she's buried in a book, nursing a coffee and occasionally lighting a cigarette and buried in a book. (Mari lights a lot of cigarettes, but she doesn't do much smoking...they tend to burn themselves out in the ashtray.) However, Mari isn't left alone for long, however - she's joined by a lanky young man called Tetsuya Takahashi. The pair had met a couple of years before at a swimming pool - a friend of Takahashi's was dating Mari's glamourous and beautiful sister, Eri.

Takahashi and Eri had been in class together for a year, but they never spoke - she never gave him the time of day. By the sounds of things, he and Mari didn't speak much on the date either - despite being Japanese, Mari spent most of her time speaking Chinese. The pair communicate a little better this time round, though Takahashi initially won't give his name. However, when he finally leaves for band practice, Takahashi leaves his mobile number and promises to be back around 5am...despite Mari's apparent coolness towards him. Nevertheless, Mari doesn't get left alone for too long - she's soon joined by Koaru, who works at a nearby `love hotel' called the Alphaville. (They tend to be `Big in Japan'). Koaru is obviously an acquaintance of Takahashi's - though she's a little circumspect about how they met. She has a problem, though - there's a Chinese girl at her hotel, "in a mess", and Takahashi has told her that Mari is fluent in Chinese. Koaru wants to find out what happened - but she needs someone who can translate for her...

Meanwhile Eri is at home in a very deep sleep - so deep and pure, it's just not normal. She's in for a very strange night, though - despite being unplugged, her tv comes on at midnight. The picture, when it finally settles, shows a large empty room - most likely, an office or a classroom. There's only one person in the room - a man, sitting on the room's only chair, apparently deep in thought. Where most people would be happy enough to meet a television star, this is one you'd really rather avoid.

The book's events take place over a single night, with Mari and Eri proving to be the two key characters...though I did enjoy Mari's story more. (Takahashi and Koaru proved two very likeable supporting characters - I finished the book hoping that Mari kept in touch with both. However, there are one or two others who aren't quite so agreeable). Eri's story was a little strange, a little like something that might have been used for `The Twilight Zone'. It was a little frustrating that there was no real explanation of what was happening to her, or what man in the television set wanted...but "After Dark" is a short, easily read and enjoyable book overall.
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4.0 out of 5 stars "After Dark", 21 Jan 2010
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This review is from: After Dark (Paperback)
Murakami delivers his exceptional flavour of alienation in this original book. Although not quite as involved as some of his other books, i.e. "Kafka" or "Hardboiled", there is no dilution of character or story. This is rather a snapshot of a single night between roughly midnight and dawn, written in an incredibly fluid real-time.

The characters are believable and sympathetic, as well as being wonderfully enigmatic. The prose is stylish and inspiring, but perhaps not to everybody's taste. The author's voice is particularly strong in this one and if the first page puts you off, you may or may not get over it to enjoy the rest of this heartbreaking story.

There's the usual twist of the bizarre, but it is not as macabre as some of his other tails. The character is the focus, and although this is perhaps a postmodern experiment in "extended flash fiction" there is no loss of life (in the sense of characterisation - I wouldn't spoil the plot!).

The threads of the stories come together with great emotion. There is an underlying feeling of power to Murakami's words in this one - it almost induces genuine panic or heartbreak or hope, despite being such a fast read.

Very beautiful, however if you want more substance to story rather than character perhaps seek out "Kafka" or "South of the Border" if you haven't already read them.

7 / 10

David Brookes
Author of "Half Discovered Wings"
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For certain kinds of people, 6 Jun 2011
This review is from: After Dark (Hardcover)
Having spoken to other fans of Murakami, I've gained the impression that many readers see this as one of Murakami's less engaging books, chiefly because, according to these readers, it lacks a plot. I've also encountered the comment that Murakami's decision to write in the third rather than first person prevents the book from having quite the same personal dimension as his other books, especially when these other books exhibit common motifs - namely the middle-aged cynical man whose ordinary existence of interrupted by a seemingly random event - which do not seem to make an appearance in this book.

For me, however, this is Murakami's best work. The basic reason for this is that I feel that no other author or book by Murakami quite manages to capture the atmosphere and mood of staying up through the night in quite the same way. I say this as a university student who finds that they work best at night and who loves spending the long hours alone - apart from the sound of jazz - before finally having breakfast and watching the streets of my university city murmur to life before going to bed. Murakami captures the strangeness of the long night spent wide awake, he captures the events that happen at night that go unnoticed by people who, for one reason or another, have lives that, owing to their comparative ordinariness, do not force or allow them to stay up at night and read in a fast food place. I find that this book is at once a work of realism and a break with the standard novel - the former, because of Murakami's expert handling of the atmosphere of night, the latter, because this book does not seem to have a plot in the ordinary sense of the word, in that the main character does not noticeably overcome any personal challenges or change as a person during the course of the individual, and there are dilemmas and questions that are allowed to remain unaddressed. The narrative structure, whereby the chapters lack titles (again, unlike other Murakami books) but mark the time, was, for me, inseparable from the overall mood of the book.

I listened to the jazz artist Joanna Wang whilst reading this book, because I enjoy listening to jazz whilst up at night, and both the artist and the book are now bound together in my psyche.
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After Dark
After Dark by Haruki Murakami (Paperback - 5 Jun 2008)
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