Top positive review
23 of 26 people found this helpful
Weird, stylised and intriguing modern fiction
on 4 February 2002
In the 1970s there developed in Japan a very disturbing trend whereby young mothers would abandon newborn babies in coinlockers. Most of the babies died. Coin Locker Babies is the story of two who survive. Adopted and raised as brothers, their lives are, nevertheless, fated to diverge quite alarmingly and not entirely happily. The bulk of the novel is set in a semi-real Tokyo, the surreal addition being the existence of 'Toxitown', an area so polluted that the authorities relocated all its residents and shut it off from the outside world, only for the underclasses to move in and set up residence. The underbelly of Tokyo is suddenly concentrated in one location and a fair chunk of the action takes place here. Murukami, one of Japan's most renowned modern authors, considers much of the weirdness and conflict of modern Japan, with a particular emphasis on sexuality (bisexuality and homosexuality receiving far more treatment than any other Japanese novel I have read, and certainly portrayed as far more open and prevalent than is actually the case in contemporary Japan), but there is a strong surreal and psychological streak to the work. Coin Locker Babies contains much that is entertaining, even educational, but is, in the end, a tragedy with a somewhat abrupt ending that will probably leave most readers faintly dissatisfied, a sentiment one is rather unhappy with, given the overall excellence of the bulk of the work. Recommended, nevertheless.