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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gently tragic
This is one of those books that appeals and repels in equal measure. Comparable to The Outsider in tone and Less Than Zero in content, it's the story of an individual drifting through a series of experiences with passive interest. The author's note on the last page is absolutely essential to the overall effect, and will stay with you for a long time after.
Published on 24 Sep 2003 by pschauer3

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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not his best work.
Having read Murakami's "In The Miso Soup" and "Coin Locker Babies", it has to be said that this book does not live up to the expectations generated by his two other works. BUT as it is his first novel, written in the mid-seventies (the other works are much more recent), it is a readable, if confused, portrait of degeneracy and drug abuse in 70's Tokyo. Like a Japanese...
Published on 17 Nov 2004 by Dauvit


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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not his best work., 17 Nov 2004
This review is from: Almost Transparent Blue (Paperback)
Having read Murakami's "In The Miso Soup" and "Coin Locker Babies", it has to be said that this book does not live up to the expectations generated by his two other works. BUT as it is his first novel, written in the mid-seventies (the other works are much more recent), it is a readable, if confused, portrait of degeneracy and drug abuse in 70's Tokyo. Like a Japanese "Trainspotting" but without the humour.
Not a book I would go out of my way to read, but not bad either.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gently tragic, 24 Sep 2003
This review is from: Almost Transparent Blue (Paperback)
This is one of those books that appeals and repels in equal measure. Comparable to The Outsider in tone and Less Than Zero in content, it's the story of an individual drifting through a series of experiences with passive interest. The author's note on the last page is absolutely essential to the overall effect, and will stay with you for a long time after.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very pleased., 6 Jun 2014
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This review is from: Almost Transparent Blue (Paperback)
Amazing quality, very pleased with the purchase. Will make the other half a very happy man on his birthday, thanks.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Grim, compelling, unique, surreal, disgusting and moving... and pleasantly surprisingly., 19 Dec 2013
This review is from: Almost Transparent Blue (Paperback)
This was a blind buy for me, in a London branch of Waterstones... but with a front cover so distinct and hypnotic how could I say no? Also, I am the first to admit that I devour Japanese culture; books, films, games, food, everything (I knew Murakami before I read this as the mind behind Miike's 'Audition). And so, now onto one of the more controversial works in Japanese Literature.

'Hypnotic' may be the first word to describe this. Then 'disgusting' and then 'Moving' in quick succession. The tale of a young man and his friends living vacuous and destructive lifestyles whilst living near an American Army Base, they do very little except shoot up, pop hallucinogens, experiment with inter-racial, homosexual and violent sex and try and get by. There really is a sense of hopelessness and nihilism throughout the book, enhanced by Murakami's ambiguousness with the subject matter (he has neither confirmed nor denied if the work is auto-biographical). You do get the idea that these young people are merely existing instead of living, and even if they are living, they are living only to destruct, which detracts from the strains of life within Japanese society and/or boredom. You never care for the characters because they don't really ever care for themselves, and it is this dynamic which drives the emotional core of the book; who wants to see the young squander their future? It is a serious and quite stunning book, with some beautiful passages of haunting prose and drug related imagery (particularly the 'trip' in the woods), but only if you can get past the graphic descriptions.

An angsty Kawabata... sadly the book now seems to be quite rare, selling new on this site for 148. I urge those with strong stomachs and a penchant for all things cynical and nihilistic to seek this one out.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars May be more than you bargained for...which could be good or bad, 16 Oct 2007
This review is from: Almost Transparent Blue (Paperback)
Porn-like with bloody needles and every forty pages or so a pause for an "epiphany". Not the "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" epiphanies, which intimated the real thing as well as words can be expected to, but the feeling of drug hazes, a chance to rest from the intensity of the main story and perhaps make it all seem of socially redeeming value. But does transcendence have socially redeeming value any more than drug and sex escapisms do? May depend on what you make of silver negligees. Almost no one here seems to have a job except for the cops and the serviceman but the former might be better occupied with real criminals and the latter are off-duty. It may be that only the nurses, as always, do necessary work. The character Ryu and his friends seem also in need of psychologists but there is no context in the book of how the characters became this way or of how they may find help before self-destructing.

Forceful writing, for sure. Seemed somewhat choppy but that may have helped move it along quickly.

"Almost Transparent Blue" is not at the level of Burroughs either in style or at all for the issues raised. It's probably asking way too much to expect that. Burroughs "Naked Lunch" and his trilogy "The Cities of the Red Night", "The Place of Dead Roads" and "The Western Lands" have plenty of sex and drugs, if that is what you are after, but with broad contexts and much deeper explorations of how it connects to all of us. No one may have understood and expressed the role of addictions in social control the way Burroughs did. But it seems unfair to compare Murakami with Burroughs based on just this first and short novel of Murakami, so you may want to read later and longer works (e.g. "Coin Locker Babies" and "In the Miso Soup")

It's hard to tell when reading "Almost Transparent Blue" whether one should feel sad or manipulated. I wasn't comfortable with Ryu the character or Ryu the author. Maybe comfort isn't the point. Maybe Murakami is effectively raising social concerns and without glossing over the creepiness of what can happen.

For a less shocking, probably more compassionate and more fully developed presentation of youths lost amidst drugs and sex that don't go off the deep end as Murakami (and Burroughs) may seem to do, I suggest Frank Daniels "futureproof", which still lingers with me constructively a year after I read it.

P.S. Murkami directed a 1980 Japanese movie derived from this novel but apparently tamer. It was nominated for a best sound award by the Japanese Academy. I'll leave it to our imaginations what the well-done sounds were.
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Almost Transparent Blue
Almost Transparent Blue by Ryu Murakami (Paperback - 1 April 2003)
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