• Staff Writer


Haruki Murakami can be difficult to pigeonhole at the best of times but nothing can quite prepare the uninitiated for the ethereal themes that bubble beneath the surface of “Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World.”

Murakami’s fourth novel, published in 1985, alternates between parallel universes. Occupying the odd-numbered chapters of the book, “Hard-Boiled Wonderland” is a science fiction tale in which the narrator is essentially a human data processor. He eventually learns he only has 1½ days to exist before he leaves the world he knows for a place he’s invented in his subconscious mind. Still with me? Unfortunately, the insanity doesn’t stop there. “The End of the World,” meanwhile, tells the story of a newcomer who is seeking acceptance in an isolated town that is surrounded by a fortified wall. The newcomer’s shadow has been cut off and he devises a plan to rescue the banished silhouette and escape. Those unfamiliar with Murakami’s more surreal works may find the fantasy elements here a little hard to digest, but the dreamlike narrative is enough to keep most readers interested.

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