First Lines: Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World was a selection of The Missus’s book-club she didn’t get to. I had previously read Haruki Murakami’s The Strange Library, and since that was a nice, quaint, strange, weird, but enjoyable little book, I dove in.

Well, these books were little alike. This one took hard work to get through.

There are two narrative threads, presented in alternating chapters: in “Hard-Boiled Wonderland” is a cyber-techno-punk sci-fy crime story, in which we follow a nameless human data-crusher, sent to do some calculations for a nameless scientist hidden away in a subterranean lair. From there, it gets complicated. “The End of the World” is a more surreal, fantasy affair. There we follow a nameless man arriving in a nameless Town surrounded by an impenetrable wall. He tries to find his place there, while doing his designated work as a ‘dream reader’. This involves skulls, but as staying there means having to lose your shadow and your mind, it, too, gets complicated.

“Hard-Boiled Wonderland” suffers from unlikable, uninteresting, flat characters, incredibly dull stretches of data-dumping and the scientist’s chubby pink-clad granddaughter. As a character, she’s pretty useless, and, well, our nameless protagonist is kind of a jerk about it. I liked the “The End of the World” chapters much better. But to make sense of those, you need the dull parts in between. Because those dull parts explore all the whole metaphorical, (sub)consciousness issues that you’re are probably supposed to make sense of. I know this is not going to make much sense, but I did like how it gradually all the metaphorical stuff made both stories come together. But by then, the damage was done.

Lets just suppose that this sort of modern fiction is probably wasted on me, and that reading this while commuting was probably not the smartest choice.

Book read
Haruki Murakami — Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World (translated and adapted by Alfred Birnbaum with the participation of the author)
First line
The elevator continued with its impossibly slow ascent.
Notable quotes
“I say I understand when I do, and I say I don’t when I don’t. I try not to mince words. It seems to me a lot of trouble on this world has its origins in vague speech. Most people, when they go around not speaking clearly, somewhere in their unconscious they’re asking for trouble.” (🙊)
“Still, getting a penis to erect itself is not the sole purpose of life.” (🍆)
“I ordered a second draft, when I was hit by the long overdue urge to relieve myself. And piss I did. […] Afterwards I could have sworn I’d been reborn.” (😌)