Edel Grace

Programmer, Developer, Enthusiast

Fantasy

Book Review: Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami

Aug 6, 2018 | Comments

Disclaimer: Spoilers abound!

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami

Hyperkinetic and relentlessly inventive, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World is Haruki Murakami’s deep dive into the very nature of consciousness.

Across two parallel narratives, Murakami draws readers into a mind-bending universe in which Lauren Bacall, Bob Dylan, a split-brained data processor, a deranged scientist, his shockingly undemure granddaughter, and various thugs, librarians, and subterranean monsters collide to a dazzling effect. What emerges is a novel that is at once hilariously funny and a deeply serious meditation on the nature and uses of the mind.

This novel alternates between two worlds. There is the “Hard-Boiled Wonderland” and “The End of the World.” The former takes place in reality, where the main character is racing against time to prevent “The End of the World.” Interestingly enough, the end of the world takes place in a single mystical village where people’s memories of their past life do not exist. It is a utopia where everyone is assigned a task to do until the end of time.

After reading this novel, I came to the conclusion that I read too much Murakami. There is something similar across many of his protagonists that I just can’t pinpoint. It’s nothing too general like the fact that they are all men with strange thoughts about sex and women (although a lot of them do have that in common). Maybe I’m just projecting but it seems like a large number of his protagonists are rather… Simple. Maybe even boring. They never think too strongly or feel too strongly. It seems like things are just simply happening to them and they are just bringing us along for the ride.

Which is why I breezed through the “Hard-Boiled Wonderland” chapters and absorbed “The End of the World” chapters as much as I could. The protagonist in “Hard-Boiled Wonderland” is pretty much the stereotypical Murakami leading man. In “the End of the World,” the protagonist is largely the same but also different.

There seems to be a real danger that the protagonist is trying his best to prevent. He does not want to lose his mind as he remembers it. Despite being really dull and drab in the real world, the importance of having emotions and memories is a great driving force for the protagonist. After falling in love with the emotionless librarian in the village, he is motivated to cling to his mind.

I was also pulled in by the fantasy aspects of “The End of the World.” The little village of people in an immortal land is just really interesting. I really wanted to uncover the mysteries of this world. The revelation in the novel was a bit of a disappointment but I enjoyed travelling and discovering the characters in this world.

However, being pulled back into reality is disappointing. While there was a real sense of urgency that I appreciated (really, I just wanted it to be over), I didn’t feel the weight of the risk as much as the risk of never leaving “the End of the World.”

I can’t really seem to make my mind up about this novel. I think this might be one of the better Murakami books but it still isn’t great. I probably wouldn’t reread this book, like I would say, Norweigan Wood.

Book Review: The Sky is Yours by Chandler Klang Smith

Feb 21, 2018 | Comments

The Sky is Yours by Chandler Klang Smith

A sprawling, genre-defying epic set in a dystopian metropolis plagued by dragons, this debut about what it’s like to be young in a very old world is pure storytelling pleasure

In the burned-out, futuristic city of Empire Island, three young people navigate a crumbling metropolis constantly under threat from a pair of dragons that circle the skies. When violence strikes, reality star Duncan Humphrey Ripple V, the spoiled scion of the metropolis’ last dynasty; Baroness Swan Lenore Dahlberg, his tempestuous, death-obsessed betrothed; and Abby, a feral beauty he discovered tossed out with the trash; are forced to flee everything they’ve ever known. As they wander toward the scalded heart of the city, they face fire, conspiracy, mayhem, unholy drugs, dragon-worshippers, and the monsters lurking inside themselves. In this bombshell of a novel, Chandler Klang Smith has imagined an unimaginable world: scathingly clever and gorgeously strange, The Sky Is Yours is at once faraway and disturbingly familiar, its singular chaos grounded in the universal realities of love, family, and the deeply human desire to survive at all costs.

The Sky Is Yours is incredibly cinematic, bawdy, rollicking, hilarious, and utterly unforgettable, a debut that readers who loved Cloud Atlas, Super Sad True Love Story, and Blade Runner will adore.

Oh man, where do I start with this book? This book is genuinely weird and I’m still on the fence on whether or not this is a good thing.

The Setting

The world that The Sky is Yours set in is no doubt a dystopia. Dragons circle the city which is rife with drug dealers and mercenary gangs. Despite having affluent areas, I couldn’t help but imagine a city full of rubble. It’s not glamorous by any stretch of imagination but it is also lacks any charm whatsoever. One of the characters described the city as a lost cause and I would pretty much agree with him.

The Characters

Surprisingly, almost every single character is unlikable. There’s Ripple, the sheltered rich boy who treats women horrible and is incredibly entitled. Abby, his girl toy for the majority of the book, is even more sheltered and uncivilized and the literal definition of a dumb blonde. His fiancee Swanee is just as annoying and entitled as he is. His parents are even worse and I swear they are devoid of any feeling at all. His mom is like a spitting image of Abby in that she is pretty much just a tool or trophy to the ones they love.

The only character that I genuinely enjoyed was surprisingly the villain, Eisenhower Sharkey (I think that’s his name). He is a drug ring leader and killed the parents of Ripple and Swanee but Swanee falls for him and I really actually rooted for Sharkey. I mean, Sharkey fed Swanee’s drug addiction but Ripple is so useless that I can’t imagine why Swanee would ever go back to him.

The Plot

The plot is so… Out there. A million things is happening at the same time. Some of the sub-plots definitely over stayed their welcome and made me skip through it just to get to the juicier bits.

The ending made absolutely zero sense to me and felt a little bit too convenient but I accepted it just so I could finish the book. Spoiler alert: Everything turned out great and the city began to thrive again. Hmm. Okay. Alright. I was just glad it all ended.

Summary

So far, I’m being a little harsh here. I actually did enjoy this book once I got over the overall weirdness of everything in the book. Honestly, this book is not to be taken seriously. It reminds me of Libba Bray’s Beauty Queens which is equally outrageous and equally silly and probably intentionally so. The writing is also dreadfully ok. There are good nuggets here and there, especially when Smith goes into exposition.

Unfortunately, this gets a 25 for me. I would only recommend this to people who I’d know would like this. I can’t think of anyone at the moment but I know they exist.

About

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My name is Edel Grace Altares. My programming interests include full stack development and back end development. My languages of choice are Python and Java. Outside of programming I enjoy crocheting, video games, cats, historical fiction, and reading.

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