There is something cathartic about reading a Murakami novel; like re-visiting an old friend, the re-cycling of themes; cynical anti-hero (check), quirky side-characters (check), references to Raymond Chandler and Bob Dylan (check) and a zany plot which draws the reader in and whose mysteries keep the reader captivated until the final revelation (double check). The wheels of Murakami’s novels whir and spin with the inner workings of his imagination, as the reader is transported, as if by magic, into the whimsical world of Murakami’s mind.
The nameless narrator of the story is a somewhat aimless and diffident thirty-something who is trapped in a doubly-obscure job as a Calcutec, a kind of underground data processors. His humdrum existence is interrupted by the introduction of a odd-ball professor and his grand-daughter, who have employed him on a dangerous g de-coding job. Interwoven with this is the dreamlike narrative chronicling the journey of a man in a strange, subdued, somnambulistic town. The man is a employed as a dream-reader. What this entails exactly is unclear, however, the man is slowly enveloped in the placid, hypnagogic embrace of the town. This is echoed in the journey of our other narrator-however his journey is far from placid, instead being punctuated by violence and chaos, of the subterranean monsters called INKlings and the thuggish employees of a nameless corporation.
Indeed the two narrative reflect and refract each other, as the stories and themes combine and coalesce, until the reader realises that they are reading a single story, the story of a man who gradually comes to accept his place in the world and the nothingness of immorality beneath the gentle guitar strings of Bob Dylan, “like a kid standing at the window watching the rain”.