Monday, January 21, 2013

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

Now here was a book that was odd, confusing, and at the same time fun and interesting. Murakami throws in a ton of different characters, story lines, and elements of science fiction and fantasy that aren't exactly necessary, but at the same time tie everything together seamlessly. Even if you need to read passages multiple times to understand what's going on.

From the publisher:

Kafka on the Shore is powered by two remarkable characters: a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home either to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy or to search for his long-missing mother and sister; and an aging simpleton called Nakata, who never recovered from a wartime affliction and now is drawn toward Kafka for reasons that, like the most basic activities of daily life, he cannot fathom.

As their paths converge, and the reasons for that convergence become clear, Haruki Murakami enfolds readers in a world where cats talk, fish fall from the sky, and spirits slip out of their bodies to make love or commit murder. Kafka on the Shore displays one of the world’s great storytellers at the peak of his powers.

My thoughts:

Murakami does a fantastic job creating characters that are immensely likable and fun to read about and root for. Kafka is one of my favorite protagonists, and reminds me a little bit of Holden Caulfield albeit younger and less angsty. I feel like Murakami used a bit too much science fiction and fantasy in Nakata's story line though; it clashed rather than meshed with Kafka's running away from home.

One of the biggest drawbacks to this story is the difficulty in keeping track of plot events. Each chapter revolves around different characters, similar to the Game of Thrones series by George RR Martin. This was a much smaller book than those, so it was a bit easier to remember what was going on, but at the same time there was so much odd plot thrown in that it was still difficult sometimes (talking cats, flashbacks to WWII days, leeches falling from the sky).

No matter how difficult it got to understand what was happening, or why, I couldn't help but be pulled into the story, and hope for every character in this story to just be happy. Murakami is quite the storyteller, and it's no surprise that I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars and plan on reading more of his work in the future.

- Justin :)

1 comment:

  1. Oh! Was this your first Murakami? I have three besides me right now, Wind Up Bird Chronicles (which I am presently struggling to procure for my library's audio collection), After Dark, and IQ84. He's a polarizing writer, and it's always fun to see how people deal with the first and second taste. My first was After Dark, which I didn't quite like as I found the philosophy at play to be weak and wanting in sustenance. Wind Up Bird Chronicles is far better and thought provoking, though at times the philosophy does seem to serve for little else than spectacle. I get the feeling that Murakami has a profound grasp of what identity means to the human condition, but is aware of this proficiency as his own identity, which causes him to reach and grasp at straws when he consciously tries to express himself... if that makes any sense... like, he's at his best when he isn't trying too hard, but when he does try to hard you can tell and it doesn't go well. It's the difference between Wind Up Bird and After Dark. Sounds like Kafka was a case of the former, so I'll go check it out.