The Pequod Review:
More overtly science fiction than anything else in Haruki Murakami’s body of work, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World is divided into a split-narrative in alternating chapters. The first half (i.e., the odd-numbered chapters) is titled “Hard-Boiled Wonderland,” and is narrated by a human data-encryptor whose subconscious mind is used for encryption, which is causing him to slowly lose his conscious mind. The other half, “The End of the World,” takes place in a surreal dream world and is narrated by a newcomer to a walled city where people live for eternity. This book is so rich that these details are merely the initial backdrop for more astonishments, as the plot twists and turns, and ultimately considers the deepest questions about human identity and the nature of consciousness.
In many ways, this novel brings together the best strands of Murakami’s work: complex but relatable characters, surreal events, and an atmosphere of chilling beauty. And Murakami’s attention to detail has never been better, as he meticulously constructs the plot to slowly reveal how the two worlds are interrelated, and takes the story in bizarre directions that nonetheless retain a coherent narrative. He has struck the perfect artistic balance where his surrealism and self-indulgence goes just far enough — but not too far. Murakami may have written other books as good as this one, but he never again made anything as detailed and intricate, and the result is his deepest and most rewarding work.