I didn't know what to read after Killing Commendatore, and needed something to fill the void, so I read another Murakami book that I have not read before: After Dark.
The plot takes place over the course of several hours during the night. The first few pages set the scene with a bird's eye view and a neon-drenched description of Tokyo at night. From the start, it feels like a pulp novel. It feels like I'm reading Ryu, not Haruki Murakami.
One of key difference I noticed is that the narration is visually directed as if Murakami controls a camera and describes what's inside the frame.
We allow ourselves to become a single point of view, and we observe her for a time. Perhaps it should be said that we are peeping in on her. Our viewpoint takes the form of a midair camera that can move freely about the room. At the moment, the camera is situated directly above the bed and is focused on her sleeping face. Our angle changes at intervals as regular as the blinking of an eye.
This could be the least Murakami-esk book with no first-person narration and could perhaps be the most experimental in terms of prose. It could be that the subject matter called for the detective novel writing style. Either way, it took a little getting used to. Once or twice, I made sure I was reading the right book.
The main protagonist is Mari, a young student avoiding home life by reading all night in a diner. Over the course of the short plot, Mari meets people that work, roam and play throughout the city night, while her sister sleeps undergoing a surreal nightmare. The sister and the acquaintances of Mari have short side stories that interconnect physically and metaphysically.
This book does not seem popular. Finding an adequate epub with acceptable formatting was difficult. It's also not mentioned much within Murakami communities online. It could be that this book is just too different, too left field of his usual style, that fans avoid it. Within the pulp-styled narration, there are glimpses of usual Murakami though:
You know what I think?" she says. "That people's memories are maybe the fuel they burn to stay alive. Whether those memories have any actual importance or not, it doesn't matter as far as the maintenance of life is concerned. They're all just fuel. Advertising fillers in the newspaper, philosophy books, dirty pictures in a magazine, a bundle of ten-thousand-yen bills: when you feed 'em to the fire, they're all just paper.
This is a hard book to place. I wanted Murakami but instead, I got straight pulp prose intertwined with subjective surrealism -creating a unique read. I would also say this is more a novella than a novel, as its length and the short chapters breeze by in a few sittings. If you are looking for a short pulp novella about Tokyo at night with some subjective supernatural bits thrown in then read this.