Tag: Supernatural

Haruki Murakami – The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle | Review

Title: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

Author: Haruki Murakami

Type: Fiction

Page Count: 628

Rating: 4.5/5

I picked up this book as a buddy read with my friend Charlie, who’s also an excellent author in his own right. Buddy reads are almost always more fun than regular reads, but I think I would have still enjoyed this one regardless. That said, it did have at least one other impact because we read it three chapters a day instead of all in one go, and I think that helped me to take it a little more slowly and to savour it.

And there was plenty to savour here. Possibly one of my favourites was also the most brutal scene, in which someone got skinned alive with all the efficiency of someone peeling a peach. Murakami is a truly talented writer no matter what he’s writing about, which in this case meant that the whole scene was horrifically realistic, right down to the way that the man screamed.

I also like the sort of slight hallucinatory quality that the book has. It’s almost like a series of interrelated vignettes as opposed to a traditional novel, but it works really well and gives you something different as a reader that you might not have been expecting. I’ve read Murakami a bunch of times before of course, but he takes things in a slightly different direction here.

There’s almost something timeless about the storytelling here, and you have to give Murakami credit for that. Credit is also very much due to Jay Rubin too, who’s the translator here. I was stoked to see that when I picked it up because Rubin is my favourite Murakami translator. I was excited to see that right on the credits page, and the book just kept on getting better from there.

Another memorable series of scenes are those that took place at the bottom of wells. There was something deeply disturbing about those scenes, and you could really sense the claustrophobia. To be honest, it’s making me feel a little bit weird just thinking back to them.

What’s interesting about Murakami is that he has this knack of writing stories that are slow paced and meandering but which still definitely go somewhere. They’re the kind of books where it feels like anything can happen, and that’s what makes Murakami so readable. This here feels as though it might be his equivalent of The Stand, and there’s certain that kind of epic quality to it.

But perhaps it’s more like Cloud Atlas or something like that, because it all takes place in our own world and there are none of the supernatural hijinks that come along with Stephen King, who I guess is the closest I can think of to Murakami when it comes to making fictional characters seem realistic while writing about the darker sides of humanity.

To be honest, when I got started on this book, all I knew about it was that it was a Murakami novel and that Charlie wanted to read it. I think I had a slight subconscious knowledge of it being quite a popular one amongst Murakami fans, but that’s about it. I’m glad that the buddy read gave me the impetus to pick it up and to order a copy in rather than just waiting until I spotted it in a charity shop.

So would I recommend this one? Oh hell yeah, I was very impressed by it. It might be kind of long if you’re new to Murakami, and I think most people probably start out with Norwegian Wood, but I think this book is a cracker no matter who wrote it. The fact that it’s a translation just makes it cooler.

Learn more about The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.

 


Stephen King – The Outsider | Review

Title: The Outsider

Author: Stephen King

Type: Fiction

Page Count: 486

Rating: 3.5/5

The thing with The Outsider is that I feel as though it would have been pretty good if just anyone had written it, but the problem is that it’s pretty poor for a Stephen King book. It was competently written and I kept on reading, but it didn’t really contain anything to surprise or impress me.

Part of the reason for that is that I’m not much of a fan of when King does crime, mostly because I can’t help feeling that the point of crime is that it’s based on reality, and so as soon as he adds the inevitable supernatural elements, I start to lose interest in the story. It’s a bit like trying to play Cluedo with someone who makes up the rules as they go along.

It’s also the unofficial fourth book in the Bill Hodges trilogy, a mini-series that started off well but which immediately took a dive as soon as the supernatural elements kicked in. I quite liked Bill Hodges as a character, but Hodges is dead by this point and so we have to make do with Holly Gibney, who I liked in the previous books but who I found kind of annoying here. It was also a bit weird how she just randomly shows up half way through the story, way after all of the other characters have been introduced and established.

Other than that though, it’s pretty much positive, and I liked the way that King eventually explained all of the supernatural elements. The bad guy wasn’t necessarily as terrifying as the Walken Dude, but he was still pretty intimidating in a way that was terrifyingly human. In a way, it almost feels realer than a lot of his other monsters too, perhaps because of the setting and the explanation.

Then there are the main characters, with Ralph and Howie standing out for me in particular. That’s one of the good things about reading King – you know that you’re always going to get some pretty good characterisation. Everyone felt pretty fledged out, and I don’t have any complaints to speak of. I was just hoping for something a little more, even though I’d been warned by the reviews that it wasn’t the best King book on the market.

Would I recommend it? I mean yeah, but mainly because I recommend King in general. It doesn’t make sense to get to this one ahead of the other three books in the Bill Hodges series, and to be honest I wouldn’t even recommend those over some of King’s old school classics. But it’s worth picking up eventually or if you see it going second hand in a charity shop. And I’m glad that I’m that one step closer to finishing every book he’s ever written. So what’s next?

Click here to learn more about The Outsider.