A comic version of a white guy with short hair, smiling.

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami

The cover of Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami

This book is actually two books—kind of. The chapters alternate between “Hard-Boiled Wonderland” and “End of the World”1.

In The Hard-Boiled Wonderland, we follow a Calcutec, a human data processor who is doing an encryption assignment for a professor and finds himself in the middle of a huge conflict between the Semiotecs, who want to steal data, as well as INKlings, violent entities who live in the sewers and worship a fish.
The End of the World is about a man who arrives in a surreal town with high walls, unicorns and people without a mind. On entry, his shadow is cut off, and he’s given the job of the “Dreamreader”, which reads dreams from skulls in the library.

I enjoyed guessing how the two stories are related, or if they even are. Both worlds and both stories are interesting in their own way, though I found myself looking forward to the next Hard-Boiled Wonderland chapter—mostly because that story has more action and suspense. The underlying concept is fascinating, and it has a few “oh snap”-moments towards the end. If you like surreal books with novel concepts, I recommend reading this one.

  1. The audiobook is even spoken by two people, putting more emphasis on this concept.