Author: Haruki Murakami Can you imagine a book where the characters have no names? How about imagining a human calculating machine with junction boxes in his brain?
The hero/narrator/calculating technician (Calcutec) works for the ‘system’, a firm which helps in protecting valuable data for clients. He gets a strange assignment from an old scientist to help him do some data manipulation. The scientist fears that the data could be stolen by a rival firm called the ‘semiotec’, and it would lead to catastrophe. The scientist also gifts him a unique skull as a parting gift.
The Calcutec meets a beautiful librarian and with her help researches about the skull. He learns that the skull belongs to a mythical creature, and begins to doubt his sanity. His life tumbles upside down, when a fat guy and a lean man get inside his apartment and smash his whole house. They warn that the scientist has skewed the Calcutec’s mind with the data he gave, and the world is going to end because of this. The lean guy asks the Calcutec to run away from the place and find the truth. They demolish all his belongings and finally slash his stomach to make the drama look convincing.
The hero receives a call from the fat granddaughter of the scientist, who pleads him to rescue her grandfather, as she fears he has been kidnapped by either the system or the semiotic. The Calcutec finally understands what has been done to him and the mystery unfolds into a painful nightmare.
In another narrative stream, there is a town surrounded by a wall, monitored by a Gatekeeper. The town is completely perfect, and the people do their respective tasks. They do not have shadows, and they cannot leave the town. A person enters the town, without his memories, and his shadow, and tries to make sense of all of it. He is given the task of reading dreams from old animal skulls placed in a library. The Dream reader is assisted with a librarian, who is familiar to him, but still doesn’t know anything about her.
The Dream reader’s shadow contacts him, and together they plan to escape. Did they escape? Did the Calcutec finally find the key to the puzzle? The story makes you anticipate till the end as the two worlds converge. The Calcutec is a laid back character, averse to making decisions, and lets his life flow from one point to another. His reactions on being forced to something unpleasant are described in a way unique to Murakami. Also some allegories from this book are borrowed for his later work “Kafka on the shore”.
The author traverses between two realities and we can no longer believe which is the real one and which one imaginary. Murakami does it every time!