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The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

Reading this book so close on the heels of Infinite Jest makes comparison inevitable. The style of the two novels is very similar in that both books go on and on without explanation or logical progression or obvious meaning, and the endings leave many questions unanswered. It seems like a bad formula for fiction, and judging by the Amazon reviews, it's not for everyone (you like that, Scott?). But personally, I found both books to be so well-written that I was happy just to go along for the ride (in fact absolutely compelled to continue reading), because the journey was its own reward.

Now for the differences. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is more bizarre and darkly sinister than the Jest. It's also more accessible, I think, because--apart from being much shorter--the language is clearer and more straightforward and easier to skim through. Which I found myself doing several times, because the mood is so emotionally detached and surreal that it just floats along without a care for rhyme or reason. I didn't get as emotionally involved with the characters in this book because they don't display any emotions to get involved with. Besides that, new characters that appear to play a major role in the plot will build up tension and stories around themselves and then suddenly disappear.

These little shakeups are good, though, because the reader is conditioned not to expect anything in the way of resolution, and that way the ending isn't as jarring as it could have been. It is seen as natural and fitting that so many questions should be left to the imagination. In fact, as the story winds up its inscrutable spring, twisting up the plot beyond the limits of credulity and normalcy, it would be truly unsettling to reach a typical conclusion at the end. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle succeeds in creating a reality of its own, and it excels by staying true to that version of reality. I bought into it entirely. That, for me, is something that makes a great book.

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