After Dark by Haruki Murakami
Fiction, 256 pages
After Dark is a mash-up of encounters, set in Tokyo, between midnight and the early morning hours. The story centers around two sisters, Mari and Eri. Eri is the older, stereotypically beautiful, shallow, and disturbed older sister while Mari is the responsible and studious younger sister. Although about every other chapter is about Eri, Mari is the central character as Eri remains asleep for the majority of the book.
The plot in this book is complicated and all over the map so its impossible summarize concisely. Some of the encounters include some sort of The Ring-like mysterious entity on a TV screen, translating for a beaten Chinese prostitute, and connecting with a sweet musician.
After Dark is very complex, conceptual and artistic. It’s very metaphorical so if you’re looking for answers at the end of the book, you won’t find any. There are many layers to the story that I wasn’t able to peel back until after I had finished it and spent some time thinking about it. It is also very character driven. The character development is excellent and feels very real.
The thing I liked the most about this book was the mystery of the disembodied voice. The beginning of the book and the chapters about Eri are told from an unknown viewpoint. In the beginning, it sounds like a group of people who happen to be out wandering the streets late at night and focus in on Mari. It is only until it starts to observe Eri that the reader realizes that it is something else entirely. This entity refers to itself as “we” and slowly reveals more details about itself as the story goes on. It says that its job is to observe and collect data – not to interfere in the progression of events. It has camera-like qualities as it can zoom in and out, but it also has a voice. You never find out exactly what it is, but it makes the story much more interesting and creepy.
This was the first Haruki Murakami book I’ve read, and it certainly will not be the last. I can’t wait to read more of his work and I understand now why many people are crazy about him. After Dark is a short, but engrossing read and I highly recommend it.