This magnificent new novel has a similarly extraordinary scope and the same capacity to amaze, entertain, and bewitch the reader. A tour de force of metaphysical reality, it is powered by two remarkable characters: a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home either to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy or to search for his long-missing mother and sister; and an aging simpleton called Nakata, who never recovered from a wartime affliction and now is drawn toward Kafka for reasons that, like the most basic activities of daily life, he cannot fathom. Their odyssey, as mysterious to them as it is to us, is enriched throughout by vivid accomplices and mesmerizing events. Cats and people carry on conversations, a ghostlike pimp employs a Hegel-quoting prostitute, a forest harbors soldiers apparently unaged since World War II, and rainstorms of fish (and worse) fall from the sky. There is a brutal murder, with the identity of both victim and perpetrator a riddle - yet this, along with everything else, is eventually answered, just as the entwined destinies of Kafka and Nakata are gradually revealed, with one escaping his fate entirely and the other given a fresh start on his own.
Extravagant in its accomplishment, Kafka on the Shore displays one of the world's truly great storytellers at the height of his powers.
Ok, when I first started this book I was annoyed to see that one of the main characters was a 15 year old boy. I was not in the mood for any coming-of-age crap. But then there were UFOs in Japan in the 1940s. And then, talking cats. I was completely sucked in.
Still, there were some problems, some awkwardness that I think I blame on the translator. There was just something about the language, the dialogue, that wasn't the same as in my favorite Murakami books.
Also, when I began the book, I was playing a lot of Katamari Damacy...and I think it all kind of got mushed together - this whole surreal Japanese crazy world metaphor total mind fuck.
-Rachel Whang, Atomic Books Blog