After reading through some of the reviews, i think it would be safe to advise people that if they like stories that are concrete, explained, & make sense, they maybe shouldn't read After Dark. Any plot is very loose, & there are parts that some may feel are pointless.
Personally, i liked this book quite a lot, maybe in part because of its strangeness. Not everything is resolved; some things are simply introduced or hinted at. Things aren't tied up in a neat little bow; not everything makes perfect sense. But instead of being agitated by this kind of experimental style, i found it engaging & interesting, & it draws a closer parallel to life. After Dark seems more like a time frame-- starting from 11:56 PM & moving on from there-- & watching people pass through it. The reader finds out some things about them, but not everything about everyone is given away, & the reader parts ways with the characters without knowing where things will take them. It's more like a long observation that's allowed to follow people throughout the night; there is no big climax at the end.
Some people, it seems, also feel that the parts with Eri are pointless, maybe in large part because they are so strange & nebulous & there is no explanation, ultimately, for what takes place with her. Regardless, i would say they still have their place in the story & lend to its late night kind of atmosphere; to remove them would hurt the overall story considerably.
Overall, as the first book of Murakami's that i have read, i can say that i'm not disappointed. I really liked After Dark, but i would caution those who like more "normal" books.
My First Murakami, It Whets My Appetite For More
I am glad that I am comfortable with ambiguity. That personality trait came in helpful while reading this, AFTER DARK, the first book by Haruki Murakami I had read. I had heard that Murakami is a writer heavy on the esoteric, the metaphysical, the ambiguous. I heard correctly. That was not a concern of mine. But what about the prose itself? Some authors write in such a way that the optic nerve just slides over the words, transmitting the wonderfully drawn pictures instantly into the brain. Others write prose as thorny and difficult as walking on a rusty nail.
Fortunately, Murakami falls into the first category. Although AFTER DARK's "plot" (is it even that?) may be way out there, the writing itself is quite accessible. That comes in handy when we dive in.
AFTER DARK alternates between a realistic thread and one created of the bizarre, set over about seven hours of night. Mari, 19 year old college girl, is trying to get some pleasure reading in at an all-night Denny's when she is interrupted by Takahashi, a trombone player about to hit practice. They had met a couple of years ago through Mari's sister, Eri. Before the night is through, Mari will also meet the manager of a love hotel (that's where unmarried couples in Japan go to get some luvin' on) and a Chinese prostitute, beaten to a mess by some john. We, though not Mari, also meet that john in his personal and professional life. The strands of the relationships between these characters gets, if not exactly woven together, at least loosely connected with one another.
Interposed with this is the story of Eri, the older sister. Stuck in a very deep sleep for months, we encounter her as pure spectator, Murakami using an extreme objective point of view for this encounter. Something bizarre is about to happen, and the flickering and static of an unplugged television lets us know that that "something" is not of this reality. A masked man, perhaps threatening, appears but with the sole aim, it would appear, of watching Eri, as well.
Is this a dream? Is this the projection of someone's inner psyche onto a blank space for pure observation? We do not know. It is, however, a world unfamiliar and strange to us and interesting to explore. The ambiguous nature of the fantastical plot allows for considerable speculation. Feel free to do so, pick up AFTER DARK and start reading. But do not expect to solve the mystery of what is, in this book, unanswerable.
Great characters, but short and a little messy
I have to admit that I love a book with a good ending that ties up all loose endings, so I might not be the best person to review Murakami books as he often ends with many questions lingering... but I will try to put my bias aside for the sake of other readers. I think that this book was rushed and the story wasn't well constructed. He seemed to randomly insert supernatural occurrences for fun, and they didn't really add to the book.
I loved the Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and would recommend it across the board (with a warning to not expect everything to be explained). After Dark was not so great. I did find the characters compelling and the scenes were once again very vivid and interesting, but there wasn't much of a story and I felt that it was too short -I think he could've expanded on the world he created in this novel because I loved that it all took place in the middle of the night in such a vibrant city as Tokyo. Read the Wind-Up Bird Chronicle instead.
Short compelling novel that speaks of loneliness. The backdrop is Tokyo at night. You can almost see the cheap florescent lighting casting a sickly color on the characters who inhabit the city "after dark." Almost "magical realism" except that it is written by a Japanese author.
Not even close to Kafka on the Shore
This was somewhat entertaining to a point, but left me feeling like something is incomplete. Maybe it's a "character study" because, otherwise, didn't bring me around to feeling anything different.