It's an interesting book--beautifully written and inventive in a fresh way*. I've been anxious to read Murakami because I wanted to get his contemporary take on Kafkaesque absurdity. For the most part I think he pulls it off, but there's something about the weirdness of this story that feels unearned. In Kafka there's the sense that the unpredictability of the stories, the lack of control the characters experience, is a commentary on the human condition. In this novel I felt like I'd been shot into space for a fun ride with no real destination.
Not that I have a problem with that. One of my guiding principles about literature is borrowed from Milan Kundera's The Art of the Novel, where he decries intellectual misomusy as "tak[ing] revenge on art by forcing it to a purpose beyond the aesthetic." Murakami has built a beautiful artifact, and I can accept it for what it is.
Now I'm going to start reading Thom Jones: The Pugilist at Rest. I feel a little guilty for not having gotten to this book sooner. I've never heard a bad comment about it, and plenty of people have recommended it. Now I can correct my neglect. And it's something to read while I wait for Tom Maltman's book to come in the mail.
*Edit: "Inventive in a fresh way?" Is there some sort of stale inventiveness of which my subconscious is aware? Such as, "That Shakespeare sure did some original work, but five hundred years have really diminished its relevance?" Geh.