Three down, one to go. That’s about how I’m feeling now: I’m Murakamied out.
But I was right: I liked A Wild Sheep Chase a lot more this time around, though I don’t think it’s for the same reason. Though Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973 are about the same characters, you don’t need to have read them to enjoy or understand this one. They’re not helpful much at all, really.
At the end of Pinball, 1973, the Rat had just skipped town, and the (still) unnamed narrator had started dating the (also unnamed) girl with the magical ears. A Wild Sheep Chase is set a few years later, after the narrator and the friend with whom he started the translation company have expanded to advertising and more general publications. He’s gotten a few letters from the Rat, one of which enclosed a photo of a pasture of sheep, which the narrator used for the front cover of a bulletin from an insurance company. He gets a call from the secretary of the Boss, a very powerful but mysterious political figure, and he ends up going on a Wild Sheep Chase, looking for one specific sheep in that herd, which involves old and new characters. Fun times.
I can definitely see the progression toward Murakami-ishness, continuing from Pinball, 1973. There are, of course, cats and wells, though I’d forgotten about Murakami’s fondness of sheep – a similar creature appears in Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, my very first Murakami (which I didn’t like as much the second time around). The magical realism elements are here along with the general mysteriousness. A Wild Sheep Chase is, compared to his first two, anyway, a much better novel. Not his best, though. I keep reevaluating that issue, and I might eventually come to a decision, but Now Is Not the Time.
So. I liked A Wild Sheep Chase much more this time around, and it’s certainly worth a read either on its own or in conjunction with the others in what I’ll still call a series. I do see how this might reasonably be called a trilogy, but I’m sticking with making it all one series because it involves most of the same characters – if not all. I think I remember the next (and final!) one, Dance Dance Dance, involving the girl with the magical ears. But we’ll see. Right now, in fact.