Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki, The Affinities, Notes from the Internet Apocalypse, Book Review

In amazing news, I remembered my local library, unlike my university library, actually stocks fiction books! It's funny how four years of uni has rewired my brain to associate libraries only with academia and, coupled with my reluctance to buy books I wasn't sure I liked, has led to a sharp drop in leisure reading. But now that the discovery has been made, fingers crossed I will at least try to get one or two books read per month.

I've also (sort of) revived my Goodreads account, and have an entire lifetime's worth of books to retroactively rate. Follow me, if you'd like, and recommend me things to read ( :

'Talent only functions when it's supported by a tough, unyielding physical and mental focus. All it takes is one screw in your brain to come loose and fall or, or some connection in your body to break down, and your concentration vanishes, like the dew at dawn... the human body's that fragile. It's a complex system that can be damaged by something very trivial, and in most cases once it's damaged, it can't easily be restored. A cavity or stiff shoulder you can get over, but there are a lot of things you can't get past. If talent's the foundation you rely on, and yet it's so unreliable that you have no idea what's going to happen to it the next minute, what meaning does it have?' - p. 69

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimmage
Haruki Murakami
3 / 5

I've always maintained that Haruki Murakami's books, to me, read like surrealism in written form; a protagonist often placed within meandering, unpredictable situations, the subject matter a swirling, amorphous mass of Western and Eastern references, dreams and reality. There's also a particular cadence that I've noticed in texts translated from Japanese that lends itself well to the overall 'Murakami-ness' of the books which, to me, is a kind of distance or detachment from its protagonists.

In this context, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki is perhaps the most 'solid' piece that Murakami has written; perhaps even the 'neatest', in that there is an unambiguous presentation of the characters key to the story, clear motifs to the characters' names and a consistent, purposeful narrative progression of what is, ultimately, a very simple, character-driven story with more reflection than complication. It's also an interesting look into the regionalism in Japan, where even relatively 'big' cities like Nagoya are distinguished from Tokyo, and the ache of wanting to escape from a 'small town' and from one's comfort circle is at the forefront. Perhaps because it is one of Murakami's 'cleanest' novels that the 'Murakamisms' shine through even more: striking passages reflecting on banalities and the human condition, references to vintage jazz and Western/European literature, erotic dreams, a certain emotional distance in the dialogue and a tendency to 'tell not show' when it comes to characters and motivations, while simultaneously describing the seemingly banal in vivid detail.

Tsukuru is, admittedly, a little predictable and even a tad repetitive, if you're on your fifth or sixth Murakami book but is one of the more accessible Murakami books for those looking to see if they enjoy his style. I do adore the cover art.

The Affinities
Robert Charles Wilson
3 / 5

The tragedy of The Affinities is that it should have been a series of books, not one.

As a standalone book, it blitzes through the plot like it has a strict paper limit, reducing certain elements to blurs when they would have been infinitely more impactful as a clearer, more deeply explored picture. The premise, that of a lonely, disaffected individual finding that a group of people who just get him, remind me very nostalgically of discovering internet communities and fandoms, of the best nights out with my best friends when conversation just flows and, briefly, everything is perfect and wonderful, of my playful, pseudo-armchair-psychologist need for self-reflection through exhaustively cross-referencing Myers-Briggs typing, enneagrams and horoscopes (god forbid).

Wilson taps into that inner utopia and wish of finding a place to truly belong*, a notion that is particularly potent with quiet, introverted, slightly strange people that Adam and Geddy embody, and presents a world where science has achieved this. And while I would call myself a 'soft' sci-fi reader at best and appreciate Wilson's unrelenting focus on Adam's particular human storyline, I can't help but also wish that we could have gotten more hints about what exactly this mythical breakdown of intricate human relationships would involve, on a technical level. That being said, this novel undeniably taps into that aching longing for a group like Tau - where assistance is given without question and understanding between strangers is deep and immediate. That being said, Wilson paints a heavily idealistic picture of Tau. For an organisation that eventually numbers 7 million and given the fact that there are definitely members who are 'on the border' of the classification, suggesting that it's more of a spectrum than a finite category, it is remarkably functional.

Back to the pace. Wilson heavily favours an almost autobiographical tone for Adam, which works in places but also heavily relies on telling the reader everything that has happened, often with unrelenting chunks of explanatory exposition. The time skips are significant, which would not necessarily be a problem but developments are explicitly recounted in almost emotionless detail at the beginning of each section, and would have been much more effective if gradually revealed. In the end, I think the plot ends up a little predictable, falling back into the grooves of narrative tropes and playing out as you might expect.

*My inner Year 12 Advanced English student just shuddered and recoiled

Notes from the Internet Apocalypse
Wayne Gladstone
DNC (Did Not Complete)

The library returns deadline pushed me to abandon this book, unfortunately. TFTIA starts out with an intriguing and completely feasible (and terrifying) premise, but ends up trying to shove as many memes and internet references - of the 'edgier', 4chan variety - in as possible, as if in an attempt to prove it's from the real internet, where the keyboard warriors and dank memes dwell. And while I recognise it's satire, there are just some books that are trying a little too hard, so that the humour is given no time to breathe and ends up feeling a little strained, instead of droll and dry like it (presumably) intends to be. Someone let me know how it ends though.