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Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World (Japanese: 世界の終りとハードボイルド・ワンダーランド, Sekai no Owari to Hādo-Boirudo Wandārando) is a 1985 novel by Japanese author Haruki Murakami. The story alternates between two narratives, "Hard-Boiled Wonderland" and "The End of the World", and has a strange, dreamlike quality running through both.
The first narrative tells the story of an unnamed protagonist in a Cyberpunk future Tokyo who is trained to be what is essentially a human data processor, whose subconscious holds an encryption key to prevent the information from falling into the wrong hands. The second narrative follows an individual who has just arrived in a strange walled town where the inhabitants, including the narrator, have been separated from their shadows and are not allowed to go beyond the town wall. The two parallel narratives begin to bleed through into one another as the novel reaches its conclusion, exploring themes of identity and consciousness.
The novel contains examples of:
- And I Must Scream: What the protagonist and the Professor think living inside one's own mind would be like.
- Badass Bookworm: The Professor is an old man and a brilliant scientist. Despite his age, he still manages to climb an underground mountain with a sprained ankle while fending off horrible underground creatures. His granddaughter also qualifies - she's learned huge amounts from her grandfather and has no trouble dealing with a pair of Semiotec goons.
- Beneath the Earth: The lairs of the INKlings.
- Bittersweet Ending: The End of the World plot, leading to a Downer Ending for the Hardboiled Wonderland plot.
- Big Eater: The librarian in Hard Boiled Wonderland is a thin woman who always seems to be hungry.
- Cyberpunk: Hard-Boiled Wonderland
- Downer Ending
- Elaborate Underground Base: The Professor's laboratory is hidden under a high-security office building in Tokyo.
- Empty Shell: The citizens of the town at the End of the World are basically this, and it is implied that the narrator will become like this once his shadow dies and he is fully assimilated into the town.
- Epiphanic Prison: The End of the World
- Eye Scream: The narrator's initiation as the Dreamreader in The End of the World.
- Fate Worse Than Death: Whether or not The protagonist's eternal life in The End Of The World qualifies as this is handled ambiguously, and ultimately left to the reader to decide..
- For Science!: The Professor's motivation. He only took a job with the System to get funding and test subjects, and his single-minded pursuit of knowledge means he has an unfortunate habit of disregarding little things like experimental ethics when they get in his way.
- Human Popsicle: the narrator of Hard-Boiled Wonderland might end up as one until the Professor figures out how to get his mind back.
- Identity Amnesia: The narrator of The End of the World can't remember anything about himself before coming to the town.
- Jigsaw Puzzle Plot
- Living Shadow: The narrator of The End of the World has been separated from his shadow, which seems to have a mind of its own and which desires to get inside the town so that it can reunite with him.
- The Loins Sleep Tonight: Unicorns are rarely an aphrodisiac.
- Long Title
- Loss of Identity: A major theme.
- Market-Based Title: For whatever reason, the English translation swapped the order of "The End of the World" and "Hard-Boiled Wonderland".
- Mind Rape: The procedure required so that a Calcutec can use the "shuffling" technique to encrypt data.
- Mind Screw
- Nameless Narrative: none of the characters in the book have names.
- Neuro Vault: The protagonist of Hard-Boiled Wonderland has top secret data hidden inside his subconscious to prevent the anti-government Semiotecs from getting at it.
- Noodle Incident: Some of the Professor's past work.
Granddaughter: You sometimes get so wrapped up in what you're doing, you don't even think about the trouble you make for others. Remember that ankle-fin experiment?
- Ontological Mystery
- Ransacked Room
- Science Fantasy: Hardboiled Wonderland is science fiction, while The End of The World is fantasy.
- Those Two Bad Guys: Two thugs show up at the narrator's home in Hard-Boiled Wonderland and trash it, but their purpose is unknown.
- Two Lines, No Waiting
- Unicorn: At the End of the World, there are beasts living outside the town that are described as unicorns, although they are quite different from the traditional description. The narrator uses their skulls for "dreamreading". The narrator of Hard-Boiled Wonderland also encounters a unicorn skull at one point.