I just finished Haruki Murakami’s new short novel, After Dark. In the process I read a lot of reviews that said this one wasn’t as good as Kafka on the Shore and that Murakami is in decline. I don’t buy it. What has always attracted me to Murakami is the way he creates characters that you can identify with and even though they are surrounded by this magical realism environment you can still imagine them really existing in Tokyo. I’ve been there and I have seen people like Mari and Takahashi in the book.
Murakami has also said that writing those large epic novels like Kafka on the Shore and The Wind Up Bird Chronicle is a really draining process and he feels his best work comes out in his short stories. It is obvious that Murakami just applied that short story formula to After Dark. Yes, this piece has less of the mystical realism that we expect from him and the ending leaves you wondering what the point of the mystical realism was (conversations that the main character had in the story illustrated and served the same literary purpose — I won’t go into more detail in order to not give away a big plot point) but it was a good read none the less.