This book originally came out in Japan in 2005, placing the story in what would have been the near future, in a time of severe economic crisis, with the yen worth next to nothing, banks closed & both food & fuel in short supply. All this combines to leave Japan in a vulnerable state with it’s close neighbours vying for dominance & it’s one time allies unable or unwilling to help. Into this bleak picture steps an old enemy with a plan to invade, that is both as cunning in its set up as it is shocking in the simplicity in which it unfolds.
Japan has become a nation whose time has passed, a place where camps for the unemployed and homeless are commonplace & living rough on the streets is the only reality for a growing number of the populace.
Into this scenario a force of highly trained & ruthless North Korean commandos easily infiltrate and take over control of the city of Fukuoka, setting up their own government with little resistance from the local population and often with help from self interested parties.
With the national government having no plans, no solutions and no idea who to blame, although that’s not stopping them from trying to apportion it. With the government both local and central too scared to lift their heads out of their collective anuses, it is left to Murakami’s Marauders, a disparate bunch of disaffected youth, social outcasts murderers, bombers & satanists to face the foe. This group under the leadership of Ishihara, an accomplished poet and winner of Kyushu Prefecture Cultural Award for Literary Excellence, decide that they will take on the North Koreans, they formulate a suitably diabolical plan, grab what weaponry they have stockpiled, within a short period of time slaughter and mayhem commences.
This as a book should come with a warning Not Recommended by the Japanese Tourist Board. No one comes out well, or to be more accurate the characters that one would feel most for, are the same ones that should be locked away from sight as not suitable, not fitting The Traditional Japanese Image (TM), in fact any image a nation would want to project concerning itself.
Earlier this year I read the other Murakami’s (Haruki) books 1q84 and thought that it was an ambitious attempt to collate all of his ideas, themes & obsessions ( love, loneliness, surreal worlds, free will & religious cults) throughout his fiction and nonfiction into one grand expression, into one book. I also thought that although it was an epic effort – it was also a failure, that it didn’t gel as a whole. I think that this idea also applies to Ryu Murakami, except From The Fatherland With Love succeeds, this book covers the usual areas of violence & technology, the divide between those that are excepted by and those society considers unwanted. It also shoves a great wedge between Japan’s old martial/ traditional image and the reality of it’s modern self, a nation that has not just lost it’s way, but had no idea it had one. It also manages to chuck in another Ryu Murakami bugbear with references to Japan’s reliance for protection on the USA.
The difference between From The Fatherland With Love, and 1q84 I believe is that Ryu Murakami’s book works as a whole where 1q84 didn’t. Ryu Murakami has created in this book a wonderful cast of characters in a tale that rollicks along with all the mayhem, violence & action one expects from a Ryu Murakami book & yet he still manages to gel his vision, still manages to get his world view down on the page & into the reader.