I typically find it hard to put down anything by Haruki Murakami, though usually, it takes me a bit longer than 4 hours or so to read one of his books. But it’s not really about quantity. After Dark is officially a novel, but it’s closer to a novella-and-change; it’s not quite 200 pages. But that’s all that it NEEDS to be. Murakami’s work always has a definite economy to it; even his longest — The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle — is as long as it needs to be.
The story takes place in one night in Tokyo. The narration is a little odd at first; it’s written like stage directions in prose form; the chapters each start with a short sentence saying which “set” we’re on (my word, not his), then a paragraph or two describing it in such detail it sounds like it’s written for a set dresser.
The three threads follow a young woman and the folks she runs into overnight, her model sister who is asleep in her room which almost seems Lynchian, and a salaryman who beat up a Chinese prostitute for having her period when he tried to be with her.
The tone reproduces the feel of overnights — and I’m saying that as a person who used to work Graveyard. There’s that definite kind of stillness and emptiness in the city combined with the slight element of fear from unsavory characters lurking in the shadows. Murakami’s characters, as always, are full of depth and are instantly identifiable. After Dark is a quick night keeping an eye on some of the people you see in the middle of the night — never interacting, but just keeping a safe distance. Unlike some books, it’s not sad when it’s over — you wouldn’t necessarily mind spending more time with these people, but you know that wasn’t in the original bargain.