So, as a fan of Murakami, why did it take me so long to get to this? – Well, I was scared it wouldn’t be as good as the ones I’d read – 7 others to date – and I was right – this is likely my least favorite of the Murakami fiction I’ve read – it’s tied with Norwegian Wood which is similar. And my favorites are The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, my first Murakami, and 1Q84. I’ve also enjoyed a couple of his collections of short stories.
So what’s wrong? I think Murakami wears off – many of his tales deal with the same things or combinations of them – the loneliness of youthful existential angst, dreamy otherworldliness, suspense, sex, music, cats, books, and wells – more sex, some gruesome stuff. And those old Murakami motifs are all here along with a lot of fear and a smattering of the occult. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle uses all these things and was innovative then, and hugely successful so … he’s repeated the pattern. The very long 1Q84 is a bit different in some ways getting back to some politics ala The Wild Sheep Chase.
In Sputnik Sweetheart we have a first person young man who is smitten with a woman who won’t return his affection. Come to find out she’s lesbian and has a lover – or a would-be lover. Sumire is a self-centered airhead, very immature, loner and wanna-be novel writer and she seems to use the narrator’s affection for her own purposes. One day Sumire goes on a business trip with her lover, Miu, and they end up on a Greek Island. The narrator gets a phone call from Miu saying Sumire has disappeared so he travels there to help.
The entire ambiance and major theme is existential loneliness – the Russian satellite, Sputnik, is a a lonely piece of metal floating around in space. I suppose that might be an interesting metaphor for the young people at which I think this novel aims.
Bottom line – skip it unless you’re a die-hard Murakami fan or a young adult – ages 17 to 25 or so.