A Wild Sheep Chase, according to the man himself (in What I Talk About When I Talk About Running), was his “real starting point” as a writer – and that makes sense. Hear the Wind Sing, his first novel, has all the hallmarks of a Murakami novel, but doesn’t quite work as well. He hasn’t really found himself yet, and it kind of has the feel of a “first novel”. I haven’t yet read Pinball, 1973 – but it’s always been pretty hard to find in English, so I’m thinking he doesn’t exactly hold it in high regard.
This book is the third in the “Trilogy of the Rat”, which is a series of novels (the first three of his career) loosely tied together by an unnamed protagonist narrator, his friend “The Rat”, and J, the Chinese owner of a bar.
The narrator, recently divorced, is an advertising executive lost in a job he cares nothing for. His longtime friend, The Rat, sends him a photo of a sheep with a star-shaped birthmark on its back. The narrator uses this photo in an advertisement, which draws the attention of a wealthy and powerful man’s assistant. The assistant tells the narrator he has two months to find this sheep, or his life will be ruined. Turns out, the sheep is the embodiment of his wealthy benefactor’s power.
And that’s the clearest summation of the book I could come up with.
This probably isn’t the first book you should pick up if you’ve never read a Murakami before. Maybe start with Norwegian Wood. But if you’ve found yourself to be the kind of person who does like the author, I think this’ll be worth your time. You know what you’re in for, and you’ll probably enjoy it.