“From the Fatherland, With Love” is not the book that you would immediately associate with Ryu Murakami. Best known for his careful dissections of contemporary Japanese culture, Murakami has traditionally written shorter, direct novels so when this massive door stopper arrived in post, I was rather stunned. What's inside is also very different from what you would expect from him but luckily just as brilliant. “From the Fatherland, With Love” is a sprawling alternative history tale set in 2011 around a fictional North Korean invasion of the Japanese island of Kyushu.
Invasion happens right after Japan fell victim to an almost complete economic meltdown, leaving it open to a military attack from an opportunistic force. As mentioned, North Korea gives it a go, capturing Fukuoka using small rebel expeditionary crew. The main intention is to set up an independent state within Japan before embarking on an invasion on wider scale. Japanese government is uncharacteristically inefficient in response, doing a half-hearted counterattack and leading to more even chaos and mayhem. Behind all the events is another critique of the Japanese society which, if we didn't knew better could almost be the influenced following 2011 tsunami and Fukushima nuclear plant catastrophe. As things stand, "From the Fatherland, With Love" was originally published way before, in 2005. With North Korea also being in news on almost daily basis, reading “From Fatherland, With Love” felt like prophetic experience and, at times, rather creepy.
But to be perfectly blunt, this is a proper meaty thriller but Murakami wouldn't be Murakami if the life itself didn't play a trick on all of us.
However, despite opening multiple new avenues, "From the Fatherland, With Love" has some characteristic Murakami elements, including strangely effective resistance movement created by teenagers who would usually be oppressive element themselves. In his heart Murakami is still an anarchist but despite all this, he still seems to be deeply in love with Japan, despite it's many faults. I've especially loved nods to his past novels which constant and careful reader won't be able to miss.
I've enjoyed "From the Fatherland, With Love" immensely and I'm really grateful to Pushkin Press for a chance to experience the ongoing growth of one of the most exciting writers in the world today. Stellar stuff.