The other Murakami
Ryu Murakami’s novel From The Fatherland, With Love tells the story of a covert invasion of Japan by North Korea.
The novel, originally published in 2005, is set in the near future. It depicts a vulnerable economically stagnant Japan where unemployment and homelessness are rife.
An advance invasion party composed of crack North Korean commandos are tasked with infiltrating and taking over a strategic Japanese peninsula, Fukuoka.
To avoid bringing the wrath of the American military, Japan’s allies, down on their heads, the commandos masquerade as an independent faction who are looking to break away from North Korea and annexe the vulnerable peninsula, taking its inhabitants hostage.
When this ploy succeeds the Japanese government struggles to find an adequate response. Fukuoka is cordoned off from the mainland as the Government dithers about the correct way to proceed.
It’s up to a colourful band of misfits, who inhabit unofficial outcast colony on the peninsula to fight for Japan. The question is should they fight for the very society which shunned them in the first place?
From The Fatherland, With Love features a huge cast of characters, none of which are fleshed out very deeply. Most of the assembled sociopaths, due to their outlandish nature, resemble cartoon characters.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though, and allows for a lot of gung-ho fun and some tongue in cheek stylised ultraviolence. This is done without overburdening the reader too much with ethics or consequences.
My favourite parts of the book involved the North Korean Commandos. I especially enjoyed when they were passing themselves off as South Korean tourists as part of the initial invasion plan.
The North Korean’s are consistently bamboozled by capitalist decadence. A particularly funny scene involved two of the female commandos puzzling over the impracticality of first-world women’s underwear.
The fish out of water scenario worked very well, and I felt a full novel could have been spun out of such a premise
My gripes with the novel derived mainly from not fully understanding the cultural context in which the novel was produced, which I can hardly blame the author for.
I assume aspects of it are allegorical critiques of modern Japan, which in the author’s eyes has become too soft.
The novel seems to be a call for a more hawkish approach to Japanese military and less dependence on its military allies although I could be wrong.
From The Fatherland, With Love is a fun-filled romp, although it is perhaps a little over long. It is also a tad bogged down by the author’s over reliance on exposition as a narrative tool.
Despite these flaws I had enough of a good time reading this book to warrant taking a chance on reading more of Murakami’s novels.