I actually tried to write a (sort of) review for this book… It gave me quite a lot food for thought so it seemed stupid to me not write anything. It’s not your typical review, of course, there’s tons of them out there, so this is more like my feelings on the read.
Underground came into my hands while I was browsing the shelves of a bookstore for sociology and semantics books. I was busy reading other books so I started reading it after a long time, but when I finally got to read it, I was engrossed in its beautifully composed non-fictional world. I had never come across this kind of book, so it intrigued me even more… The fact that a book written in 1998 describes a gas attack through the eyes of actual victims seemed surreal to me for some reason.
I’ll have to agree with some reviews on here: the first part was a bit repetitive, but nonetheless it still managed to keep me interested. The book contains a couple of disquieting interviews, which definitely serve as part of its charm, thus making Murakami’s attempt at capturing the more obscure side of the attack quite successful.
I personally found the second part even more engaging. I enjoyed reading the author’s take on the matter and how the atatck was received and dealt with – it inspired me to look into how media and society as a whole tackle a problem like the Aum cult. It got me thinking. How different are the Japanese from us? How would the people around me react if something like that happened here and their loved ones were affected (or not)? How much of a difference would the overall response have had nowadays, almost 15 years later?
The Aum members interviews were surprisingly thought-provoking for me. They introduce you to a tiny fragment of what the cult used to be, not to mention the religious take most of them have.
If I could, I’d like to personally thank Murakami for the insight he has given me.
“The rain that fell on the city runs down the dark gutters and empties into the sea without even soaking the ground.” Murakami delves deep into the japanese psyche, attempting to find the true image of Japan’s society.
The cult members had some pretty engaging notions on the idea behind the religion and their living conditions. As one of them stated, “Aum Shinrikyo is a collection of people who have accepted the end.” or as Murakami writes in the afterword, “in Aum they found a purity of purpose they could not find in ordinary society.”
Anyway, I’ve been giving this post too much thought and I’m not really the type to be able to analyze a book of such gravity. It’s definitely worth a read!