Winner of the Tanizaki Literary prize (the Japanese equivalent of the Pulitzer), by acclaimed young Japanese novelist Murakami: a stunning combination of the contemporary and brash with elegiac allegory, all topped off by a strong measure of cyberpunk. The "hard-boiled" hero, 35 and divorced, is a man of possessions--a collection of imported whiskeys; interests--old American movies and cooking; but no emotions. Which, coupled with his brilliant work on computers, makes him the ideal candidate for a mysterious aging scientist holed up under the sewers of Tokyo. Here, protected by a waterfall and by flesh-devouring creatures, the INKlings, from the two competing information organizations that control everything in the country, the scientist has devised a perfect secret code by operating on the brains of selected computer workers. The hero, summoned to the scientist's lair, is presented with a unicorn's skull and told of a project called "The End of the World." Alternating between these encounters with the scientist, the scientist's granddaughter, and bully-boys bent on finding out what he knows, there is the story of the ancient walled town at the end of the world. In this home of one-horned beasts, a young man arrives, is separated from his shadow, and is set to work interpreting the dreams of the skulls in the library. The two worlds increasingly connect and at the end fuse, with the hero, though certifiably dead, for the first time morally and emotionally alive and resistant to the society's pervasive control of the individual. One of those rare postmodern novels that is as intellectually profound as stylistically accomplished, by a writer with a bold and original vision.