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 A scholar of drugs, speed, violence, gore, and Tokyo's teenage underground, writer/filmmaker Murakami (69, 1993, etc.) weighs in with a new novel that ably encapsulates the fin de siäcle cultural detonation of Japanese youth. The ``coin locker babies'' (an apt metaphor for kids unmoored from tradition) are Kiku and Hashi, left in train-station lockers by their mothers shortly after birth, who grow up to become templates for a society losing its religion. Adopted and raised on a remote island in the shadow of a ghost town, Kiku embraces his athleticism and learns to pole-vault while Hashi, the punier of the two, cultivates an interest in music that will eventually lead to runaway success as a pop star. Separated for a while, both boys gravitate to Tokyo, where they are reunited in Toxitown, a haven for freaks and hustlers. The bisexual Hashi has met a recording tycoon who will transform him from sniveling prostitute into captivating media god; Kiku, by contrast, shacks up in a condo with a model named Anemone and her pet crocodile. When a scheme to reunite Hashi with his mother goes awry, resulting in the televised shotgun death of a woman who is really Kiku's mother, Kiku is charged with murder and sent to a juvenile detention facility, where he meets a gang of teen offenders and enlists them in his plot to exterminate the population of Tokyo with DATURA, a deadly experimental chemical agent. Meanwhile, Hashi, who has practically disowned his coin-locker brother, undertakes a wildly successful but psychologically debilitating tour in the company of his beleaguered wife and a band of dissolute gay hipsters. He and Kiku never reunite, but in the book's closing pages they reach an eerie, elliptical dÇtente. Snyder's agile translation preserves much of the shock, beauty, and pathos in this apocalyptic minisaga of troubled times.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1995
ISBN: 4-7700-1590-9
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Kodansha
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1995


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