The novel is built on the notion that very late at night, after the
lamps of logic have been snuffed and rationality has shut its eyes,
life on earth becomes boundariless and blurred. Individuals who were
separate during the day begin to lose uniqueness, to leak
distinctiveness, melting into a soft psychic collective. As the hands
of the clock slice deeper into the shadows, physics weakens, yielding
to metaphysics, and the rigid you and I of things breaks down. During
the wee hours, we’re all in this together, our spirits spooned like
Alienation, a recurring motif in the works of Murakami, is the central theme in this novel set in metropolitan Tokyo
(though this is not explicitly stated) over the course of one night.
Main characters include Mari, a 19-year-old student, who is spending
the night reading in a Denny's. There she meets Takahashi, a trombone-playing student who loves Curtis Fuller's "Five Spot After Dark" song on Blues-ette;
Takahashi knows Mari's sister Eri and insists that the group of them
have hung out before. Meanwhile, Eri is being watched in her sleep by
someone sinister. Eri also suffers from social withdrawal, a condition
often referred to as hikikomori.
Mari crosses ways with a retired female wrestler, now working as a manager in a love hotel
(whom Takahashi knows and referred to Mari), a Chinese prostitute who
has been beaten and stripped of everything in this same love hotel, and
a sadistic computer expert. The story takes place in a world between
reality and dream.