This short book is a collection of six short stories, thematically linked - all take place shortly after the 1995 Kobe earthquake. All display Murakami's masterful writing. Technically, the book probably deserves 5 stars, but somehow, I found myself only liking it 4-stars' worth. Which is still excellent.
As in much of Murakami's writing, the characters here are 'floaty,' hard to pin down or grasp.
UFO in Kushiro.
The main character here is the literal embodiment of this aspect of Murakami's characters. His wife has left him because, she says, being married to him is like being married to "a chunk of air." A friend asks him to deliver a package, which seems to be a pretext to get him to meet a couple of sexy young women... but abruptly the narrative shifts to a musing on identity and loss.
Landscape with Flatiron
The title embodies Murakami's frequent juxtaposition of the surreal and the mundane. A young woman who has run away to live with her loser boyfriend is strangely drawn to an eccentric older man who is obsessed with lighting bonfires. Eloquent, depressing and shocking.
All God's Children Can Dance
The main character's mother, an eccentric born-again, has always claimed that he was the product of an immaculate conception. Unsurprisingly, he doubts this, and when he randomly encounters a man who fits the description of one of his mother's pre-conversion lovers, he follows and stalks the man. Again, it deals with issues of identity.
A businesswoman on the verge of a nervous breakdown vacations in Thailand. Her hired driver, she learns, was the private chauffeur of a Norwegian man for over thirty years. Now that his employer has died, his identity is oddly truncated. Reminiscent of 'The Remains of the Day.'
Super-Frog Saves Tokyo
The only story here with 'fantasy' elements - although it could all be a drug-induced delirium. An ordinary businessman is approached by a human-sized, talking frog and told that he is the only one who can possibly save Tokyo from a devastating earthquake, if he assists the frog on his heroic and probably-doomed quest. Absurd, but touching, as it discusses what it means to rise above.
Three friends meet in college. Both men fall in love with the woman... but one has the personality of taking what he wants, while the other tends to defer. Years pass, the relationships continue, odd and complicated.