Sayaka Murata – Earthlings

Earthlings is the second novel from Japanese Author Sayaka Murata to be translated into English. Her first, Convenience Store Woman was a huge success in Japan, selling more than 2 million copies there and have been translated into no less than 33 different languages. It has been on my radar for a while, but I decided to jump straight into Earthlings upon it’s recent publication. Having finished this book, I now have a copy of Convenience Store Woman in my “to be read soon” reading pile.

Earthlings is an extraordinary book. It details the life of a Natsuki, initially as a child who is completely out of sync with her family and school colleagues. Her introverted world, filled with thoughts and dreams of a different, other worldly life, is a fantastical as she tries to visualise herself at the centre of things, rather than on periphery.

Events come to a head with a couple of life changing events, one in her school environment, then another one during a family gathering in the mountains. Uncomfortable topics are raised in a stripped back, factual way, yet the emotion is powerfully compelling and unsettling.

We then catch up with her in later life. Still an outsider, though with an ally this time. One who shares her disgusted view of the society that is all around them. Eventually a return trip to the mountains brings about a bizarre and explosive climax to the book.

The book often leaves questioning the reality of the events. Are these thoughts and actions simply in the imagination of Natsuki? Or they a defence against the isolation and mistreatment she receives from those that do actually interact with her?

The book frequently leaps from the mundane to the fantastical, keeping you enthralled and appalled in equal measure.