By Haruki Murakami
While most of Tokyo sleeps, Mari Asai is disturbed from her reading at a second-floor Denny's by a young musician who knows her sister. This loose connection brings Mari on an all-night adventure at the Alphaville love motel. There, she helps to save a Chinese prostitute and befriends the female staff. Interspersed throughout the night is the story of Mari's sister, Eri Asai, who is asleep in an otherworldly dream state overseen by a narrator who speaks directly to the reader. These parallel worlds are nothing new for Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami, who has made a career of writing stories about creepy alternate universes. What is new is his focus on the real world, where there are no ghosts or mythical creatures to steal the scene.
By Chuck Palahniuk
Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club, Choke) is no stranger to society's underbelly. For his latest novel, Palahniuk dives into the world of pornography. Six hundred men are waiting their turns to take part in the world's largest gangbang. This story, which revolves around ever-present porn star Cassie Wright, is told from the points of view of three of the men and the woman who arranged the shooting. Though graphic, Snuff avoids being erotic; it employs a disdainful and distanced description of the sex acts that move the story along.
By Clifford Chase
Grove Press ($12)
A teddy bear, Winkie, who has been passed down from mother to son, finds himself on trial for terrorist acts. Though Winkie's story is surreal, its biting satire of government suspicion makes it compelling. It doesn't matter whether Winkie's story makes sense; he cannot prove his innocence and that puts him in danger of harsh scrutiny from an unseen jury.