If you don't mind spoilers and want a chapter-by-chapter timeline, this site is excellent.
November 21 to 24
Kafka (not his real name) Tamura runs away from home on his fifteenth birthday, under the shadow of a dark prophecy (which I still don't know). This might sound a bit bland (I mean, another prophecy kid, really?), but the truth is the story has its interesting points. For example, in the very first chapter Kafka is urged on by the slightly creepy "boy named Crow," a sort of invisible...guardian? Friend? Hallucination?
Sadly, though, the following chapters were a big letdown. Kafka travels by long-distance bus and the journey is excruciatingly boring--it's like you're there with him! I guess you could say that's good... Puts us right in the scene... *sigh*
Soon after--surprise! Kafka wakes up in a garden, covered in blood, and has no idea what happened or how long he's been passed out. News breaks out that his father was stabbed to death. Hmmm... *suspicious, ain't it?*
Another main character is the old man Nakata, who experienced a very unusual accident as a child and ended up a bit dim-witted. This character is introduced for the first time through top-secret interviews (yeah, there's a whole Area 51 feel surrounding this story...). To tell the truth, at first I didn't care much for the tedious statements. However, as the unusual story unfurled, I found myself wanting to know more.
Finally, I have to warn you all about a certain chapter about a library. I don't know how I pulled through. It literally sucked away my will to live and I ended up skimming a few of the pages just to get it over with. It's somewhere around chapter 3 or 4. I don't dare look back because I have the feeling that once I open those pages again the boredom will drag me down into a puddle of despair. It might just be me, but it was the most boring chapter I've ever read as far as I remember. You'll know which one it is when you come across it. Basically, Kafka investigates a library. Oh, no. The memories.
Did I say the library chapter was bad? Wait until you reach Chapter 16. It's a completely different type of bad--it's EVIL. I'll admit it's powerful. It follows Nakata on his search for the lost cat Goma into the home of Johnnie Walker, who I will now describe as Satan personified. Did I mention I can't stomach animal cruelty? I've said enough. This chapter disgusted me so much I had trouble sleeping that night--and the following night as well. However, this is for now one of the most powerful scenes I've read in the entire novel, and Walker is especially interesting. I do hope we get to learn more about him because he added a deep touch of dark fantasy to the story.
I do feel sorry for Nakata. The poor old man has been through so much--though I feel much, much sorrier for Mr. Kawamura...
November 26 to 30
Fish and leeches rain from the sky. Kafka reveals the prophecy (and it's one most of us have heard before...). Nakata, after recent horrifying events, decides to leave his neighborhood for the first time in his life. He's searching for something--though he's not sure what. As if driven by some divine force, Nakata hitchhikes his way west and eventually teams up with a young man called Hoshino, who drops everything to be his loyal follower. Together, they find the entrance stone--and open it (basically, Hoshino has to turn it over and it becomes the heaviest stone in the world). Now that the door is open...what'll happen?
So what does Kafka do while all this is going on? Basically, he makes friends with Oshima, a librarian at the famous library we read about earlier, and ends up living in the library's guest house. He learns about Miss Saeki, the head librarian, and her tragic past. Monumental coincidence: when she was younger, Miss Saeki recorded a single called Kafka on the Shore. The lyrics are the most ambiguous thing ever, but I have the suspicion we'll understand everything clearly as the pages go by.
His story so far is also much more straightforward than Kafka's. Kafka's chapters involve long existentialist paragraphs, quotes from Greek plays and philosophers, and repetition of the same metaphysical questions. All this is all right--up to a point. As a reader, I usually want more action and less metaphysical moping about.
So far, I've read up to the point where Nakata and the faithful Hoshino reach the library where Kafka has been spending his days--though Kafka is away at the time because the police are searching for him regarding his strange disappearance and the even stranger death of his father.
My next post will be the conclusion and final overall opinion. Not that many pages left! I hope all the loose ends get tied up!