By Sayaka Murata
As a child, Natsuki doesn’t fit into her family. Her parents favor her sister, and her best friend is a plush toy hedgehog named Piyyut who has explained to her that he has come from the planet Popinpobopia on a special quest to help her save the Earth. Each summer, Natsuki counts down the days until her family drives into the mountains of Nagano to visit her grandparents in their wooden house in the forest, a place that couldn’t be more different from her grey commuter town. One summer, her cousin Yuu confides to Natsuki that he is an extraterrestrial and that every night he searches the sky for the spaceship that might take him back to his home planet. Natsuki wonders if she might be an alien too. Back in her city home, Natsuki is scolded or ignored and even preyed upon by a young teacher at her cram school. As she grows up in a hostile, violent world, she consoles herself with memories of her time with Yuu and discovers a surprisingly potent inner power. Natsuki seems forced to fit into a society she deems a “baby factory” but even as a married woman she wonders if there is more to this world than the mundane reality everyone else seems to accept. The answers are out there, and Natsuki has the power to find them.
Dreamlike, sometimes shocking, and always strange and wonderful, Earthlings asks what it means to be happy in a stifling world, and cements Sayaka Murata’s status as a master chronicler of the outsider experience and our own uncanny universe.
“To Sayaka Murata, nonconformity is a slippery slope . . . Reminiscent of certain excellent folk tales, expressionless prose is Murata’s trademark . . . In Earthlings, being an alien is a simple proxy for being alienated. The characters define themselves not by a specific notion of what they are—other—but by a general idea of what they are not: humans/breeders . . . The strength of [Murata’s] voice lies in the faux-naïf lens through which she filters her dark view of humankind: We earthlings are sad, truncated bots, shuffling through the world in a dream of confusion.”—Lydia Millet, New York Times Book Review
“What does it mean to feel at home in the world? Natskui, the protagonist of this startling novel, doesn’t know: from a young age, she’s convinced that she has been contacted by aliens who will take her away from a middle-class Japanese life marked by cruelty . . . Murata takes a childlike idea and holds onto it with imaginative fervor, brilliantly exposing the callousness and arbitrariness of convention.”—New Yorker
ore Woman, Murata displays her gift for scrambling notions of utopia and dystopia to propulsive effect—only this time, her characters are convinced that they’re rebelling, not conforming . . . Murata manages what her characters cannot: She transcends society’s core values, to dizzying effect. As Earthlings swerves into violent, transgressive, fantastical territory, Murata—ever the good scientist—keeps us in thrall by never putting her thumb on the scale. Her matter-of-fact rendering of wild events is as disorienting as it is intriguing.”—Stephanie Hayes, Atlantic
“A frequently disturbing but pacy read, with its own off-key humor.”—Guardian
“From the author of 2018’s comic gem about a Japanese misfit, Convenience Store Woman, a new novel featuring a young woman who is convinced she is an alien.”—Guardian
“This is one that should be on everyone’s wish list.”—Japan Times