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From the beloved author of cult sensation Convenience Store Woman, which has sold more than one million copies worldwide and has been translated into thirty-three languages, comes a spellbinding and otherworldly novel about a woman who believes she is an alien. Sayaka Murata's Convenience Store Woman was one of the most unusual and refreshing bestsellers of recent years, depicting the life of a thirty-six-year-old clerk in a Tokyo convenience store. Now, in Earthlings, Sayaka Murata pushes at the boundaries of our ideas of social conformity in this brilliantly imaginative, intense, and absolutely unforgettable novel.

As a child, Natsuki doesn't fit in with her family. Her parents favour her sister, and her best friend is a plush toy hedgehog named Piyyut, who talks to her. He tells her that he has come from the planet Popinpobopia on a special quest to help her save the Earth. One summer, on vacation with her family and her cousin Yuu in her grandparents' ramshackle wooden house in the mountains of Nagano, Natsuki decides that she must be an alien, which would explain why she can't seem to fit in like everyone else. Later, as a grown woman living a quiet life with her asexual husband, Natsuki is still pursued by dark shadows from her childhood and decides to flee the "baby factory" of society for good, searching for answers to the vast and frightening mysteries of the universe―answers only Natsuki has the power to uncover.

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.

Editorial Reviews

A New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice
Named a Best Book of the Year by the New York Times, TIME and Literary Hub
Named a Most Anticipated Book by the New York Times, TIME, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, the Guardian, Vulture, Wired, Literary Hub, Bustle, PopSugar, and Refinery29

"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? Natsuki, 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 fervour, brilliantly exposing the callousness and arbitrariness of convention." —New Yorker

"Shocking, hilarious, and hugely, darkly entertaining. Murata has crafted an unforgettable, original hybrid of absurd fantasy and stark realism." —Financial Times

"A strange and dreamlike story of a young girl who comes to believe she's an alien." —USA Today

"As in Convenience Store 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 swerve into the 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

"If you're in the mood for weird, Sayaka Murata is always a reliable place to turn . . . [Earthlings] centres on Natsuki, a character whose story begins in childhood with her cousin in the mountains and spirals ever more darkly (and bizarrely) into adulthood and its many strange reckonings. This is a story that's best not to spoil, but it will get into your head." —Seattle Times

"A frequently disturbing but pacy read, with its own off-key humour." —Guardian

"Horrifyingly bizarre and wildly transcendent . . . A powerfully good read." —Yvonne C. Garrett, Brooklyn Rail

"A methodical descent into a very special, almost rational kind of madness . . . About far more than the endless trauma of fitting in. It's a story about the mental gymnastics that lead us to strange and unearthly places to survive . . . Horror is often a mirror for things we'd rather not see, and sci-fi is often a vehicle to places we'd rather be. Murata marries elements of both into one meticulous journey to the heart of human psychology." —Alexis Ong, Tor.com

"It's the book's visceral, grim savagery, and those final shocking pages that makes this such a vital, powerful novel . . . Earthlings is the sort of challenging, confronting fiction that wakes you up with a jolt and leaves a lasting impression." —Ian Mond, Locus

"A sharp interrogation of the way our brains and bodies react to trauma and to feeling "˜other' that forces anyone to question what their place is, what's truly necessary to exist in society, and what "˜normal' truly means . . . Murata's novels are a valuable, heightened exploration of the intense discomfort that people, autistic or not, who are just a little outside of society can feel when they try to force themselves to fit in. Murata's message is: stop trying." —Marianne Eloise, i-D

"Intimate, deadpan, and unflinchingly unhinged . . . Eleven-year-old protagonist Natsuki navigates through a brutal and lonely childhood to arrive in an adulthood spent raging against the system and descending into what might be madness, all to the (distinctly off-) beat of Murata's exceptionally fun prose . . . Amid all the hedgehog and alien talk is a novel that asks how happiness and freedom can be possible inside a stiflingly anxious world, and its answers, while grotesque, are worth reading." —Wired

"A curious novel—quaint and quirky at the start, then increasingly bizarre and frightening right up until its horrific and unbelievable end. With sparse language and sharp social commentary, masterfully translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori, Sayaka Murata skewers the trappings of modern life and introduces readers to an innocent pushed to the very edge of sanity . . . Heartrending, resonant, and unforgettable." —Book Reporter

"Murata's unsettling, madcap 11th novel (after Convenience Store Woman) chronicles the nightmarish discontent of one girl amid the deadening conformity of modern Japanese society . . . The author's flat, deadpan prose makes the child Natsuki's narration strangely and instantly believable and later serves to reflect her relationship to Japan's societal anxiety. This eye-opening, grotesque outing isn't to be missed." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"An indelible portrait of an imaginative young woman learning to survive. Original in conception and astute in its social critique; highly recommended." —Library Journal (starred review)

"Societally defiant, shockingly disconnected, disturbingly satisfying . . . Murata again confronts and devastates so-called 'normal,' 'proper' behavior to create an unflinching exposé of society." —Terry Hong, Booklist

"Earthlings continues to explore life on the fringes in Japan through an even darker and weirder lens, one that will take most readers on a wild ride far beyond the outermost limit of their comfort zones . . . The story's grotesque joy depends on the surprise at just how perverse things can get . . . Enthusiastically challenges most of our most deeply held societal taboos . . . A mind- and soul-expanding countercultural battle cry that is utterly one of a kind." —BookPage

"A shocking allegory about the consequences of nonconformity . . . Perfect for fans of Chuck Palahniuk and Ottessa Moshfegh, this worthy follow-up to Murata's acclaimed Convenience Store Woman will stay with readers long after the story is over." —Shelf Awareness

"I loved this book! It easily converted me to being an alien. A radical, hilarious, heartbreaking look at the crap we have all internalized in order to fit in and survive." —Elif Batuman, author of The Idiot

"Earthlings takes the mood of colourful disquiet she honed in Convenience Store Woman and pushes it further out. The boy and a girl at the heart of her latest believe they have landed on earth from outer space. Raised by separate families and treated badly, they tack toward each other in this immensely charming, strange and heart-stomping tale. The imagination of this writer grows and grows like outer space. Earthlings should be one of the main fictional events of 2020." —John Freeman, Literary Hub

"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

"In 2020, we finally get our hands on Sayaka Murata's newest novel . . . A new statement by Murata that finding your own freedom is a struggle against family and society which takes sacrifice." —Books and Bao


The Author

One of the most celebrated of the new generation of Japanese writers, Sayaka Murata, has won the prestigious Akutagawa Prize and the Gunzo, Noma, and Mishima Yukio Prizes. Her story, 'A Clean Marriage', was featured in Granta 127 Japan. She is 36 years old and works part-time in a convenience store.

The Translator

Ginny Tapley Takemori has translated fiction by more than a dozen early modern and contemporary Japanese writers. Her translation of Sayaka Murata's Akutagawa prizewinning novel Convenience Store Woman was one of the New Yorker's best books of 2018, Foyle's Book of the Year 2018. It was shortlisted for the Indies Choice Award and Best Translated Book Award. Sayaka Murata's Earthlings (October 2020) has already been named one of Time's 'must-read' books of 2020. Her translation of Kyoko Nakajima's Naoki prizewinning The Little House was published in February 2019, and Things Remembered. Things Forgotten, a short-story collection by the same author, co-translated with Ian MacDonald, is due in spring 2021).

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Sayaka Murata
Granta Books
Year of publication
21 Sept 2021
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