I have grown to love this book. When I first finished it, I thought, "meh." It wasn't quite the Murakami I knew and was looking for at the time. It's lacking a certain degree of weird. (There's some weird alright, but not the super crazy weird you might come to expect from Murakami.) With each passing month, however, I think about it more and more; it's slowly sinking in on deeper levels. Partially this is because the story itself is haunting and unresolved. On the other hand, I think it's also an example of Murakami at his best - balancing his surrealist, other-wordly imagination with his poetic simplicity. Just the right amount of weird, in other words.
He's working with many of the same themes and character types - mysterious characters, heavy noir vibe, jazz, femme fatale, doomed love, zippy car ride, a finely shaped ear - but they're dialed back a bit. This, to me, ends up making them more potent and not relegated to the world of allegory and kitsch.