I'm about half-way through "Hard-boiled." I read "The Chronicle" about two years ago and thought it was simply amazing, but my friend who lent me "Hard-boiled" who has read a lot of Murakami novels said none of the other books achieved the level of excellence of "The Chronicle".
I don't know. I'd say I'm enjoying this about as much as I enjoyed "The Chronicle" although in a different way. I was transfixed by the ambience of "The Chronicle", but I find myself just laughing out loud at every other page of "Hard-boiled". Maybe it's the constant accounts of food and drink? They were omnipresent in "The Chronicle", and now I see they're kind of a signature motif. Like when the guy is kicking his door in, and instead of running out the back, he sits down for a beer and potato salad. I almost lost my shit when I read that.
And then there are the little observations and summations of daily life. I laughed for a full minute at the story of how he bought his "shopping car". Even thinking about it makes me crack up.
This character isn't quite the jellyfish that Toru was in "The Chronicle", but there's still that persistent air of laziness (like sitting down to eat when thugs are kicking your door in, "What? I was hungry.") Part of what makes it so funny, as the interview with Murakami on Salon pointed out, is that these characters stand in such sharp contrast to the typical exemplar of a Japanese male: polished, hard-working, and serious.
Speaking of seriousness, I ought to warn the community that I'm not a very deep reader of fiction. This isn't to say I don't enjoy deeper readings by others. I just tend to point to sections that amuse me or bring out some reaction in me. So my contributions will likely be along the lines of this post.