Almost Transparent Blue (限りなく透明に近いブルー Kagirinaku tômei ni chikai burû) is the masterpiece of Japanese novelist Murakami Ryu—and a narrative of drugs and debauchery that will make any fan of Hunter S. Thompson (or porn) stand up and applaud.

The story, which is said to be based on the author's life, looks at a clique of young Japanese and nissei people living near Yokota Air Base in the Dark Ages of the seventies. Murakami writes in the first person as "Ryu," an intelligent guy who's lost himself in sex, drugs, and rock and roll.

Murakami is big on imagery, as he was originally an artist before setting his sights on literature, and nowhere in his body of literature is this more apparent than in ATB. The many drug-enhanced scenes in the book capitalize on utterly grotesque pictures of dying insects, festering leftovers, and anal sex, among other things. In many ways, reading this book reminded me of watching Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, except that ATB makes drugs look even worse, by pairing them up with the erect penis of a large black Air Force mechanic named Jackson.

If one thing can be said about ATB, it is that Murakami pulls no punches. The book is designed to scare the living crap out of you (or, if you're into the freaky hentai school of erotica, to give you good wank material). It's not just a compost heap of disconcerting feelings, though: Ryu is more than an actor in an S&M flick, he's a lost youth looking for a way out of the black hole of the narcotics lifestyle as B-52's soar overhead.

Be prepared to read this book with your mouth hanging open, unless you have experience with sucking dick for coke.

Published in 1976; translated in 1990, published in America by Kodansha. Winner of the Akutagawa Prize.