Japanese author Haruki Murakami's new novel will have a huge initial print run of half a million copies, the publisher said Tuesday, with pre-orders at record levels and stores set to open early for this week's release.
The eagerly awaited novel -- the author's first in three years -- will hit bookstores on Friday, with major outlets planning to open early at 8:00 am (2300 GMT, Thursday), while at least one large seller in Tokyo will fling open its doors to fans at midnight.
Online book giant Amazon Japan had received more than 20,000 pre-orders as of Saturday, faster than any other book by Murakami, said publishing house Bungeishunju Ltd, which has ordered its largest ever initial hardback print run.
The new book's title is only available in Japanese for now: "Shikisai wo Motanai Tazaki Tsukuru to Kare no Junrei no Toshi". An unofficial translation renders it: "Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and the Year of his Pilgrimage".
It will be Murakami's first work since the final instalment of "1Q84" -- a three-part novel containing the usual Murakami mixture of parallel universes, bizarre characters and surrealist happenings as the lives of a female murderer and a male novelist intertwine.
"1Q84", which can be read as "1984" in Japanese, proved a worldwide phenomenon.
Both the publisher and Murakami have kept a thick veil on what the new novel is about, with the author releasing only two short statements on it thus far.
"I intended to write a short story at first, but it has become a long piece naturally as I go on. This does not happen often in my case, maybe for the first time since 'Norwegian Wood' I guess," Murakami said in one statement.
The other statement said: "'1Q84' was a story somewhat like a roller coaster, so I wanted to write something a bit different from that. I had no idea what it would be like until I started writing."
Murakami's novels, which have drawn international acclaim and been translated into almost 40 languages, include the titles "Norwegian Wood", "Kafka on the Shore" and "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle".
The author, who divides his time between the US and Japan, has a huge following, with fans praising his lyrical and surreal prose, which often takes as its subject Japanese people living on the margins of a homogenous society.