You know the kind of book that is so good you never want it to end, but at the same time, so compelling you just can't finish it fast enough? The kind of book that transports you to a completely new world you never want to escape but fills you with anticipation at the thought of discovering the secrets held on the final page. 1Q84 was just that kind of novel for me. Haruki Murakami took me to an exciting fictitious place I never wanted to leave, whether because I had to go to work, sleep, eat, attend to social obligations, or engage in just abut anything else that would take me out of the story in which I was totally wrapped up. The wonderful thing about Murakami's most recent book is that, clocking in at 925 pages, I oftentimes felt like I never would reach the last page and have to leave the world of Murakami's imagination.
1Q84 is a fascinating blend of Murakami's incomparable literary style, elements of science fiction, and the never-too-distant fear of Big Brother, a concept made popular by George Orwell's iconic and similarly titled novel 1984. It is definitely a darker novel than most of Murakami's other fiction, however, with elements including religious occultism, murder, child sexual abuse, and painful loneliness. Humor and love, of course, have their places, but the overall tone of the story is a bit of a departure from what some of this author's fans have probably come to expect.
1Q84 follows the both Aomame, a 30 year old fitness instructor, and Tengo, also 30 years old, a mathematics teacher and wannabe novelist. Their two stories are obviously fated to be intertwined, though the full extent of their past connection and fated future involvement is revealed little by little in an enticing, page-turning fashion.
Aomame is a serious woman, one who takes good care of herself, performs her work dutifully, and has little time or concern for socializing with others. On the side, she performs jobs of a heavy, criminal nature for an elderly client of hers from the gym where she is employed. After the completion of one such task, she notices strange changes in her life and the world in which she finds herself. She begins to question whether she's even in the same world as that in which she spent her previous 30 years. To differentiate this unintelligible new place from the world she knew in the year 1984, she refers to it as 1Q84.
Tengo finds himself thrown into a situation that is of questionable legality as well. Though he has yet to write a prize-winning piece of fiction, or one that's even been published, his high-powered editor Komatsu recognizes and values Tengo's talent and keeps him in close touch. In fact, Komatsu has Tengo screen potential pieces for a new talent fiction award. When Tengo comes across an unusually fantastic novella entitled Air Chrysalis, he immediately takes it straight to his editor. Though the writing itself is desperately in need of thorough revision, the story contained therein is an imaginative tale unlike anything that has ever crossed Tengo's or Komatsu's desks. Better yet, the novella's author is a 17 year old girl. With his finely honed instincts, Komatsu knows this piece of fiction has what it takes to win prizes and become a bestseller - that is, after he can convince Tengo to ghostwrite a revision.
Air Chrysalis' author, Fuka-Eri, is a remarkable character as well, an unusual girl who never utters more than a single sentence at a time and fails to end her questions with the inflection typically indicative of a query. Her mannerisms and personality are distinctively odd but compellingly so, while revelations from her background offer a continual flow of surprises. As she comes to know Tengo, he can't help but find himself compelled to rewrite this strange girl's work and figure out what exactly it is that has shaped her into the peculiar person she is.
It's hard to review a book like this - its very length guarantees that 1Q84 contains a multitude of plot elements that beg to be shared, but the joy that any reader is bound to feel upon uncovering them for his- or herself makes it entirely ridiculous for me to consider sharing them here. But any fan of Murakami's work is undoubtedly familiar with his talent for story construction, his penchant for seamlessly blending fantasy and reality, and his patient method of guiding readers to uncovering the mysteries he creates. His work is quite a treat to read and 1Q84 is no different.
For such a long novel, 1Q84 rarely failed to keep me engaged and excited. There was a span of about 100 pages toward the end that dragged a bit, though this may be more owing to the intermittent nature of my reading opportunities rather than any faults of Murakami's. At this point, I was mostly concerned with figuring the story out and full of anticipation for the seemingly elusive conclusion. And I am happy to report (without giving any specifics away!) that the ending was satisfying and well-suited to the nature of the entire book.
I highly recommend this novel, but if you don't think you can devote the amount of time necessary to completing a 925 page book, save this one for a break during the holidays. I thoroughly enjoyed it but think I would have even more so if my reading had not been so choppy. In the meantime, pick up any of Murakami's other books because they are all truly fantastic. If you're interested, I've reviewed a few of his other works already including Norwegian Wood, South of the Border, West of the Sun, and What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.
at 9:13 AM