This is a really weird book. I mean it. The competing-realities plot isn't unusual--in this case, is the world of Zod Wallop real, or is it a psychosi...moreThis is a really weird book. I mean it. The competing-realities plot isn't unusual--in this case, is the world of Zod Wallop real, or is it a psychosis?--but in most fantasy novels with this plot, the point is that the fantasy is real and eventually everyone knows it. Zod Wallop is different because even though parts of the fantasy turn out to be true, they may only be true because of a shared hallucination thanks to experimental drug testing. And is it an alternate reality, or a twisted version of our own? Part of the beauty of Zod Wallop is this indeterminacy, in itself. There's a moment where Harry Gainesborough, grieving over his dead daughter, imagines that he's in the wrong world--that there's a world in which his daughter is still alive, and his not being there is a cosmic mistake. In the end, this turns out to be both true and false, which is a good description of the book as a whole. With elegant prose and exquisite characterization, Zod Wallop is both strange and beautiful.(less)
This book didn't age very well; the premise (that artists use GPS data to create virtual works of art only visible with the right technology) now seem...moreThis book didn't age very well; the premise (that artists use GPS data to create virtual works of art only visible with the right technology) now seems unlikely and a little weird, given that the actual result of publically-available GPS tracking has been geocaching and comforting female voices directing you to your destination. I didn't care for the overarching conspiracy plot, which felt subordinated to the individual "quests" of the three POV characters, even though those storylines all fed into that plot. In the end, it was Gibson's ability as a writer of prose that kept me interested, as well as how the conspirators executed their act of terrorism/patriotism.
UPDATE: I just learned that this book is a sequel to Pattern Recognition, emphasis on "sequel." I thought it was the first book because it didn't seem to have the immediacy of its predecessor. More evidence in the "this didn't age well" column.(less)
I got the book from the library, and therein lies a tale. The first thing that struck me about this book was the weight--originally published in three...moreI got the book from the library, and therein lies a tale. The first thing that struck me about this book was the weight--originally published in three volumes, the complete novel tops out at over 900 pages, which was not bad but certainly unexpected. The second was that the library's plastic cover, essential to protecting the unusually thin dust jacket, also destroyed the effect the book's designers intented. You can see from the cover photo that the dust jacket is translucent, letting the cover images (female on the front, male on the back) show through the "clear" cutouts; the spine is the same. But in a library edition, the white paper that wraps around behind the dust jacket makes the translucent cover opaque and kills the effect.
Why does this matter? What's the point of discussing the physical book before its contents? Because the design of 1Q84 is a part of the story, a subtle reminder of how the two worlds are connected in barely noticeable ways. This is not so much about alternate or parallel worlds as it is about how things balance, and how some things can only happen in one place or another.
It's Tokyo, 1984. Aomame is a special type of assassin, an otherwise ordinary woman who kills abusive men otherwise outside the law. On her way to an "appointment," she takes a maintenance ladder out of a traffic jam and ends up in a world almost exactly like her own, but with a few crucial differences, a world she names 1Q84. Tengo is a would-be writer who takes on an unusual and legally ambiguous task: rewriting a brilliant but stylistically flawed novella by a dyslexic and socially awkward teenage girl. Her strangely compelling story opens the way for him to enter 1Q84. In alternating chapters, Tengo and Aomame's stories converge, bringing them together--or back together, because in an impossible coincidence, they first met in fourth grade and haven't forgotten each other in the twenty years since.
I read this in about three days, didn't want to stop, and yet I can't really say I liked it. It's brilliant, of course. I never felt frustrated at the changes in narrators, never had trouble keeping track of the characters (though the Japanese names may not be easy for Western readers), and enjoyed working out the details of the various mysteries. I think it helps not to read this as straight fantasy, even though I wouldn't call it magical realism. Murakami has a good handle on the tropes of archetypal fantasy, very impressive in a writer of what otherwise might be considered literary fiction. On the other hand, the question of whether the Little People are real or metaphorical isn't answered (though in my opinion, they are real, given the way Aomame and Tengo make a physical escape from 1Q84).
This should have been 3.5 stars. I'm giving it four stars instead of three because anything I feel compelled to finish in less than three days must be something I was attached to. The problem is that this book has a number of very explicit sex scenes--not, in my opinion, titillating, but definitely explicit--and I don't really care for that. Since they almost always serve to further the plot or explore character development, I can't say they were unnecessary, but that doesn't mean I have to enjoy them. There are a few other things I'm not sure about: for example, why is Tengo referred to exclusively by his first name, but Masami Aomame is only ever called Aomame? (The names in this translation are given in Western style, surname last, and it wasn't until the investigation into her family is revealed that we learn Aomame is a surname.) Is Fuka-Eri dohta or mata, and does it matter? The kind of book this is, I go back and forth between seeing this as cleverness and annoyance.
Thanks to the sex scenes, I don't know if I can recommend this to any of my friends. I do recommend it to readers of complex literary fiction who aren't put off by explicit descriptions of sex, some of it violent.(less)
I re-read this in honor of Bradbury's passing. Story collections are hard to rate, because I never love all of the stories. Stand-outs for me, in this...moreI re-read this in honor of Bradbury's passing. Story collections are hard to rate, because I never love all of the stories. Stand-outs for me, in this collection, are "The Fox and the Forest," about fugitives from a totalitarian future; "Marionettes, Inc.," where you can buy a doppelganger at a price that's more than just money; and, of course, the superbly creepy "The Veldt," probably one of Bradbury's best-known short stories.
The other stories, with a few exceptions, are still interesting as stories as well as being interesting examples of early SF. I remember being seriously creeped out by "Zero Hour" when I was a kid, and the ending of "The Rocket Man" seemed so tragic. I did *not* remember that some of the stories were about religion, and not in a negative way. And there are a few that just seem lacking somehow; "The Exiles" is about fantasy and horror creatures and authors, banished from Earth to Mars, now threatened with destruction rather than exile, but Bradbury did it better in "Usher II" (part of The Martian Chronicles) even though the two stories are thematically different. Some seem weak because so much else has been written on the same subject or the same theme in the sixty years since they were written. "No Particular Night or Morning," for example, is about a spaceman who goes crazy because he's in space and it's all empty and stuff.
Still, what strikes me about this collection as a whole is that there is no possible way someone could write like this and get published these days, at least not for a general audience. And the variety of companies that hold the copyrights! Love Romances Publishing, Inc! Bradbury was born in the right era, and what he wrote influenced an entire genre.(less)
I loved the overview of philosophies and the whole, I don't know, first two-thirds of the novel. But I didn't care for how it dissolved into a fantast...moreI loved the overview of philosophies and the whole, I don't know, first two-thirds of the novel. But I didn't care for how it dissolved into a fantastic altered-reality novel; it just didn't grab me.(less)