Vegantrav's Reviews > 1Q84

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
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's review
Dec 26, 2011

really liked it
Read in December, 2011

basic summary with no spoilers:

Murder. A love story. Strange parallel worlds. Mysterious, occult forces. Sex. An examination of the principle of Chekhov's gun.

With 1Q84, you will be engaged; you will be entertained; you will be delighted. But, if you're like me and probably most typical readers, you will also experience a few disappointments, too.

1Q84 is the story of Tengo and Aomame. Their respective stories are told in alternating chapters, and gradually, ever so slowly, their tales begin to intertwine. Eventually, a third main character, Ushikawa, is introduced and given his own chapters that alternate with those of Tengo and Aomame.

The year is 1984, at least at first. The city is Tokyo. Aomame is a fitness instructor with an interesting and dangerous part-time job. While carrying out the duties of this part-time job, Aomame inexplicably moves from Tokyo in 1984 to a slightly different Tokyo. Aomame calls this parallel world or new world 1Q84 to distinguish it from the world in which she had previously lived, 1984.

Tengo is a math instructor and an aspiring novelist. He is unexpectedly presented with the chance to re-write/ghostwrite a novel by a Fuka-Eri, a 17-year-old girl who has written a compelling novella, Air Chrysalis, but which is in need of some major polishing: the story itself is fascinating, but the prose and the structure reflect Fuka-Eri's youth, so Tengo is brought in to re-write/ghostwrite Air Chrysalis so that it can be published. The process goes smoothly, and Air Chrysalis becomes a bestseller.

A new religious group has emerged. They live at the Sakigake compound. They have a mysterious Leader with great power. He hears the voices of the Little People. It is through the Sakigake cult, though in a most unusual fashion, that the lives of Aomame, Tengo, and Ushikawa become connected.


plot: outstanding, compelling, fascinating; the set-up for the mystery that drives the plot is fantastic

subplots: Ushikawa, Tamaru, the dowager, Tamaki, Ayumi: each of these secondary characters have great stories of their own

character development: fully realized, very interesting, realistic characters

action: scattered throughout are edge-of-your-seat thrills and chills

The first 500-odd pages of this 925-page novel are completely entrancing.

*************SPOILER ALERT***********


length: the second half of the novel does in many places seem to drag a bit; with some good editing, this novel could have been cut down to 700 or so pages and still been outstanding; there is too much re-hashing of similar themes in the last 400-odd pages, too much focus on Tengo's relationship with his father, too much detail on how Aomame passes the time while hiding out . . . thankfully, balancing out these parts are the chapters on Ushikawa, which are great

resolution: I don't want to give away too much, but suffice it to say, there are many, many loose ends that are not addressed by the novel's end; yes, we have Aomame and Tengo's love story resolved, but there are far too many unanswered questions: what world have Aomame and Tengo entered? is it the original 1984, or some new world? the latter seems to be the case, but there is no explanation; what happens to Tengo and Aomame in this new world? is Sakigake in this new world, too? what about the dowager and Tamaru: are they in the new world? does the new world have air chrysalises and Little People, too? what happened in the world of 1Q84 with the new air chrysalis that the Little People were making? what happened to Fuka-Eri? was Fuka-Eri a dohta or a maza? what was the novel that Tengo himself was writing? will Tengo and Aomame be able to continue their previous lives in this new world, or will they have to leave Tokyo or even Japan? are the Sakigake people still going to be able to pursue Aomame and Tengo in this new world? are, possibly, Ushikawa and Ayumi alive in this new world?

dialogue: at times, some of the dialogue seems quite stiff and unnatural; now, this may be because this is a translation from Japanese, or it may just be a difference between the Japanese culture and English-speaking culture, or it may just be bad dialogue

sex: I really don't mind a bit of erotica here and there, but it did get to be a bit much in this novel

Despite some problems with the novel, overall, I very much enjoyed it. It was a great read for my holiday vacation.

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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Scott I just bought my copy yesterday.

Vegantrav Sweet! I look forward to hearing what you think of it.

I just picked it up because it was on most lists of the 10 top books of 2011, and I really did enjoy it. Still, at 900-plus pages, it requires a substantial time commitment to finish, but I will say that the first 500 or so pages really did fly by (at least for me).

Scott I bought four books the same day, so I might not get to it right off, but will sometime this winter.

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