1Q84: Review

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Title: 1Q84

Author: Haruki Murakami

Publisher: Knopf

Rating: 3.5/5

A young woman named Aomame follows a taxi driver’s enigmatic suggestion and begins to notice puzzling discrepancies in the world around her. She has entered, she realizes, a parallel existence, which she calls 1Q84 —“Q is for ‘question mark.’ A world that bears a question.” Meanwhile, an aspiring writer named Tengo takes on a suspect ghostwriting project. He becomes so wrapped up with the work and its unusual author that, soon, his previously placid life begins to come unraveled.

As Aomame’s and Tengo’s narratives converge over the course of this single year, we learn of the profound and tangled connections that bind them ever closer: a beautiful, dyslexic teenage girl with a unique vision; a mysterious religious cult that instigated a shoot-out with the metropolitan police; a reclusive, wealthy dowager who runs a shelter for abused women; a hideously ugly private investigator; a mild-mannered yet ruthlessly efficient bodyguard; and a peculiarly insistent television-fee collector.

I was really excited to read this book. Maybe it was because of my somewhat high expectations that this book fell relatively low. Or maybe not, I’m not sure. All I know is that this book felt kind of empty to me by the end. It’s a huge book but after the first 300 pages or so the plot seemed to slow down considerably. Nothing much seemed to be happening. There were a couple bumps after that but overall the plot was pretty flat.

That being said, I really enjoyed the setting. This is the first book I’ve read set entirely in Japan and I loved reading about the culture and Tokyo.

I’ve heard that many others enjoyed this book and the characters were engaging and relatable, but as a mostly plot-based reader, I felt a bit disappointed at the end. However, there were still really interesting parts that got me thinking and I’d still recommend this.

SPOILERS:

The beginning really drew me in right away. I liked how we jumped right into the main action without much preamble. Aomame crossed to 1Q84 and Tengo accepted the rewrite of Air Chrysalis within the first couple chapters and things moved fairly quickly. I enjoyed both Tengo and Aomame as characters and their individual perspectives. I loved Tengo’s point of view in the beginning; hearing him talk to Komatsu about rewriting the story was really entertaining and I loved the premise.

Aomame was unbelievably tough and I loved that. The strange work she did–how she worked with the dowager to kill men who abused women–was something I’d never read about before and it was really intriguing. I always wanted to know more about it.

The whole Sakigake and 1Q84 thing was so interesting and it really was the main part I kept reading the book–I wanted to find out what was really going on there. But that didn’t really happen and left me a bit disappointed. I thought Sakigake would be more of a major plot point but throughout the book, I came to realize that the story was more focused on Aomame and Tengo’s finding each other. I wished the storyline had included more parts of Sakigake because it was really behind everything that had happened. The Little People and the cult had a far smaller part in the book than I thought. I’d have loved to see more of the elusive Little People and how big of a role they really played in Sakigake. I also would have like to see more of the inside of Sakigake. What did it look like? What went on inside there?

Fuka-Eri was another character I would have loved to know more of. I wanted to know if she’s all right because she herself said she was being chased by the Little People. What would they do to her if they found her?

My main issue with this book was the relationship between Tengo and Aomame. I didn’t like how they both felt they were completely sure that they were in love with each other despite not having seen each other for over 15 years. It was cheesy and unrealistic.

For another thing, the ending left me completely unsatisfied. There were so many questions left unanswered and I really don’t think anything was resolved. Somehow, Aomame and Tengo managed to escape back to the world of 1984, but what then? Also, Leader had told Aomame that entering 1Q84 was like a train switching gears, which means that the whole world was essentially in a parallel universe but not everyone noticed. So when Aomame crossed back to 1984, does that mean that the whole world changed back? And if it did, does that mean that the world is constantly “changing tracks” but no one notices? What’ll happen to Aomame’s child once it’s born? Will Sakigake come after it? And are the Little People still going to chase Aomame and Tengo in 1984? There’s much more where that came from, but it’d take up too much space and time. Point is, there were too many unanswered questions for the ending to be satisfying. I need more.  Maybe this was supposed to be open-ended or maybe there was some large philosophical ending that I missed, but from where I’m standing right now, I’m just confused.

Overall, while the plot was a bit dry at time, I did enjoye the concept and setting.

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