“1Q84” by Haruki Murakami (Knopf Books, 2011)

1Q84
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Bestselling Japanese author Haruki Murakami returns with his next encapsulating novel, and this one’s a long one.  Originally released as three separate serialized books in Japan, 1Q84 has been released as a 944-page behemoth in the US.  It is the year 1984 and the main character, Aomame makes the decision and exits a taxicab on a gridlocked freeway and goes down an emergency escape staircase and finds herself transported to an alternate world of sorts, though it is still very similar to our own; she comes to call it 1Q84, where “Q” is Japanese for ?.

Aomame is a special kind of person; technically an assassin who has developed a way of stabbing a person at a specific point in the back of the neck with a small ice-pick type implement that immediately kills the person and makes it almost impossible to rule as anything other than a heart attack.  Aomame’s targets are vicious, cruel man who have been bad to their spouses or children or other people for a long time and don’t deserve to live in this world.

Then there is the other main character, a writer named Tengo, who is rewriting a most unusual novella penned by a seventeen year-old girl with the goal of having it win a literary prize and become a bestseller.  It is a most unique tale about these “little people” who create an air chrysalis, which is the title of the book.  Only, once the book becomes hugely successful, Tengo learns more about the origin of the story from the author, as well as the fact that these little people may very well be real in this 1Q84.

Aomame doesn’t notice much different with the world of 1Q84, except that the police wear different uniforms and carry automatic machines guns, and also come nightfall there are two moons that rise up: one that looks just like ours, and another smaller misshapen one that rises shortly after it.  This is also a world where the little people exist too, though only Tengo knows about that.  And yet, under Murakami’s skillful hand, the two are destined to meet and be together, after their previous involvement when they were children; it will take time, but the question remains whether it will be soon enough before the little people carry out their own special plan.

1Q84 has many of the elements that Murakami fans have come to expect from him, with his unique characters that draw you in, a crazy world that makes you feel like you’re playing a Japanese horror game in some ways, and a writing style that will sweep you along.  A weak point with the book is that while it was originally three books, it could’ve used some editing, which is always a risk with long works that span multiple volumes, and it slows the pace, detracting from the story.  Nevertheless, 1Q84 is a darkly enchanting novel that will suck you in and not let you go until you are satiated at the end, where a number of questions are answered, though of course, not all, for something must be left to the imagination, otherwise it wouldn’t be a true Murakami novel.

Originally written on February 13, 2012 ©Alex C. Telander.

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