I rate as follows: 5 Stars = Loved it. 4 Stars = Really liked it. 3 Stars = Liked it. 2 Stars = Didn't like it. 1 Star = Hated it.
This audiobook is very different from most in how it is presented. Picture sitting in the library room of an old, grand manor at night, curled up on a sofa by a crackling fire, while a distinguished man in an armchair quietly reads to you from some leather-bound volume in his lap. That is the feel and quality of this recording, with both the benefits and drawbacks that come with it.
The soft, rich voice of the author is both lyrical and melodious - and that remains a constant of the production. His voice lulls you into a nearly hypnotic state where you can end up just listening to the sound of him speaking, and miss what is actually being SAID. What this meant for me was that the book took more concentration than I normally need, because there were no audio cues of any event taking place. Accounts of a quiet afternoon tea are read with the exact same tone and cadence as the description of a dramatic, terrifying storm at sea, or the occurrence of an attempted murder. Blink, and you'll miss it.
To me, the story was beautiful and honest. It took far more time than usual to learn about and care for the cast of characters (and through this to appreciate the story in it's entirety); but in real life, we don't really know someone's full value when we meet them. People are nuanced, complicated, and cautious; and it takes time, care, and effort to fully understand and appreciate them. We reveal ourselves slowly. I thought this story was a great reminder of this.
In the end, whether you enjoy this book may possibly depend on what your expectations are, and what situation you will be listening to it in. I can't imagine having gotten as much from it, or enjoying it nearly so much if I was listening in the car over a handful of days, as I sometimes do; but listening to it at home, quietly, over the course of 24 hours was a rare and special treat that felt both magical and intimate.
This story will stay with me, and I'm glad to know it.
This was my first book by Haruki Murakami, and it was an extraordinary experience. At one point in the book, while discussing one of the main characters, it states that something "Had shaken his heart from a strange angle". And I think that's a good description of how this book affected me. It shook my heart from a strange angle.
I've never read a book quite like this one; it was unique. It has a certain moral ambiguity to it, especially in the first half. This caught me off guard and was unsettling, but it did fade to a much lesser issue as the story progressed.
The story weaves common threads throughout the book; opening up questions on themes of loneliness, the vacuums left by people or loss (and whether these can or should be filled), both the damage and comfort of religion, how our childhood scars affect us as adults (and how much power we should allow them to have) and the very thin line - the delicate balance - between Right and Wrong, Good and Bad.
Mostly, however, the book is a deep mystery that pulls you into it's dark running current and carries you along. I know some of the other reviews did not appreciate or enjoy Ms. Hiroto's narration, but I loved it and couldn't imagine the story without it. I thought it was exquisite, as was the performance of the other narrators as well.
The stunning, stark, simple honesty that was the hallmark of any conversation held by the character of Tengo was my favorite aspect of the book. It's hard to describe, but the character always speaks and replies to questions with no pretense, no pride... it really impacted me.
Especially towards the second half of the book, there were sudden twists of humor that were a welcome gift; inspiring short, unexpected guffaws.
Yes, the book can be unsettling on many levels; but it's also very impactful. I'll never forget my time in 1Q84, under the two moons.
There are very few books that I've waited as long for, or in as much anticipation of. I was a big fan of "The Passage" when it came out, and made a point of reading it again just before the release date of "The Twelve". This turned out to be a much smarter thing to do than I had anticipated, and I encourage anyone that's considering doing so to do it. "The Twelve" takes the surface story we got in "The Passage", and adds depth, breadth, and context to it. One of the main ways Cronin does this is by fleshing out the background and history of the characters; some of which were not major players in the first book.
Readers of "The Passage" know that part-way through, there was a very... unexpected (and for many readers, myself included) unwelcomed turn of events that meant we were not going to continue with many of the characters and plot lines we'd come to care about. I know from other people's reviews that some readers even stopped reading at that point. I made the choice to continue, and was incredibly glad that I did - but it was still a hard pill to swallow at the time.
Now I realize that I should have given more credit to Justin Cronin's grand plan for his trilogy.
The first thing that really struck me as I began was that the quality is just as good as the first novel; the tone, the pacing, and the mood were all consistent and it was great to have Scott Brick back as the narrator. Once the story begins, we are promptly taken BACK to Year Zero. We see what happened to other characters we knew, and get a view of how the country handled the beginning of the crisis. More importantly, we slowly start to understand how these people end up affecting the world of 97 AV. I really enjoyed being able to fill in these holes, and the connections that are artfully woven between the characters in both times.
Time moves fluidly in this novel; transporting us not just to Year Zero and 97 AV, but also too a "mid-way point" of 79 AV, which allows for more background and history of the world and people in 97 AV.
This novel crystallizes what a huge, clear vision the author has for this trilogy. While I hate that it's over, and waiting until 2014 for the final chapter, I thought this book was fantastic and took the level of story-making to the next level, compared to the first book.
Finally, I just want to note that although we visit a few different times to allow for more plot development, I never felt I was being kept from the characters I wanted to spend time with. The book was done so incredibly well, it leaves me at a loss - so all I'll say is 5 stars, and enjoy the adventure.
(The kindle version of this book provides a list of all characters, organized by what year and place they were in, at the very end of the novel. After not having much luck online finding a list to help clarify a few things for myself, I got the Kindle version and just opened up the cloud reader option to open the book. If you choose "Table of Contents" from the books menu, right near the end you'll find an option in bold caps: "Dramatis Personae". If you click on that, it pulls up the characters. For me, this ended up being worthwhile. I have a feeling there are even more character connections than I picked up on yet; and I'm sure more are coming with book 3.)
I think I missed the meeting when my book club chose this book, so I had absolutely no idea what it was about when I downloaded it into my phone and began to listen. Within a few sentences, I found myself laughing out loud. I don’t know if a person reading the book would get as much of the snarky humor inherent in this book (particularly the beginning) but it definitely comes across in the audio version as expertly brought alive by Clive Mantle. Just the way Mantle pronounces “Serrrrrrge” with a heavy, sardonic emphasis on the “r” made me laugh every time. And don’t get me started on the scene in the men’s room—hysterical!
The beginning chapters are a bitingly droll commentary on upper middle class life in the early 21st century. I absolutely howled with laughter at the descriptions of the pretentious restaurant, the self-important maître d’ (and his pinky!) and the ostentatiously named food. Side trips into the protagonist’s memories were also—at first—amusing, particularly the passage about the garden party.
Which brings me to another thing I loved about this book: the way the author described things. Like the woman at the garden party with a “voice like the sweetener in Diet Coke.” I also really liked it when the author described something and then wrote something along the lines of “well, no . . . it wasn’t exactly like that . . . it was more like . . .” and then went on to give a fantastic simile that left no doubt what he had in mind. In chapter 15 he gives three different descriptions of Serge’s face, each one more telling than the last: “like a new car that got its first scratch,” “like a cartoon whose chair has been kicked out from under him,” and finally “if he wore that face asking people to vote for him, no one would give him a second look.”
There is much, much more to this book, and once the action starts to heat up the comedy is replaced by a chilling look behind the scenes of these “normal” lives. Societal issues including racism, homelessness, parenting, violence and morality are presented as I have seldom encountered them before in a novel. The end . . . well, I don’t want to give anything away, but it was sort of like in the Road Runner when the coyote realizes the cliff has dropped out from under him. A great listen!