The year is 1984 and the city is Tokyo.
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.
A love story, a mystery, a fantasy, a novel of self-discovery, a dystopia to rival George Orwell's, 1Q84 is Haruki Murakami's most ambitious undertaking yet: an instant best seller in his native Japan, and a tremendous feat of imagination from one of our most revered contemporary writers.
BONUS AUDIO: Audible interviews the translators of 1Q84, Jay Rubin and Philip Gabriel.
©2011 Haruki Murakami (P)2011 Audible, Inc.
"Murakami is like a magician who explains what he's doing as he performs the trick and still makes you believe he has supernatural powers.... But while anyone can tell a story that resembles a dream, it's the rare artist, like this one, who can make us feel that we are dreaming it ourselves." (The New York Times Book Review)
“Profound . . . A multilayered narrative of loyalty and loss . . . A fully articulated vision of a not-quite-nightmare world . . . A big sprawling novel [that] achieves what is perhaps the primary function of literature: to reimagine, to reframe, the world . . . At the center of [1Q84’s] reality . . . is the question of love, of how we find it and how we hold it, and the small fragile connections that sustain us, even (or especially) despite the odds . . . This is a major development in Murakami’s writing . . . A vision, and an act of the imagination.” (David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times)
“1Q84 is one of those books that disappear in your hands, pulling you into its mysteries with such speed and skill that you don’t even notice as the hours tick by and the mountain of pages quietly shrinks . . . I finished 1Q84 one fall evening, and when I set it down, baffled and in awe, I couldn’t help looking out the window to see if just the usual moon hung there or if a second orb had somehow joined it. It turned out that this magical novel did not actually alter reality. Even so, its enigmatic glow makes the world seem a little strange long after you turn the last page. Grade: A.” (Rob Brunner, Entertainment Weekly)
I've read quite a number of Murakami's books and have really enjoyed them all. I'm not sure this one is quite as good as The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle but time will tell - I just finished 1Q84.
IQ84 is probably for readers of science fiction more than any other genre - the title's allusion to George Orwell's 1984 is great - but it's not quite that. The world of 1Q84 is just a fraction different from our own and may be running alongside it. The thing Murakami does best is blur the edges of reality and imagination and for this aspect 1Q84 is probably better than The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle because Murakami has it all smoothed out and you don't really know if you're in a reality or a fantasy and it switches all the way through - seamlessly.
The other thing that 1Q84 does better than any of Murkami's prior works is keep the suspense up all the way through virtually every page of a 925 page / 47 hour book! Granted, it's a bit bloated and I even detected some repetition (which may have been deliberate considering the theme) but even so - this is a page turner - hour burner.
The narration was superb. Kudos!
I am sure this book has the worst ending, or non-ending of any book I have ever listened to. The story moves along weaving a tale of supernatural events sloooooowly linking together people, and just when it seems the action may, kinda, sorta, maybe start and some answers to questions dealing with the cult, why they want the girl, what do the "little people" say to them, what the alternate world is - why are some able to move between them, ect, ect ---- the story just ends.
Let me put it this way, if this book was a restaurant review of a place you were interested in eating at it would be like this; This restaurant has tables, chairs a very clean bathroom, wait staff that are attentive and food that is brought out on plates, some of the food is served in bowels.
That would be it, but it would take 35 hours to say it.
First off, this book is NOT for everyone. This was my first Murakami book and I have had a strange time with it. Overall I reccommend the book. As my headline mentions it is a unique, eccentric, and challenging novel that is unlike any other I have read. The plot contains many twists and turns you do not see coming (and a few that you do) and the actions described and words used to weave this story together is unlike an American novel (being as it is written in Japanese, by a Japanese author and we are listening to the translation). However, it is easy to quickly understand the flow and follow through 'til the end. It did annoy me that there were, in my opinion, superfluous sex scenes that (most anyhow) had no bearing on the story or the plot. I'm sure Mr.Murakami would not agree and they did have a bearing on the character's personal story but they just aggravated me and made me uncomfortable. I am by no means prudish but personally feel that if I have to read or listen to a graphic sex scene I need a reason for that scene. There were several times I thought about stopping the book and not continuing but *luckily* the sex scenes would die off and the story would recapture my curiousity and imagination all over again! I rather enjoyed the female narrator but can see how the dowager's voice annoyed many.
I have read most of the Murakami novels. Overall I enjoyed this book but with some reservations. My two cents.
1. Strong narrator performance.
2. Usual Murakami magic realism.
1. Over-bloated. 1/3rd too long. The author had material only for two books. Third book-part is so boringly slow. Too much overlap between story lines when characters are basically stepping on each other toes and figuring out the same puzzle parts again and again.
2. Far-fetched love story axis (like in chic lit) made me roll my eyes many times while listening to the book. Some kind of not really believable Japanese version of Odysseus.
For Murakami first novel readers:
1. Be aware that novel is spiced up with some sex scenes. This should be nothing new for the person who read several Murakami novels.
2. Not the best Murakami novel as first read.
I was disappointed by this book. I really enjoyed The Windup Bird Chronicle and was hoping for more of the same, but 1Q84 tried too hard to evoke Orwell's 1984. Also, Allison Hiroto's narration is terrible: she sounds like she's reading an info-mertial and she gives all the male characters the same staccato, monotone. The male narrators are okay.
I usually like really long books, but this one was way to long and included a lot of unnecessary repetition (of things that were said about two sentences before) and detail that doesn't add to the story.
There are too many mysteries presented that allude to some greater meaning-to-be-explained that are never resolved and don't actually mean anything.
Being a first time Haruki Murakami reader, I have to say that I truly enjoyed his work. It's very much different from any book I've read and I'm looking forward to listening to other books from this author. It's a book that stays with you, when you've finished. Murakami created the feeling for me, that I was in the parallel timeline, with the characters. Even now that I've started a new book, I find myself thinking often about the story, and details that were left up to the imagination, of the reader.
I agree with some of the other reviewers, that parts of the book, as much as a third of it, wasn't necessary to enjoy the story and made it drag a bit, in places. Maybe it's because we've become an instant gratification society, and require continuous jolts of action, to remain engaged. I loved all the narrators, particularly Allison Hiroto and didn't find her voice annoying as other did. I feel it's one of those personal preferences, that we all have.
Overall a great way to spend 40+ hours of listening!
His writing is so incredible 3 stars are warranted for his writing alone. However, if you are going to take me on a magical ride to some spectacular world, you have to take me on a magic ride back. I am feeble minded. You cannot leave me with myriad unanswered questions. When he writes in the book that Air Chrysalis did not explain the little people, I was hoping he would not do the same. Not only did he fail to tie up those loose ends but many other were left dangling. I feel like I wasted over 30 hours of listening (I listen at 1.5 speed) and I get no closure on the other universe ... the little people, Fukaeri , other characters, etc. The writing was incredible, but I hate being left in the dark.
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
Man, this was a book I really had to let soak in for a while before I could figure out what to say about it. I'll admit that after finishing I remained a bit baffled by the magic realism -- receivers? perceivers? dohtas? little people? W-t-F, Murakami? However, my brain eventually made connections to various themes in the novel, especially the theme of abuse, and things at last clicked. Now, my mind feels more impressed.
Still, even if I didn't get it straightaway, Murakami succeeded in pulling me into the Proustian stream of his 925 page opus, and keeping me in its currents. The story is intriguing, detailed, dark, full of profound questions, and has its share of beautiful, memorable moments, where dream logic and real life momentarily take flight together.
One character on Proust: “It’s like I’m in a boat paddling upstream. When I take a rest, and I’m thinking about something, I find myself back where I started. There is a sense of time wavering irregularly when you try to forge ahead; if what is in front is behind, and what is behind is in front, it really doesn’t matter, does it?”
The main plot of 1Q84 isn’t too complicated. Two young adults leading separate lives in 1984 Tokyo are connected by a memory of a brief childhood encounter that remains unusually strong for both of them. One, Tengo, is a writer who is recruited to polish a novella called “Air Chrysalis”, which was written by an odd 17-year-old girl who fled from a secretive cult. The other, Aomame, is a fitness instructor who has a second, much riskier job that eventually brings her into contact with the leader of that cult. Somehow, both of these characters are pulled into a parallel reality that’s almost 1984 Japan, but isn’t quite. For one thing, there are now two moons in the sky. For another, there are the mysterious “Little People”, who appear in Air Chrysalis, and seem to be pulling the strings of reality for reasons ultimately left to the reader's interpretation.
Murakami at his best is a captivating storyteller, and 1Q84's filmic level of detail drew me in. The gradual unveiling of the protagonists’ backstories and connections to other people and events kept me engaged, and several characters were pretty interesting. Like Proust, Murakami seems not to see life and time simply as straight-ahead flows, but as things with eddies, backflows, still pools, branches, intersections, and layers, all worth exploring. I especially enjoyed the clever, repellent private eye, Ushikawa, who becomes an important player in Book Three, before meeting cosmic justice in one of 1Q84’s most memorable scenes. There are also some powerful moral questions afloat in the story -- when do our choices fragment the world and create some second reality? When are we just paper dolls in the flow of someone else’s narrative? When should we break from those who have hurt us?
If you haven’t read Murakami before, you might want to start with another novel (I recommend Hard-boiled Wonderland) to get a taste for his way of blurring the mundane and surreal. However, if you enjoy this groove, and are willing to take on a more marathon experience of it, 1Q84 has plenty of rewards. I’d advise people, though, that there's a lot of sex and sexual imagery in the story, some of it a bit strange -- comfort levels may vary.
I don’t disagree with readers who thought the book got a little tedious and self-indulgent in places -- in fact, this was the first title that made me grateful for audible’s 2X playback speed feature -- but even the slow parts held me. Marc Vietor, who performs Tengo’s side of the story, does a good job, but I really enjoyed Allison Hiroto’s reading of Aomame’s story, which she does with an American accent, but an inflection that seems Japanese. I was moved by how they mingled their voices in the last chapter.
All in all, 1Q84 was a novel that requires some work from the reader to grapple with its cryptic layers and illuminate its meaning, but it was one that left me seeing the world a little differently.
Tell us about yourself!
I read other reviewers who gave up on this book up after 30 hours; I don't know how they got that far, let alone finished it. The snail's pace of the narrator was excrutiating, and the repetitive minutiae drove me insane. I pulled the plug after 2 hours.
I'm always in search of the longest audiobooks I can find, since I usually read both my credits' worth before the end of the month. At almost 47 hours, this one fit the bill and had excellent reviews so I gave it a shot even though I wasn't familiar with the author or book. I'm glad I did. The book (I think it was originally 3 books in Japan) kept me absorbed from beginning to end. It's a very unique idea and I loved the story-within-a-story aspect. Interestingly, nearly all the characters are kind of one-dimensional, from a traditional literary point of view. The characters don't change much from the beginning to the end, which is something I was always taught to avoid in writing, but it works here because (without giving spoilers) the story itself changes around the characters. Instead of the world being stable and the characters moving through it, the characters are the fixed point of reference. Because it's just a little off traditional storytelling techniques, it makes the story feel unique above and beyond the plot itself.
The writing is also vivid and excellent. It's the type of writing where you have to pause occasionally and really take in a phrase that hits you just the right way. Another reviewer commented on the phrase "shaken his heart from a strange angle," which is one that I loved, too. I was also very taken with the phrase "Bright words make the eardrums vibrate brightly." It's such an odd phrase, when looked at literally, but you instinctively know what it means. The whole book is peppered with that kind of language. The author, obviously, takes primary responsibility for this, but the translators also did a great job. I'm not really sure how the translation process works, but I suspect there were spots where they added small explanations to ease the reading of unfamiliar concepts. They also did a great job with the occasional idiom or slang word. It was so well-done that I felt less culture-shock than I have with some books that are written in English to begin with. (There's a bonus interview with the narrators at the end if you want to hear their perspective.)
There are a couple of things that I disliked. The first was, as others have mentioned, the female narrator. It was kind of bizarre - when she is voicing the main character she does fine. She has a pleasant voice that effectively conveyed emotion. When she was voicing some of the other characters, however, it's almost like instead of changing the timbre of her voice she just changed how slowly she talked. The elderly dowager, in particular, sounded similar to a computer reading text. Her speech was very slow, oddly emphasized, and emotionless. In some books with a narrator that talks too slowly I just speed up the playback, but it wasn't possible since the slow alternated with normal speech. My other complaint is that I would have liked it to be about 30 minutes longer and tell us what happened concerning a few supporting plotlines. I'm not saying that every loose end needs to be tied up - I think this is a cultural thing because I've noticed that American books and movies tend to completely resolve all stories and foreign ones don't... I ordinarily accept it as part of the style. But the way it was written, several secondary storylines were building towards a climax and then just disappeared. It felt like when you think you're going to sneeze and then you don't. I don't want to give anything away, so I'll give a made up example: It would be like saying that someone's dog had run away and they got a call from the pound saying there was a dog that might be theirs so they get in the car and go to the pound, and then the story switches to another character and never comes back to tell you if the dog was theirs or not.
Despite my two small complaints, the book is undoubtedly one of the best I've listened to recently and (especially if you like long books) you should not hesitate before getting and reading this book!
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.