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)
Sure, I'd love to hear your story....
I'm not a big fantasy fan, and I confess this required a lot of patience to get through, but in the end I wasn't relieved to complete this book. I really wanted it to go on and find out what happens next. That's no small feat for a novel that took me THREE FREAKIN' WEEKS to finish!
Please take advantage of the sample - - the narrators may not please everyone, but I got used to the sing-songy nature of the woman and the hesitate, burst, hesitate style of the main male narrator. If that annoys you, you may want to pick up the book and read it rather than listen.
The real beauty is the writing - - which is fascinating. I can't think of anyone else who writes like this: At first it's blunt and violent, then you morph into fairytale, parts are overly dramatic, parts are sparse, some is quite adult, and then he throws in a children's story. Just when you have his style pegged, he changes it. I'm not sure how many books he crammed into this one - - at least four in addition to the main story.
This is just an imaginative book that will require a commitment on your part to finish. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
And I don't know why. Maybe because I had already made it through about fifteen hours of pointless, over-written, repetitive boredom so that I was determined to discover why this industrial-strength long novel garnered such glowing reviews. And I didn't want to be left out of the intelligent appreciation club.
But...I literally walked away while the narration was going on and then would come back to be hearing the same monologue over and over again in every different form---the character thinks it, then the character does it, then the character thinks about it again, then the character talks to another character about it, then the character thinks about it... . I never missed anything.
And maybe it was the translation, but the constant (and I mean constant) repetition of the characters' names, over and over again, was truly irritating. Speaking of the translation, so much of this novel seemed so "Westernized" to me with little reference to anything Japanese except maybe food. That might have been purposeful, but it robbed the atmosphere of any Asian flavor. And don't get me started on the author's obsession with breasts and pubic hair.
I actually appreciate that others liked this novel, but it sure wasn't meant for me. I need to listen to something light and frothy where things actually happen.
I haven't read any of the author's other works, nor do I know anything about him except what the translators say at the conclusion, but I don't think I'm going to try.
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'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 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.
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.
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.
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!
Husband. Dad. 3D Nerd. Tech Junkie. Saints fan. Part of the Squid clan.
Not if you paid me.
Ultimately, there isn't a character in this book I felt any connection to or compassion for. Each character is mind-numbingly introspective, yet they were all completely unlikeable for the things they do throughout the course of the story. Moreover, the characters never seem to change within the story - they seem to be animatronic props the author simply fiddles with the entire time. Finally I was also highly upset that this book ended so abruptly and with such a simple, cliche ending. There are simply so many loose ends that go unresolved that it's hard to call the book "finished" even though it was a bloated 40+ hour listen to get to the point where the author finally stopped writing. My advice, don't waste your time with this.
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.
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