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)
Reading is everything to me - gave me escape as an abused child who needed it desperately; the universe when my world was a small village.
This book is such a great listen. The plot is fresh, different and so multi textured. The characters are complex and well developed. Although the story is very long, it keeps you well engaged. The different sub-plots takes a while to merge but each protagonist's story is so interestiing on its on that it is ok. The pace and cadence at which the story is told are also just right. I hope there is another book from this author that is translated in English. I will be searching. You won't be disappointed with this book and you are getting a lot for just one Audible credit. By the way, the narrators did a great job too!!!
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.
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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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 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.
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.
This is the most monotonous work I have ever encountered. The slooooow reading of the female narrator who pauses to OVER stress every descriptive word in the book makes you feel like the print she read must have CA..PI..TAL..IZED each one. Like listening to a teacher read out loud to a preschool class, where each syllable is stressed separately to help the kids "sound out" the words on the page in front of them. The male narrator is actually good and that is the only nice thing I can say about this book.
The story itself doesn't help. Nothing ever happens. Or something very interesting happens, but the author skims over it with one brief comment and then goes into excruciating detail about some other minutia, like what they ate, how it was prepared, what was on the side, what spice was used to season it, how much was used, and how was it chopped, course or fine, and then lists a metaphor about how course or fine, why it was chopped that way...blah blah blah. Even the rare event that can not be classified as day to day minutia is interesting at best- like a dream that doesn't make sense, but is so odd that it makes an impression anyway, even if it is disjointed and has no real meaning.
It is so insanely verbose... I just listened to a 15 minute passage about Aomami considering buying a goldfish and deciding on a rubber tree instead (which we already know is the outcome), I fast forwarded 10 minutes and she was still thinking about it when i resumed. That's where I quit the book after about 30 hours. The author repeats everything and repeats it and repeats it. It makes me want to scream. Every time he mentions the fish- its not just "fish" it is the gold fish that she saw on this date that she considered buying after she saw someone else's goldfish, in this particular store, in this location, next to that other place, where she eventually bought a rubber tree, which was a sad specimen- as if you could possibly have forgotten what fish he was talking about a half sentence ago, and the state of the rubber tree has anything to do with the stupid fish! At one point he describes Leader breathing deeply - it takes him over 10 minutes to do it- and the word deeply must be repeated 20 times. Reading this book is like grading a whole 6th grade classes' answers to a vocabulary test- he gives you a word; list a simile, a metaphor, a synonym, use it in a sentence, then repeat 28 times. I'm not kidding. He goes so far that in all of the dialog between Tengo and Fukaeri, Tengo literally repeats verbatim every word Fukaeri just finished saying before adding his comment. All of the other dialog is like this to a slightly lesser, but no less irritating, extent.
Not only does the author describe what IS there with every possible word that might be applicable - but he then proceeds list everything it can not be... There IS a second moon. It could not be a plane. It could not be a star, it could not be a comet, it could not be his imagination, it could not be a trick of the light... I GET IT ALREADY! MOVE ON! like some twisted 50 hour non-rhyming version of green eggs and ham.
It should have been a 200 page book. Seems like in the process of editing the author wrote each word, each sentence, each thought a dozen different ways and couldn't decide which he liked best, so just left them all- just in case you are a complete nincompoop and didn't understand the first 11 times he described it.
In addition, I can't relate to any of the characters. It may be a cultural thing, but their behavior, thought process, acceptance or disbelief, none of it makes any sense to me.
I really suffered during the 30 hours I stuck with this book becasue of the positive reviews. I hope I can save someone else the same suffering.
Don't know what I want to be when I grow up. Trip's cool though. Use Audible to make gym-training sane... And rip my imagination.
1Q84 lives along the thin line between mysticism and spiritualism. It is a fantastical adventure through the author's musings about how emotions create reality. I don't know if it is the translators or the author but I did not get the sense that I was allowed to sink into the Japanese culture, but rather cruise a Europeanized/Americanized filtered vision of what might be Japan. It's disconcerting enough to break the reader's mood as are the too frequent allusions and name droppings of stuff the author's read. A couple of times I wondered if perhaps there was a bit of pretension here and there.
Now, do I recommend 1Q84... Well, yeah, I guess. But more for the plot than the blizzard of symbols and allegorical references. The story's compelling... haunting... hypnotic. And well... unusual. You know what? This very long novel is worth the time. I'll think about it... and perhaps feel about it... for a good long time. Which is what I'm thinking this whole experience was :-)
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.
56 year old working wife, mother and grandmother.
I decided to quit listening and did not finish the book. The story was intriguing but I could not get past the too frequent sexual escapades. As other readers had noted, I also was irritated with the repeating of a statement. It made the story move too slowly.
I liked the male voices however found the female voice undesirable.
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