Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Title: 1Q84
Author: Haruki Murakami
Genre: Science Fiction
Published: 2011

Recommendation: A fiction immersion experience for those who like the weird and lots of character development.
Rating: 9/10

Summary: Aomame is a fitness instructor in 1984 Tokyo. She takes a taxi to get to an appointment, but the traffic on the highway is blocked. The taxi driver suggests she take an emergency staircase off the highway and she does, ending up in an alternative world on 1Q84. Tengo is a math teacher who spends his spare time writing a novel. He is approached to rewrite a story by a 17-year old and becomes embroiled in the magic of the Air Chrysalis.

Reactions: I bought 1Q84 because of several reviews I've seen of it, extolling its virtues as the best book of the year. I have never read anything by this author before, so I have decided to see for myself what's the story about.

I realized rather quickly that this wasn't going to be a fast-moving story. The story switches between the two main characters each chapter and takes its time to show us the connection between the two stories. The narrative weaves and ducks and detours, but the patterns do emerge throughout the book. And despite 1Q84 not being an action-oriented book, I found myself quite engrossed in the story.

I enjoyed the fact that the book builds a certain atmosphere and immerses the reader into it. We learn everything there is to know about each character, what they think, how they live, how they grew up, and what motivates them. They are not necessarily the most sympathetic characters, but Murakami does make them feel real and quite unique as well. The supporting characters are also amazingly developed, varied and plausible. My favorite was Tamaru, but overall I felt all the characters were quite outstanding.

A lot of strange things happen in 1Q84 world. Worst fears come true. There are two moons in the sky. History changes itself and Little People inhabit the world. When introduced, many of the phenomena don't make sense, but as a book progresses, they tie more and more into a more cohesive whole and get connected in unexpected ways. Of course, not everything is explained and a lot of the events are symbolic -- but they have this special rhythm that makes the book come together.

On one hand, the book felt somewhat slow, but on the other, I enjoyed a number of the detours it takes and took even more detours myself to investigate the references it makes. For example, the book mentions Sinfonietta by Janacek and I ended up listening to the piece to understand the reference better. George Orwell's 1984, Anton Chekhov, and Proust also get more than one mention.

As I was finishing the book, I learned that 1Q84 was nominated for the Bad Sex in Fiction Award. I can see where the nominators are coming from. This is not a book that would get your aroused. But somehow the style in which sex is described fits perfectly with the rest of the narrative. There's a lot of atmosphere and symbolism in it and not a whole lot of fun.

It's not always serious though, I think my favorite excerpt from the book would be the following quote:
There is no other choice -- a perfect example of the process of elimination. So perfect an example, it makes me want to print it up in a pamphlet and hand it out to people on the street. Hi, how are you? Check out the process of elimination.
Some of the passages can be tongue-in-cheek. Certain characters more so than others.

Altogether, it was one of the most interesting books I've read this year and I would certainly recommend it to anyone looking for an interesting and unique read.


  1. I am afraid of this book.

    I. Am afraid. Of this book.

    I have no rational explanation for this fear, other than I've heard so much about it from so many outlets that I'm convinced of my inadequacy as a reader reading this book. As to other points you brought up...

    I heard about the bad sex award, and nothing is worse than reading about bad sex. I heard more Janaceck in my life than I ever cared to hear. I've performed enough Janacek to justify my complaints... It's worse than bad sex especially compared to Chechkov (who is amazing.) I haven't read any Orwell or Proust.

    I've heard so much about this book; that I'll probably buy a copy at some point in time even if I never get around to reading it. They hype has been too much!

  2. I don't think there's much to fear in this book. The important thing is what you get out of the book, not what you miss in it. Though perhaps you can fear its length. That's where e-readers are so helpful -- you can't tell how long the book is on Kindle Reader, so it cannot intimidate you.

    One of the main characters has also performed Janacek, so maybe you'll find you can relate :)

    I totally recommend not just buying, but also reading the book. Ignore the hype, see how you like it.