Book Review: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
I will admit that I had never heard the name Haruki Murakami or 1Q84 before Big Al over at the Feed Your Headcast mentioned he was reading it. *On a quick side note…do yourself a favor and check out Al, Dan and Scott’s podcast* After Al name checked the book I decided to take a break from all the rock memoirs I have been reading and give 1Q84 a turn. After all, I was reaching the bottom of the barrel…hell, I even read Tommyland by Tommy Lee (that may explain my need for something different…and better).
The book is a massive piece of work at over 900 pages. The story is set in Tokyo in the year 1984, only it is just a little ‘odd’…it seems that our heroine has slipped into an alternate/parallel reality. The novel follows two separate protagonists on a year long journey to find each other. Aomame is our heroine with a dark side…she is an assassin of abusive men. She is the one that realizes she is not in her normal world. She calls this reality 1Q84…’the Q is for question mark’. Our other hero is Tengo a math teacher by day and an aspiring writer by night. When he agrees to take on a ghostwriting assignment his life starts to spiral out of control.
Over the course of the year our hero’s stories converge and we are introduced to wonderful characters and many strange connections that tie them together. You have a dangerous religious cult, a dyslexic girl that has a fantastical story that she claims is true, a rich woman that runs a home for abused women and her homosexual ruthless bodyguard, the leader of the cult with seemingly super-natural abilities, a grotesque private investigator and the mysterious ‘Little People’.
The novel is massive and many things are touched on by the author – how any kind of zealotry by parents can damage children; the cruelty some men inflict on women; the need for certainty with life and death (and the after-life) that can lead to dangerous religious organizations – but the major theme running throughout the novel is the yin and yang of good and evil within everyone and in the universe itself. No person, or thing, are totally good or totally evil. One of the characters in the book distills these thoughts to this passage…”The most important thing is to maintain the balance between the constantly moving good and evil. If you lean too much in either direction, it becomes difficult to maintain actual morals. Indeed, balance itself is the good.”
The first two thirds of the book blow by in an exhilarating pace. Easily the most engrossed I had become in a work of fiction in a long time. It is a true page turner. Just watching how the author expertly weaves his tale of love/fantasy and entwining our characters lives was half the fun. But the last third of the book is as slow as they come. It seemed as if the author lost his rhythm and struggled to find a pace after the frenzy of the first two thirds of the story. The last third of the book was when I started to really note the repetition of the seemingly endless descriptions of food preparation and the details of clothing either being put on or taken off. I was thinking that most of this should have been edited out, but maybe the author was trying to tell us something about our most mundane actions in life. But it only came across as a senseless bunch of words. 900+ pages and our author leaves so much unresolved. The ‘Hows and Whys’ of 1Q84 never get explained to us…pretty much just like life. And that just might be the author’s point.
Rating? If I could just review the first two thirds I would give it 4 out of 5 stars…but I can’t.
Rated 2.5 out of 5