One Q Eighty Four by Haruki Murakami

January 20, 2012
By CertifiedMatt BRONZE, Harrison, Ohio
CertifiedMatt BRONZE, Harrison, Ohio
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

A World That Bears a Question:
a review of Haruki Murakami’s new book 1Q84.

“1Q84-- that’s what I’ll call this new world, Aomame decided. Q is for ‘question mark.' A world that bears a question.”

1Q84 is the name of Haruki Murakami’s new enigmatic novel set in 1984 Japan. The book alternates between the lives of Aomame and Tengo, two Tokyo citizens who both realize the world around them isn’t the same 1984 they used to live in. The chapters alternate between Tengo and Aomame as the story of 1Q84 unfolds. Aomame is a female fitness trainer, who also leads a secret life of an assassin, killing those who battered their wives. Tengo is a male cram teacher who is described as a child prodigy who excelled at whatever he did. Both live very simple, yet comfortable lives. The book opens with Aomame riding in a taxi, as Janá?ek’s Sinfonietta plays. Stuck in a traffic jam, the driver gives Aomame instructions that will allow her to climb down a metropolitan emergency stairway and continue to her meeting that she will otherwise miss. As the story progresses, she notices small discrepancies in the world around her, which leads her to naming this new world she is in “1Q84”. Meanwhile, the book’s other character, Tengo takes up rewriting Air Chrysalis, a poorly written novel by a young teen who is simply known as Fuka-Eri. Both of these events seem very minor, but they in fact alter the lives of Aomame and Tengo in ways they couldn’t imagine. A large part of 1Q84 deals with surrealism and alternate realities. The night time sky shares it’s space with two moons instead of one is just one of many surrealistic aspects of the story. We see characters who may or may not be real. Murakami draws themes from 1984, the novel by George Orwell. 1Q84 incorporates its own version of Big Brother. In Orwell’s novel, “Big Brother” controls every aspect of the citizens lives, including what they think. Similarly in 1Q84, a mysterious group simply known as the “Little People” control everything in the world of 1Q84. The novel deals with parallel universes as the characters struggle to find out what this mysterious new world is, and attempt to adapt to their new life. Aomame struggles to line up memories of significant events with what the newspaper has published. A nurse Tengo meets later in the novel claims she is reincarnated. All these ideas and themes blend together to create a truly unique surrealistic story.

Arguably Murakami’s level of detail is one of the book’s best aspects, and at the same time, one of its flaws. An example of said detail is when Aomame looks up in the sky on night to find the sky is now shared by two moons. Two moons being in the sky is something none of us in real life will ever experience, and Murakami explains the second moon in such rich detail, the reader will feel that they could go outside tonight and find that second smaller moon, almost as if it was always there, and we’ve always had two moons floating above us. The towns and places in 1Q84 are alive with detail, and you almost begin to feel that you are sharing this world with Aomame and Tengo. The characters feel fresh and alive due to the detail given. Instead of the typical protagonist who has incredible luck and manages to save themselves from any harm at all, 1Q84's protagonists are just normal people. Not everything works out for them, and they certainly don’t avoid harm. Tengo and Aomame feel like real people you could meet anywhere. That’s part of what really works for 1Q84. The book doesn’t need a superhero protagonist, or events to unfold in such a way that everyone avoids bad consequences. Unfortunately in the same sense his level of detail is also given to objects that don’t normally need it, and this sometimes distracts the reader from the story. Meals prepared by characters are given so much detail that you wonder if Murakami decided to transcribe a cookbook into 1Q84. Details that aren’t really important are often tediously repeated, and it can distract the reader from what’s important in the story. Character descriptions are repeated and often times useless. We hear about a man’s very ugly appearance with a misshapen head anytime he is talked about.

1Q84 has its fair share of flaws. Don’t let this turn you away from the book. Murakami put a lot of effort into this book, and it shows. 1Q84 has a staggering 925 pages, but this isn’t a bad thing. The story flows in such a way that you will blaze through pages without realizing it. The more the reader reads, the more the reader will find themself immersed into the world of 1Q84. You get a feel of what it must be like to be stuck in a world that isn’t your own. Even after you set the book down, you find yourself wondering about the world of 1Q84, and those who inhabit it. Murakami manages to do what most authors hope to do; create a world so detailed and alive, that even after you finish the book, you find that you still wonder about the lives of Aomame and Tengo. The book will have you reading for as long as you can, when and where ever you possibly can. The story is truly unique and doesn’t rely on cliches and overused themes to carry it. The book offers something for everyone. Cults, mysterious fee collectors, murder, romance, and religion are just some of the book’s many topics. I recommend any fan of Haruki Murakami’s previous works, and anyone who hasn’t read his work before, read 1Q84.

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