1Q84 by Murakami is perhaps the longest book I’ve read since I read the abridged War and Peace roughly a decade ago. My previous experience with reading Murakami were two of his previous works, Kafka on the Shore and The Windup Bird Chronicle. Although I didn’t agree with some fanatics that Murakami was one of the best I did think he was a unique style that makes his work stand out. It’s hard to compare his work with other authors. In part that may be that it’s translated from Japanese, but I think it’s an original style and fictional outlook. That said I enjoyed Kafka on the Shore and The Windup Bird Chronicle but the story lines of those books has not stayed with me years later like other novels I really like.
I don’t think I’ll reread 1Q84 at any point, but I think the storyline will stay with me unlike the other two works and parts of this long novel are haunting. I’m going to be vague in my review as to not give away any spoilers. I want people to get intrigued to read this, and not summarize the book for people. I get annoyed by book reviews that simply summarize the plot when thumbs up or down with a little bit of information is all that’s necessary.
It took me around three months to read this book. I read a few books in between, but my focus was this book. For me, I would read a chapter slowly, and put it down to think it over. 1Q84 is not a difficult book to read, it is not bogged down in details, and it is not dense or super complex. But there are enough little turns or new tidbits in each chapter, I found myself thinking after each chapter instead of simply plowing onto the next chapter. I did not read in this book everyday for those three months, and on most days I read it I’d only read a few chapters. But I thought of it quite a bit while not reading it, and that is something a powerful book can do to the reader.
1Q84 focuses mainly on two characters that enter an alternate world. This world comes to be known slowly. It starts with simply a publisher wanting to rewrite a work of fiction in an unethical way. And the other main character after some events noticed that the Japanese police had more modern guns. Murakami has a good skill of introducing off the wall things by someone noticing a little difference like a gun on a policeman. Later the sky at night has two moons and the characters have to find out why. Most things appear to be normal, but the small differences drives the characters crazy as they try to figure out the reasons why things changed.
In addition to creating subtle alternate worlds Murakami in parts writes incredibly sexually explicit or violent scenes that as a reader you except as part of the story. A writer with less skill these scenes would come of as crude or obscene. In addition to this, the writing is so developed and the alternate world twists created so well I never really bothered to question the logic in it. I just went with it. During some of my reading of this I did feel intensity in parts. But even if a twist was disturbing I wanted to keep reading to see what happened to each character.
I almost said nothing about this book, maybe it’s hard to explain, but I do recommend it, and after reading 1Q84 I do think Murakami is one of the best, or at least one of the most original.