A scan through reviews of Japanese writer Haruki Murakami’s work repeatedly yields such words as “surreal” and “alienation”—and these are certainly apt markers for his much-anticipated new novel, 1Q84. Originally published as a trilogy in Japan, where the first volume sold more than a million copies in just two months, this dystopian epic weighs in at more than 900 pages and required the services of two translators to speed the process of getting it into the hands of his many English-speaking fans.
The title pays homage to Orwell, and the story unfolds over nine months in 1984, but within the first few pages it becomes an alternate or parallel 1984. This strange transformation occurs when a young woman named Aoname (“green pea” in Japanese) impatiently disembarks from a traffic-ensnared taxi and makes her way down from the elevated expressway via an emergency stairway. Suddenly the world seems changed—she notices policemen are wearing different uniforms, for instance, and there appear to be two moons in the night sky—[Fri Mar 7 21:56:17 2014] enhancedContent.pl: Wide character in print at E:\websites\aquabrowser\IMCPL\app\site\enhancedContent.pl line 249. but she hurries to a hotel, where she quietly assassinates a businessman. Aoname, we learn, is a paid vigilante, tasked with killing men who abuse women.
In alternating chapters, we meet Tengo, a math instructor and aspiring novelist with his own unusual assignment. A publisher has asked him to revise the manuscript of a brilliant, if poorly written, novella by a 17-year-old girl, Fuka-Eri. Air Chrysalis is a visionary tale about a world orchestrated by Little People and presided over by two moons. Though he fears the scandal that could erupt if the literary deception is revealed, Tengo is too taken by the story to refuse the assignment. The elusive, dyslexic Fuka-Eri grew up on a communal farm, home of a religious cult with utopian intentions. She claims the odd story she tells in Air Chrysalis is true.
Aoname dubs this strange new year 1Q84 (Q for question), and in due course her perilous destiny will converge with Tengo’s. Both are loners, carrying psychological scars that have rendered them emotionally sterile and unable to connect with others. Tengo is haunted by a disturbing memory of his mother, who died when he was 18 months old, and he resents his father. Aoname thinks little about her own childhood, but is hounded by thoughts of a close friend who committed suicide to escape an abusive marriage.
1Q84 unfolds as a science-fiction thriller, and despite the pointed Orwellian reference, it is closer in spirit to the work of Philip K. Dick. Fantastic elements seamlessly integrate with the mundane to create a world much like, if not quite like, our own. The pace is admittedly languid and at times requires some patience—Murakami is methodical in his descriptions of locales, actions and characters’ thoughts, and conversations often play out with a flat tone of reality rather than any sense of narrative expediency. The supporting cast—from the ugly private eye who tracks Aoname and Tengo, to the forthright dowager who bankrolls Aoname’s retribution, to the terminally ill cult leader—is lovingly lifted from classic pulp fiction archetypes, and roots the novel in the noir mystery genre as well. Pulp fiction, indeed, but on a grand scale—as ambitious, quirky and imaginative as only Murakami can be.
"Things are not what they seem." If Murakami's (After Dark, 2008, etc.) ambitious, sprawling and thoroughly stunning new novel had a tagline, that would be it.
Things are not what they seem, indeed. A cab driver tells a protagonist named Aomame—her name means "green beans"—as much, instructing her on doing something that she has never done before and would perhaps never dream of doing, even if she had known the particulars of how to do it: namely, to descend from an endless traffic jam on an elevated expressway by means of a partially hidden service staircase. Aomame is game: She's tough, with strong legs, and she doesn't mind if the assembled motorists of Tokyo catch a glimpse of what's under her skirt as she drops into the rabbit hole. Meanwhile, there's the case of Tengo, a math teacher who, like Aomame, is 30 years old in 1984; dulled even as Japan thrives in its go-go years, he would seem to have almost no ambition, glad to serve as the ghostwriter for a teenage girl's torrid novel that will soon become a bestseller—and just as soon disappear. The alternate-universe Tokyo in which Aomame reappears (her first tipoff that it's not the "real" Tokyo the fact that the cops are carrying different guns and wearing slightly different uniforms), which she comes to call 1Q84, theÃÂ qÃÂ for question mark, proves fertile ground for all manner of crimes, major and minor, in which she involves herself. Can she ever click her heels and get back home? Perhaps not, for, as she grimly concludes at one point in her quest, "The door to this world only opened in one direction." It's only a matter of time before Aomame's story becomes entangled in Tengo's—in this strange universe, everyone sleeps with everyone—and she becomes the object of his own hero quest; as he says, "Before the world's rules loosen up too much...and all logic is lost, I have to find Aomame." Will he? Stay tuned.
Orwellian dystopia, sci-fi, the modern world (terrorism, drugs, apathy, pop novels)—all blend in this dreamlike, strange and wholly unforgettable epic.Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Masterly Japanese novelist Murakami returns with what seems rightly billed as his magnum opus, published in Japan in three volumes in 2009-10. The title plays with the Japanese pronunciation of 1984, and indeed this is Murakami's homage to George Orwell's great novel. The lead characters include a young woman assassin and an unpublished novelist charged with punching up a manuscript that a reticent and possibly dyslexic teenager appears to have submitted to a literary contest. Another mind-blowing Murakami puzzle box that's essential for high-end readers; with a 100,000-copy first printing and a reading group guide.[Page 58]. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
At the core of this work is a spectacular love story about a girl and boy who briefly held hands when they were both ten. That said, with the fiercely imaginative Murakami as author, the story's exposition is gloriously labyrinthine: welcome "into this enigma-filled world of 1Q84," which begins when sports club instructor Aomame exits a taxi and climbs down emergency stairs to bypass gridlocked traffic and make her next appointment. Meanwhile, cram school teacher and wannabe novelist Tengo is in muddled negotiations to rewrite secretly a 17-year-old girl's fascinating but still raw novella, which has the potential to win a top literary prize. A Chekhov-quoting, Proust-sharing ethnic Korean bodyguard; a wealthy widow who shelters abused women; a policewoman with a penchant for wild, anonymous sex; a religious leader who admits to "congress" with prepubescent girls; a comatose father with a traveling spirit; a misshapen, disbarred ex-lawyer--these are just some of Murakami's signature characters who both hinder and help Aomame and Tengo's hopeful path toward reunion. VERDICT Originally published in Japan as three volumes, each of which were instant best sellers, this work--perhaps Murakami's finest--will surely have the same success in its breathlessly anticipated, all-in-one English translation. Murakami aficionados will delight in recognizing traces of earlier titles, especially A Wild Sheep Chase, Norwegian Wood, and even Underground.--Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC[Page 69]. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
The massive new novel from international sensation Murakami (What I Talk About When I Talk About Running) sold out in his native Japan, where it was released in three volumes, and is bound to provoke a similar reaction in America, where rabid fans are unlikely to be deterred by its near thousand-page bulk. Nor should they be; Murakami's trademark plainspoken oddness is on full display in this story of lapsed childhood friends Aomame and Tengo, now lonely adults in 1984 Tokyo, whose destinies may be curiously intertwined. Aomame is a beautiful assassin working exclusively for a wealthy dowager who targets abusive men. Meanwhile Tengo, an unpublished writer and mathematics instructor at a cram school, accepts an offer to write a novel called Air Chrysalis based on a competition entry written by an enigmatic 17-year-old named Fuka-Eri. Fuka-Eri proves to be dangerously connected to the infamous Sakigake cult, whose agents are engaged in a bloody game of cat-and-mouse with Aomame. Even stranger is that two moons have appeared over Tokyo, the dawning of a parallel time line known as 1Q84 controlled by the all-powerful Little People. The condensing of three volumes into a single tome makes for some careless repetition, and casual readers may feel that what actually occurs doesn't warrant such length. But Murakami's fans know that his focus has always been on the quiet strangeness of life, the hidden connections between perfect strangers, and the power of the non sequitur to reveal the associative strands that weave our modern world. 1Q84 goes further than any Murakami novel so far, and perhaps further than any novel before it, toward exposing the delicacy of the membranes that separate love from chance encounters, the kind from the wicked, and reality from what people living in the pent-up modern world dream about when they go to sleep under an alien moon. (Oct.)[Page ]. Copyright 2011 PWxyz LLC