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3.8 out of 5 stars
1Q84
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Showing 1-10 of 14 reviews(5 star)show all reviews
on May 25, 2015
Fantastic read - I picked up the book in the library and then had to purchase it on my Kindle for my travels. The narratives of both the lead characters are equally intriguing and the build up convincing. I've heard that Murakami's style is not as accessible in his other books, but I definitely didn't feel it with this one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
TOP 50 REVIEWERon January 21, 2015
This mega-fable by Haruki Murakami, while occasionally oblique, is a long, clear-voiced, and languidly paced story about conformity, and the ramifications of breaking free of the familial and social expectations that are placed upon us. There are legal, ethical and social expectations we are all subject to 'a priori' -- as both humans and citizens -- and there are the expectations custom-tailored for us by parents, siblings, friends and lovers -- as individuals. It imagines the 'multiverse' as something like an endless apartment complex made up of locked, sound-proofed and windowless suites. Every one of these earth-sized/universe-sized apartments have hidden passages linking them to an adjoining, otherwise hermetically-sealed unit, and rare individuals, prompted by extraordinary circumstances, can see and use these passages, stepping into a unit built just for them... perhaps by them.

The story follows two main characters, with connections to one another that are only apparent well into the narrative. But they are each the center of their own personal solar system; the moons and planets and satellites in each respective orbit are often eccentric, and as celestial bodies orbiting different stars collide, the tale moves into the strange gravitational stability of a binary star... a cruel galactic romance that sloughs off all orbital relationships and responsibilities. Similarly, they both encounter a second moon that no one seems to notice.

Both Aomame and Tengo were raised in difficult environments, albeit of very different kinds. Both characters make a choice that opens, for them alone, a door. Each of their respective doors will take them into an alternate universe, one with very slight narrative differences. Aomame labels this world '1Q84', as opposed to '1984', the world she came from -- the Orwellian connotations give further evidence of the 'individual vs, society' theme Murakami explores. At several points Orwell's novel is mentioned; instead of 'Big Brother', rewriting history and confusing the present, there are the 'little people'... instead of Big, little; instead of singular, plural; instead of a huge totalitarian machine that destroys and rewrites the past, tiny, mysterious people who remove certain individuals from their reality, to remake them in another.

After getting caught in a traffic jam, a simfonietta by Janacek heralds Aomame's fateful decision, with a mysterious taxi-driver as harbinger. Rather than missing her very important 'appointment', she uses an emergency stair pointed out by the cabbie, which takes her off the elevated expressway, and down to a city street below. Not long after, she gets her first clue that things aren't quite right, when she notices a police officer carrying a semi-automatic pistol instead of a revolver. Later, she learns that this change happened years previous, following a gun-battle between police and a group of political and religious radicals, an event she has no memory of.

For Tengo, a 'cram-school' math teacher and writer, his life suddenly leaves its well-established course when his associate and mentor Komatsu suggests a strange and risky idea. A teenaged girl named Fuka-Eri has submitted a story titled 'Air Chrysalis' for a high-profile new writer's competition. Tengo is impressed with the story, but both men agree that it can't win as it is, due to its rough, amateurish prose. Tengo finds his door, so to speak, when Komatsu suggests he rewrite Fuka-Eri's manuscript. Their plan is to combine Tengo's technical gifts as a writer with Fuka-Eri's imagination and raw talent as a story-teller, keeping his involvement a secret. Tengo is concerned about Komatsu's scheme, but feel's compelled to work on the manuscript. Fuka-Eri is one of the most important and enigmatic characters in Murakami's novel. When Tengo meets her he is struck by her beauty as well as her unusual personality. She speaks with a complete lack of emotion, and answers questions only when it suits her. He also learns that she is dyslexic, and it was actually her little 'sister' -- the daughter of Fuka-Eri's guardian Professor Ebisuno -- who recorded the tale as Fuka-Eri dictated. After meeting the Professor, and learning more of the mysterious girl's life -- Tengo steps through the door, and commits to revising 'Air Chrysalis', which turns out to be less fictional than anyone could believe such a fantastical tale to be. Secondary characters, like the Dowager, who conspires with Aomame to dispense vigilante justice, are just as intriguing, and new characters emerge as the story progresses, including a surprising figure from Fuka-Eri's past, and a repulsive private investigator.

The many characters and storylines of 1Q84 converge, coalesce, and sometimes diverge again. The complexity of the tale is never confusing, and Murakami's writing style has been translated with impressive clarity. The prose has an earnest concision that can say many things at once, or one thing with absolute precision. It's quite a feat, really; I have no idea to what extent the translators deserve credit for 1Q84's brilliance as an English-language novel -- echoing Tengo's dilemma as he rewrote 'Air Chrysalis' -- but I do not doubt that Murakami has created a powerful, profound work of fiction. I haven't read any of Murakami's previous works, but there was something about this story that reminded me of Roberto Bolano's '2666' -- both the meandering, almost haphazard feel of the plot from the outset, slowly tightening midway through, and the language; again, I will always find translations frustrating, on some level, especially with novels like 1Q84 and 2666. They're both purposely ambiguous; I worry that the translator might be twisting and confusing the original intent for the sake of style, or misrepresenting stylistic power in their concern for retaining presumed intellectual intent. If you could quantify it, would 1Q84 be 99% Murakami? 85%? 50%? In the end, you have to take the story as you find it, and trust the translator -- a thankless job, really; translators are seen as technicians instead of artists, despite the aesthetic sensibilities required -- rather than second-guessing a strange word choice, or trying to dig much deeper. But I liked it. As I said, I think the translation is excellent, stylistically. Translating Japanese to English is a far more difficult task than translating Spanish to English. The way 1Q84 was released, in separate parts, echoes way 2666 was released, and the two books have many thematic and stylistic similarities... I'm curious whether Murakami intended it, or if I'm imagining things.
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on December 22, 2014
1Q84, Mylo Xyloto and a window in a Starbuck Coffee! The perfect match!
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on November 21, 2014
Phenomenal read! My first Murakami book, and loved it. Took a while, but worth it. I have since read 4 other books by him, and they are all awesome.
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on September 13, 2014
Good so far but I have not finished it yet, but it will probably take some time.
I like his work and I feel very connected to his sorties and characters.
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on August 29, 2014
beautiful, eloquent writing.
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on July 9, 2013
Quite the book, bought used and it looks brand new. I highly recommend it. It is a book that keeps you thinking.
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on May 15, 2013
Very long book, but one of my favorites that I have ever read. Certainly kept me captivated and I love the similarities in concept with 1984...another one of my favorite books.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 25, 2012
1Q84 (3 Volume Box)

The best book I read this year. This author was unknown to me, so it was a great surprise
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon May 12, 2012
Haruki Murakami returns to the surrealistic, magic realism fiction of "Kafka on the Shore" in his genre-bending "1Q84", ably translated by his long-time translators Jay Rubin and Philip Gabriel, collaborating with them on what is quite possibly the most impressive novel published in the English language last year. Murakami playfully bends genres and literary conventions in "1Q84", which could be viewed as a psychologically dark homage to George Orwell's "1984", but should be regarded instead as a vivid fictional exploration into the totalitarian nature of fanatical religious cults, and the nature of one's own existence. "1Q84" succeeds admirably as an elegant example of alternative history science fiction crossed with pulp detective crime fiction, in creating a parallel Japan where the rules of existence depend exclusively on illogical means. Into that parallel existence, a young woman, Amomame realizes that she has emerged into "1Q84", noting discrepancies in her knowledge of Japan's recent history as well as the unexpected appearance of two moons in the nocturnal sky. A long-lost friend from her youth, struggling novelist Tengo, recognizes the subtle changes in reality too, as he revises the enigmatic debut novel of a teenager, who, like himself and Amomame, have escaped from highly secretive, quite fanatical, religious cults. As he realizes that the novel may possess some semblance of reality, Tengo not only searches for the meaning of his own existence (as well as the teenager's), but finds himself propelled by unforeseen events over the course of the year that will intersect with Amomame's own destiny. Readers unfamiliar with modern Japanese culture may be confounded by Murakami's descriptive, almost visionary, prose; but that's a minor complaint in what is otherwise one of the best novels I have read regarding the nature of one's own personal identity and emotional ties to both family and friends. Nor does the seemingly excessive length of the tale itself should give potential readers a reason to ignore this great work of fiction; in composing the intricate, tightly woven sagas of Amomame and Tengo, Murakami has offered readers a compelling work of fiction that should be viewed favorably by most.
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