on October 25, 2011
I am rushing this review to warn other Murakami fans (fanatics?) that this one starts out surprisingly slow. It wasn't until Part 2 that the pace started approaching a typical Murakami. I am also warning those who have never read Murakami before that that is NOT the novel to start with.
As always with his novels, it is of little value to attempt a plot summary. Cults and Little People and two moons? Yep, sounds like Murakami. In fact you can open the book to any section and after a few minutes know that you can be reading no author other than Murakami. It is a highly unusual voice, and comes through as distinctively in this as in his other books.
There are two main characters, a man and a woman who knew each other as children. Both had typically Murakami odd lonely childhoods, and though they haven't seen each other since they were young, both continue to remember the other with a particular intensity. In alternating chapters we follow the lives of these two, and soon we figure out that their stories are slowly (oh so slowly) leading towards each other.
As always, I am immensely enjoying reading this book. But I do have reservations. The book is too long, maybe 1/3rd too long. A typical feature in his books is to present an idea, an object, a reference from one perspective, and then repeat it, often multiple times, from other perspectives. Only through these repeated narrow views does the reader begin to piece together the true import of what is being presented. This layering of perspectives, added to the unusual nature of what is being seen, is core to the world Murakami unveils to us in his fiction. The problem in this book is that the perspectives are over-layered and at some point lose their power. I was thoroughly sick of the Little People, two moons, 1Q84... the entire "other" world way before it even really appears. There are insufficient ideas for the size of the book, and this increasingly claustrophobic duality of the 2 worlds and 2 characters coming increasingly close simply gets old after a few hundred pages.
I've read every single book by Murakami, including the non-fiction cult and running books, but this is the only one that has not 100% engaged me. His characters are usually somewhat flat, and it works well for the hyper-active worlds these characters inhabit. But that same flatness continued for almost 1,000 pages is tough. Without the characters as a strong focus for the readers, you are forced to concentrate on the events as the main focus of the book, and following flat characters through a dizzying world of ever accelerating events left this reader exhausted. I expect to have my reactions mediated through the characters actually living those events. But because these two characters are emotionally stunted I found myself almost ignoring their responses as my mind leapt straight into the events themselves.
I realize this is a less than coherent review, but I am trying to explain how this book by one of my favorite authors has so far left me alternately bored and exhausted, yet I can still recommend it to fans of Murakami, since we've been without a novel from him for too long.
on October 25, 2011
The above is a quote from this book, and well worth taking to heart. I take Jung's advice on dream images when reading a Murakami novel: don't try to unravel the underlying/hidden meaning, just stay with the images and let them move you and revel their meaning/feeling slowly.
There are images in this novel that will stay with me for years.
I'm a big fan and this is certainly one of his best novels, right there with works like The Wind Up Bird Chronicle, Norwegian Wood, and Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. Like all those works, reading the novel felt like slowly sinking into a well of dreams, and being enveloped in a mood of curiosity and off hand beauty/absurdity.
Some of the early reviews seem to be complaining about the book being repetitious, and the characters being too passive. All I can say is, this must be the first Murakami books you've read. This describes many of his books.
The passivity of the characters is actually essential to this book which deals with a world bereft of meaningful stories, and people susceptible to meaning that gives the false impression of depth [cults in this case].
Repetition is a form of making real in Murakami. The meanings are in the images, the images often begin as shadows, the novel takes those shadows and through echoes like a jazz song it breaths life into them: sometimes quite literally as in his book Hard Boiled Wonderland. I love it, but someone not used to it might find it odd.
As far as the more fantastic elements, I'll let Murakami speak for himself:
"I don't want to persuade the reader that it's a real thing; I want to show it as it is. In a sense, I'm telling those readers that it's just a story--it's fake. But when you experience the fake as real, it can be real. It's not easy to explain.
In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, writers offered the real thing; that was their task. In War and Peace Tolstoy describes the battleground so closely that the readers believe it's the real thing. But I don't. I'm not pretending it's the real thing. We are living in a fake world; we are watching fake evening news. We are fighting a fake war. Our government is fake. But we find reality in this fake world. So our stories are the same; we are walking through fake scenes, but ourselves, as we walk through these scenes, are real. The situation is real, in the sense that it's a commitment, it's a true relationship. That's what I want to write about." - 2004
To me this captures what I resonate with in Murakami's fiction: finding reality in simple things[cooking, having a bear, off hand conversations, relationships, music, art, thinking] in a world that is surreal or hyperreal much of the time. Even the surreal when followed deeper always leads to more reality not less in Murakami, you just can't cop out along the way, like how so many other postmodern writers do, you got to go deep into the well to use a often repeated Murakami image.
So overall, if you enjoy his works like me, this is a must read and a good time : If you've never read him, you might want to start with something shorter[I'd recommend Hard boiled wonderland].
P.S. The initial review was based on the first two books[UK edition], and now just having finished the third part [US edition] I can honestly say I felt satisfied with the ending. Murakami is very hit and miss with endings in my book, but this one worked for me. Also there are some great secondary characters here, my favorite overall might well be the private detective who shows up more prominently in the third book.
on November 23, 2011
Imagine everything you love about your favorite cocktail; the way the ingredients intermingle, often with hints of flavors that, while unbearable on their own, blend magnificently with others to create a mixed concoction to stimulate even the most nether regions of the human tongue. Now dump your glass into a gallon jug. Fill the jug to the 3/4 mark with water. Then add clam juice, tabasco sauce, maple syrup, nutmeg, and vanilla extract til you get to the top. Voila! You've got 1Q84. Drink it down, consumers.
I'm currently 720 pages in and have resorted to skipping whole paragraphs. Why I feel the need to continue despite a blossoming blase could perhaps best be explained by my previous Murakami experience- I first read all of his books within a span of 10 days using a flood light outside of my hotel in Singapore. Despite this I just can't see the point of 1Q84 (other than length, of course). Put simply, 1Q84 is a meandering odyssey to nowhere in particular.
Reading 1Q84, you'll find that many of Murakami's "trademarks" are present: the contrast of an ultra-sentimental/nostalgic (natsukashii -_-) love story to its surreal sci-fiesque backdrop; minute details of each character's appearance and daily routine to make up for an otherwise flat individual; allusions to Western artists galore. What 1Q84 fails to provide is something to tie everything together into a neat little package to make me care what happens. The two main characters are eternally and subliminally united by troubled youths, voided personalities, and a single hand grab decades prior to the events of the story. My advice to Murakami is that when you're building a love story on such a thin and unrealistic connection, no matter how many times you recite their devotion to finding one another, having little people coming out of goats' mouths saying "ho ho" at random intervals throughout the book is enough to distract me from the central plot. Never mind all the other random and unresolved "supernatural" events that take place and there are many. In other words- it takes such a large extension of my "benefit of the doubt" to buy into this nearly unbelievable love connection (the pursuit of which is the closest thing to a unifying plot you'll find here) that the inclusion of such random and jolting distractions just made me abandon any wish to connect to or identify with any element of the story. Ho ho!
A few other things I found disagreeable:
- Question: How many times per chapter can a character come to some sort of "OHHH... I thought things were THIS way, but it turns out they're THAT way" conclusion? Answer: At least 3-7 on average. Factor this out over 920ish pages and you have a very very annoying method of character and plot development. I reckon there are about 100 of these sentences with barely any variation. Ho ho! This is not an exaggeration.
- The same criticism holds true of the characters' thoughts on whatever world they might be in at a given time. Let's just all agree that something odd is going on and just do away with these OMG moments. Hard Boiled did this bluntly; Kafka was the ideal subdued approach. 1Q84 is just awkward in the same way as my first criticism. Paraphrased sample: "And then Tengo finally realized that at some point, the world he had known had become this new and different world, like a train switching tracks." There. I summarized about 60 pages of text. Ho ho!
- The sex scenes are just terrible. Superfluous breast descriptions probably amount to 6 pages of text. I remember reading a review on here that described these segments as being "borderline pornographic." I assure you, if they were anything close to being borderline pornographic I would have been far more interested. However if the reviewer meant that in the sense that they are contrived and artificial then I would agree 100%. And Murakami is usually so capable when it comes to meaningful sexual moments! Alas, it pains me to say that 1Q84 fails miserably in this respect. I recall better examples, such as those with Kafka and his maybe sister (the one on the bus sticks out (pun intended *teehee*)- tasteful and poignant). Ho ho! Ayn Rand would make for a better writer of erotic fiction than the Murakami of 1Q84, and that makes me cry a little inside.
- Unbearably redundant at times. Case in point: How many pages do we need to explain the same physical characteristics of Ushikawa? Probably about 14, but I don't care enough to go back and count. These useless details just thump into you. Ho ho! After a while I found myself just skipping pages of the same descriptions. This is filler, not literature.
These are not the only flaws present, but are such that they will remain flaws no matter how the rest of the book turns out.
Bottom line? If you really want to read 900+ pages of Murakami, read Norwegian Wood, Kafka on the Shore, and maybe Wind-up Bird Chronicle. If it were less than 600 pages I'd have given it a second star. I'm off to make myself a pot of coffee and finish this turd so I can move on to greener pastures.
UPDATE: Finished the book. I give the ending a "Meh +" but my relief at finally being done may have colored that. For some reason it feels as if there were no middle of the book... like the middle of the book and first and last parts were in some totally different WORLD. Get it? I'm mocking an oft-used phrase. Ho ho! Remember that sentence format because you will encounter it dozens of times. (Maybe the little people and I were just from an entirely different WORLD. Something something THIS world, compared to something something THAT world. Look at me trying to figure things out. I'm a character in 1Q84, which is like 1984 but in a different WORLD.)
Looking back on the experience, it seems like 1Q84 parallels my own writing style when it comes to longer school papers: 1) Start with a quirky thesis/topic in which readers can see potential for enjoyment and profoundness; 2) Realize that this is a 25 page paper, that I have only one page done, and that it's due tomorrow; 3) Write 20 pages or so of gibberish that loosely develops some kind of discussion, leading readers meandering down meaningless tangents never to be resolved (Ho ho!); 4) See that it's already 4 A.M. and wrap things up (for the most part) in a page in 15 minutes.
In summation- This book is arbitrary and ****ing long. Like I said before: if you're after good Murakami (ESPECIALLY if you're from the WORLD of new readers) here is not the place to start. And this is coming from a very big fan of his. I wonder if Knopf kept hectoring reviewers until they said something nice about it. Oh, and Chip Kidd is an excellent graphic designer. But please do not let 1Q84 turn you off to one of the world's best authors of contemporary fiction.
I'm glad that at least The New York Times agrees with me. Ho ho!
on November 14, 2011
I have also read all of Murakami's books, including the short story collections, Pinball, and his book on running. As I read through all of his previous books, I was mesmerized, unable to put the book(s) down, often reading or re-reading them in a single day. Frequently, I have had the rather strange experience of feeling like my mind was being opened, not merely creatively, but physically, even feeling like I was losing my grip on this world - and no, that isn't a normal experience for me. However, almost immediately, as I began IQ84, I was disappointed.
The beginning of the book hardly even seemed like Murakami and I had the distinct feeling that he was pushing himself to write rather than being internally driven to expression as in all of his prior books. Instead of the book flowering creatively and dynamically from some unconscious well into a new world, this one seemed crafted logically, and philosphers (Camus excepted) are rarely great fiction writers. Because of this predetermined path that Murakami seems to have for this novel, he apparently failed to realize some rather silly mistakes, particularly in places where he was attempting to move the plot forward, using artifical means to get to where he wanted the plot to be.
The initial conversation with Fuka-Eri's guardian is a great example. The guardian is talking about how concerned he was for Fuka-Eri's parents who had seemingly disappeared within the religious cult of Sakigake and how he was attempting to find out more about them but hitting a brick wall. The problem is those parents had apparently abandoned their 10 year old daughter, and the parents last known whereabouts are within Sakigake, as founding members. Wouldn't the easiest thing, and most logical thing, be to simply go to the police and say, "Hey this is the 10 year old daughter of some close friends of mine who were running Sakigake, who just came mysteriously to my house and we need to find out what happened to her parents." I don't know how it works in Japan, but here in the U.S. the parents would be found and charged with abandonment if their 10 year old just ran off and they didn't try to find her, or have any idea where she was at. Instead, the Professor did all this other ridiculous stuff, from the outside, never telling the police anything...huh? It makes no sense. Then, at the end of the conversation with the Professor, Tengo asks him if he has permission to re-write Air Chrysalis... Uhm...he's not the legal guardian of Fuka-Eri, as the Professor pointed out in detail since he never went to the police and created any sort of legal guardianship, so how can he give any kind of permission that matters?
Another problem, in a similar vein, had to do with the discussions between Ayumi and Aomame. The sexual conversations between Aomame and Ayumi seemed ridiculous. I think Murakami is much better at observing women through the eyes of a main male character than creating an authentic female voice through a female character, at least he doesn't do a good job here. In fact, in some of his past novels his female characters have poked fun at the main male character for knowing nothing about women...I think this might be accurate in some sense for Murakami. I kind of felt like I was reading an article from a guy, pretending to be a girl, writing about a lesbian experience to Penthouse magazine. Maybe Japanese women are different than American women, but it just didn't ring through as authentic with me, so it stuck out like a sore thumb. Women are generally more protective of each other and sensitive than Murakami portrayed Ayumi, particularly when she was a woman who had been sexually abused in her childhood. "It was like a porno", Ayumi says after her night of having a foursome with Aomame with two strange men, where Aomame doesn't even remember what happens but realizes from the mornings physical sensations, that she had anal sex with one of the men...that strikes me as what a guy would say after a night like that, not what a woman would say. As I was reading this passage, my first thought was that Aomame had been dropped GHB, or some similar drug and raped. That was certainly a reasonable concern and given that Aomame didn't know Ayumi that well, she should have been concerned that this "friend" might somehow have been involved in getting her raped. Instead, she takes it all in stride like it was no big deal.
There were parts where the usual best Murakami was still shining through, enough of them to get me to read the book to the end, but there were way too many spots where he was taking liberties with the characters to move the plot in the direction he wanted rather than letting the story grow naturally. the character Ushikawa is a great example of this. Basically, out of thin air Ushikawa figures out everything that has happened to the Sakigake Leader, then he starts looking for evidence of what he already knows and only because he figured it out in a flash of brilliant insight was he able to start uncovering the pieces that link the Leader's fate back to the other characters. That isn't how things really happen, but Murakami apparently couldn't figure out another way of getting where he wanted the story to go.
Having read all of Murakami's prior novels, I was always left with the feeling that Murakami was a truly and unique and amazing writer. The best writers hit foul balls from time to time, but Murakami never seemed to. Every novel was amazing in its own right, and each novel was casually and creatively linked to all the others in various ways. It almost seemed to me as if Murakami was putting together a series of linked islands that collectively explained the workings of the mind, consciously and unconsciously, and thus the world itself, as it appears and as it may be behind those appearances. More importantly, I felt that through his novels he was opening up the reader's mind, quieting our conscious desires, that our everyday world invigorates, and encouraging us to look within, rather than without. This novel, however, doesn't belong in the archipelago he has been creating. This is Murakami's first foul ball, and for the first time he may have been looking without, rather than within.
I have always thought that fame, or the desire for it (and the desire for money, which are really kissing cousins), kills creativity. Murakami seemed to understand that, both in his life and his works, and I believe it was for that reason that he has been such a beautifully successful writer. But this novel struck me as his first attempt to create a magnum opus, a crowning acheivement that might push him Nobel Prize conversations; when all he really needed to do was to continue to let his natural creativity spill out into the world without concern for the results. The soul shrinks from the conscious mind's desires, whether it is the conscious desire for fame or anything else, and it seems to have given Murakami a slap on the hand. I hope he realizes it, and the authentic Murakami returns again with a new novel.
on November 6, 2011
Murakami is a fantastic author, i have read all of his books. This book is good, parts of it are really are brilliant but it drags on. Its very typical murakami, but suffers from being overly long by 200-300 pages. It can be repetitive, and i felt he devoted too much time to the story of ushikawa when you really wanted more of the central plot to be revealed/discussed in depth. I agree with other reviews if you are going to read murakami this is not the book to start with. For what was supposed to be his magnum opus i was a bit disappointed, i think the wind up bird chronicle was a far better book.
on December 8, 2011
...maybe, but not always in the way you expect. Murakami's novels are compulsively readable because of a kind of David Lynchian tension that underpins everything. But does anything ever actually happen?
The best way to experience Murakami's writing is to suspend your skepticism, ditch your expectations and drop into his world. Like water, his words flow and meander, assuming the shape of whatever vessel contains them. Let them pour over you. Absorb them. Release yourself from the confines of the traditional narrative where every plot has turning points that appear at set places in the structure.
Years ago I read Sputnik Sweetheart and am still not completely sure what it all meant. But I'm still thinking about it. How many other books can I honestly say that about??
In straightforward, unadorned language, Murakami will tell you a story. Your presence is all that is required. In 1Q84, Aomame exits a taxi and enters an alternate universe. If you allow yourself to experience Murakami, you will do the same.
(from the NY Times):
"For his article on novelist Haruki Murakami, Sam Anderson visited some key places from Murakami's life and work." Google "Murakami's Tokyo" in the Times. Anderson's article will take you to several locations in 1Q84 including:
The Metropolitan Expressway 3 where Aomame exits the taxi in the opening scene of the novel
The Prada store where Aomame buys some "killer clothes"
Nakamuraya Café, where characters meet and coverse
You can also visit Kinokuniya Books where Murakami purchased the supplies to begin writing his first book, Kanagawa Prefecture, where he lives part time and the baseball stadium where he got the idea for his first book.
on June 18, 2012
Page after page, nothing continued to happen. Literally nothing. Well, a couple of things.
1. Moon gazing. What color was the second one? Hazy purple? Bronze?? Oh, ha ha, you big silly, it was mentioned only a billion times that it's smaller and greenish, how could you forget?. Pshaw.
2. Boiling water and drinking a beer.
4. You learn that Aomame=Green Peas. Did ya know that?? Did ya?? Read this book and you'll never forget! And it's UNUSUAL in Japan to be called Green Peas! FYI!!
3. Stretching. Just an ungodly amount of stretching. All the time with the stretching. Will they ever get loose??
I have to say, I have read some massive tomes in my life. The Stand. The Executioner's Song. Infinite Jest. Length doesn't scare me. You know what scares me? Losing hours of my life to stuff that sucks.
This is my first Murakami. Yeah, yeah. A shame, I know.
I actually came to Amazon to post a review because this book made me so mad.
NOTE: This review offers more insight into my character than the 920-something pages of character 'development' in that book.
PS: There is NO WAY two people can sit side by side at the top of a playground slide. Just sayin'
on November 8, 2011
I had not heard of Murakami until I read a short article about "1Q84" in "Esquire." Due to the broadly mixed reviews on Amazon, I was skeptical whether I would like the book. But I read it anyway, and was enchanted. It's a long book, which is off-putting to some, but when a novel is as magnificent as this one, I just want it to go on and on. So much of "1Q84" is unforgettable. I was fascinated with the way in which Murakami gradually intertwined the many tentacles of the lives of the two principal characters and their acquaintances. The structure was brilliant.
Some reviewers have complained about Murakami's repetitive style, but I found the repetition to be a distinctly positive element of the novel. Each restatement of a previously-referenced incident or chain of thoughts was nuanced. The characters mulled events over in their minds repeatedly, gradually distilling them into their essential meanings in the manner in which people actually crystalize memories of their experiences. I also found the fantastical elements of the story to be charming and memorable. As some other reviewers have noted in so many words, certain ideas and images embedded in fiction should simply be absorbed. Interpreting a story rationally with the conscious mind is not always as enriching as bathing the subconscious mind in a pool of mythological and archetypal imagery. I won't stop thinking about this book for a long time, and I will definitely read more Murakami.
on December 4, 2011
Caution: story spoilers in review
Okay, I have read a few of the reviews for this book, 1Q84 and find them interesting and thought provoking. While reading this book, I kept thinking, "The style of this author reminds me of another book I read." Yes, "The Wind-up Bird Chronicle" was the book that kept creeping into my memory. Until the dots connected, I thought that maybe this was the way all great Japanese literature is written.
So what made me love this novel so much? Well first of all, I love unique story lines that push limits. Secondly, stories written by authors outside of the US that portray life outside the US (even mundane life) fascinate me. Third, Murikama's writing style is captivating. Finally, while reading this book, I kept wanting to get back to the book in place of working, socializing, exercising, and essentially trying to live life outside of the novel. Hmmm, I think the term is hyper-focus. I was hyper-focused on this book. Now add that to the fact that the book is still sticking with me as I ponder loose ends of the story and the story in general.
Parts of the book kept exiting and appearing in my life at weird times and strange ways. Emails with subject line of "little people" that dealt with marketing aspects of my job. A dog hair ball floating around my house that looked like air chrysalis. While reading this book, I found myself interfacing with people talking cryptically like Fukaeri. I was actually waiting for a NHK worker to knock on my door. LOL
Yes, parts of this book drag. As a reader you have the power to scan those pages. Yes this book seems long and I felt as reading it that this book would make a great series/trilogy. After reading this book, I feel the author could follow Tengo and Aomame in the new dimension they are in....surely this is not the original dimension they are from since the Esso tiger was located on the wrong side of the sign.
Yes, the author does focus on the mundane--such as cooking specifics, menial conversations and boring day-to-day activities but I found that enlightening about life in Japan on a daily basis. To me how people around the world live their life is fascinating.
Yes, the main characters are flat. However I loved this and thought that the author planned this to demonstrate that the average Joe is flat. I wish I could say that if someone invented me in a novel that I would be fascinating and dynamic but in reality the average person is simply just an average person. Boring, with redemptive qualities.
Fantasy--I love how the author presented a fantasy situation in another dimension. The little people fascinated me. I wanted to know more about them but the author wasn't going to share everything. I am still not clear about why Komatsu's hair was used in the chrysalis at the end of the book. Is this fodder for the next book?
Sex is huge in this book and I feel that it is well-written while pushing limits. Both Aomame and Tengo engaged in what many would call unsafe sex: sex with a married woman and in Aomame's case sex with strange men she picks up. I think this is essential to the plot because they are each comfortable with their sexual choices and it never crosses their minds that what they are doing is inappropriate. Once their characters develop in the book and their final goal to find each other becomes apparent do these two leave their unsafe sexual practices.
This book reminded me of an American novel I read long ago and loved, "Winter's Tale" by Mark Helprin. Out-of-box fantasy that keeps you riveted as you absorb as much as you can as you read leaving you to mourn the end of the book with thoughts and memories that keep returning to remind you of visiting this special place.
on April 21, 2012
When sitting down to begin reviewing this novel, many conflicting opinions and ideas have flown through my mind. On a technical level, this book almost fails: the translation can be rough, the plot is often slow and tends to drag, and the characters seem unrealistic and detached. If we were going off of that purely basic merit, I'd probably give this book 3 stars, maybe 3 and 1/2 because I consider myself a Murakami fan. But, in the end, I cannot do that, because, against all odds, the whole of this novel is much greater than the sum of its parts.
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami is about two people living in Tokyo, 1984. Aomame is a powerful, liberated woman who delivers justice in her own vigilante style. The other, a reticent genius named Tengo Kawana, is involved in a controversial behind-closed-doors deal to ghost write a novel. These plots seem to be totally unrelated, but over the course of the year 1984, Tengo and Aomame's paths cross, and maybe not just for the first time.
When you read that summary, however, worry probably comes to your mind. The first seems decently interesting, but doesn't the second one come off as kind of... I don't know, bookish and academic? Unfortunately, yes. And, to be honest, Tengo's story line is probably the backbone of the novel: most of the mysteries stem from that one and a lot of the action occurs involving it. Often times, over the course of the novels 3 long "Books", or sections, the plot seems to drag as the narrative jumps through time to describe even the most minute details. The pace can be deadly.
However, as fatal as it feels while reading it, looking back from the end of the novel, the slow movement sort of makes sense. Murakami deftly covers all the small, seemingly unimportant things the exact same way he covers the monumental, the magical, and the life changing. The narratorial voice is definitely detached throughout the novel, but it needs to be that way to present some of the more fantastical and surreal elements in such a wholly realistic way. The presentation of these elements is so powerful that it will have you searching the world around you for evidence of its existence. Beautiful.
The Translation, however, can be quite *wonky*. I don't know how else to describe it. The book was translated by Jay Rubin and Philip Gabriel. Jay Rubin has translated a surplus of Murakami's other work, so I'm inclined to believe that it was Mr. Gabriel who dropped the ball a bit. Nothing major, it's just that here and there, sentences get awkward and often fall into the classic "Subject-Verb-Object" style of sentence. This isn't gramatically incorrect or unclear, however, it does make the dialogue sound stilted and the descriptions to sometimes be overblown and almost campy or mock-literary.
A note to potential readers: this book is explicit. When I say "explicit", I mean it heavily feautres rape, incest, gratuitous sex, lots of description of genitalia, violence, some mild drug use, and, of course, some language. Wow. That's a long list! But, as a 17 year old male, I'm not too too offended by the inclusion of this. In fact, some scenes had me smiling at the outright gall of Murakami to include what he did in this book, and not only throw it in for the purpose of being racy, or to just develop a theme, but to actually create and strengthen a plot thread. Murakami is one of the only authors I've read that can marry despicable violence with the commonplace beauty of butterflies and kind words.
This is a monstrous novel. The first edition, hardcover copy (which I assume most people will be reading until the three-book paperback box set comes out-- which I will be purchasing) is 925 pages long. In my opinion, this story could have been told in 100-200 pages less. During the first "Book", the length really bugged me. But at a certain point during Book 2, right after one of the most climatic and intense scenes in Murakami's opera, I kind of just settled into the story and let it take me where I wanted to go. Patterns emerge, irony and parallelism surface, and everything falls to the beat of the drum. ("Ho, Ho" as the Little People say.)
One final thing that I find particularly extra-ordinary about this book is that it not only confused the heck out of me, but then it proceeded to clarify things and generally increase the range of my thought process. This is very deep, philosophical, mind-expanding stuff-- if you let it be. Once you get yourself into this book, truly fold yourself between its sentences and wrap yourself in the blanket of the plot, the deep stuff starts coming to you and you'll be wondering about Cat Towns, Little People, Two Moons, Cults, and everything else in this novel.
But at the end of the day, in spite of all the craziness, this novel is a love story about two people searching for each other in today's hectic modern world (errr-- well, the modern world of 1984, but its close enough!). The Theme is vast and expansive, but there is something for everyone to relate to here.
In conclusion, I would like to share with you an episode form my life. I have a friend who is also my age and loves to read, and we often discuss modern literature. She, a huge Victorian fan, feels that it's kind of going downhill. I tend to be more modern in my tastes, but for a while, I understood what she was saying. However, 1Q84 has actually started to change my mind on the subject. Murakmi has such a powerful sense of interlinking and parallellism, ironic situations, metaphors, and over-arching allegories.
Let yourself get lost in this novel. If you hate it, I'm truly sorry. But try not to focus on the bad stuff... the technical level failures-- anyone can screw those up. Instead, I encourage you to get excited and happy about the good things this book has to offer: the powerful mythos, the advanced literary techniques, and hope for the future of literature as a whole. Murakami for the Nobel Prize! Woooo! (okay, I'm getting a little ahead of myself here.)
Like I said earlier: If I was basing this off of the little things in the book, this review would be about 3 stars. But, my personal response to this book has been amazingly positive. Halfway through it, I went out and bought a second copy so I could keep it nice on my shelf for years to come. It's that kind of book-- lasting. And because it fights so hard to do what it wants, because it made me feel amazing while I read it, and because it's highs are so much better than it's lows are worse, I couldn't give this book anything but 5 Stars.
A lot of people will dislike this book, but that's okay. Because those who do like it, will like it a lot. Just for the chance to like something as much as I enjoy this novel, I encourage you to try this book. You won't regret it.