Book Review: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
Okay. I finished this book two weeks ago but it has nothing to do with the thickness of it. No, my work and videogames got in the way. And no, I’m not saying this book is so boring that I skipped out on it a lot.
This book is more than 900 pages and I was happy, and still happy, that Murakami actually had the time and effort (not to mention inspiration and imagination) to write a book of such length. I’m thankful for it and I’m a proud owner of his books (the other being Norwegian Wood) but in this review, I’m gonna tell you right now that this book is nothing like Norwegian Wood. In fact, I’d go as far to say that Norwegian Wood is the better book. Maybe it’s just me and my biased choice of fiction gearing towards slice of life and not so much into fantasy (more on this later) but I really enjoyed reading “Wood” much more than this.
Praise Murakami for this but praise him even more for Norwegian Wood. But still, this book is worth reading if you’re really into it. And by “really” I mean a real bookworm. Now, let’s review this!
So what is this book about? Here’s the WIKI on this if you’re interested in the details. But as per this review, let’s keep it short and sweet.
The story at first seems to be about two people who haven’t seen each other in a long time. The girl has become a hired gun against abusive men and the boy has become a not so quite traditional writer and math teacher. The girl’s name is Aomame and the boy, Tengo. They last saw each other in elementary school and has since been subconsciously longing for one another. The book starts off easy and with a slight thrill, giving the reader the impression that Aomame is no ordinary office woman, able to kill a man without so much as leaving any traces for the autopsy to reveal any foul play. It also details Tengo as a man with a very confused life; unable to see which path to take despite the many talents he has been endowed with.
Throughout the story, the book introduces a handful of memorable characters, each with their own peculiarities that made the book come to life, utilizing Murakami’s ability to describe people in detail which matches quite well with his story-telling talent. The story will eventually develop a sense of good vs evil plot: The good being Aomame and Tengo’s team vs a religious cult backed by divine-like creatures called “The Little People”.
The setting and the plot seems interesting enough. Then again, I really didn’t believe I was reading a “fantasy” until a few more chapters told me otherwise. I didn’t like this so much since I often thought the terms used like “two moons” or “little people” and the “Taxi driver” were like metaphors but after realizing it enough, I began to think the answers would soon reveal themselves.
But they don’t. That’s right, the book opened lots of questions and barely any answers. Although I am sure that’s how Murakami wanted it to be. The book itself is also about a book which also doesn’t give light to the mysteries it contains. I won’t tell you what those mysteries are but you’ll surely be wanting an explanation after the last page. also note that in the middle of it all, you’d start to think that a battle between good and evil will happen and the climax will be very explosive and all of the mysteries would be solved. But again, they don’t. It was in this part that another character was introduced; a detective of sorts that soon becomes an important character in reuniting Tengo and Aomame.
It still is disappointing that Murakami didn’t build up the hype of a “battle”. Then again, Murakami works differently that modern-day authors in that he does the unexpected, for better or for worse. Maybe his target audience isn’t the type who feeds on “battles”. Still, it would’ve been really nice if Murakami did put a fine finish on the mysteries within the world of 1Q84. To each his own, I guess.
Apart from the things he seemed to have purposely omitted, this books is right off the bat a real Murakami-style novel. It’s filled with classical jazz, lots of out-of-this-world sex, animal personification, and not to mention very detailed descriptions of everyday habits that most authors would’ve skipped on. And I’m glad Murakami writes this way. It’s this that specifically separates him from other writers and this makes him great. I mean, it won’t be his book if it lacked one of those things.
In fact, I found this image that pretty much sums up a certain Murakami book’s key traits:
To end my review, I’ll give this book a rough 8/10. I prefer Norwegian Wood over this. The book could make you think you were dragged towards the ending rather than be flown to it. You might even end up thinking he uses too much descriptions or puts into detail things that can be summed up with a sentence or two. But in the end, the ending was still beautiful sans the answers you might still be looking for.
A bonus: A few quotes from this book.
A person who is incapable of loving another cannot properly love himself.
Most people are not looking for provable truths. As you said, truth is often accompanied by intense pain, and almost no one is looking for painful truths. What people need is beautiful, comforting stories that make them feel as if their lives have some meaning. Which is where religion comes from.
What we call the present is given shape by an accumulation of the past.
But there are certain meanings that are lost forever the moment they are explained in words.
Knowledge and ability were tools, not things to show off.
A person learns how to love himself through the simple acts of loving and being loved by someone else.