Haruki Murakami has been one of my favorite authors for quite a long time. My first experience with his work came in the form of a slim book titled South of the Border, West of the Sun. It was a tender coming-of-age love story that swept me into the night with a marathon reading. That was the first time in years where I had gotten so caught up in a book that I had completely forgotten about everything else around me. I have diligently read many of his novels following that experience. Every time that I happen to believe he has surprised me with his storytelling capabilities, I am even more blown away, and I am proud to say that 1Q84 is no exception.
I understand that this book can be really intimidating, as there are well over 1000 pages in it. Whether you buy the three-in-one omnibus, or the trilogy box set (which is the edition that I own and read), it can make you a bit hesitant at picking it up, especially if you are unfamiliar with Murakami’s writing style. My suggestion to you is to familiarize yourself with his work, or at the very least with the genre known as magical realism, as it is his favorite way of telling a story. I will not sit here and tell you that these books are simple to dive into, or that they are fluid and extremely easy to absorb, because if I did that I would most definitely be lying to you. What kind of reviewer would that make me?
1Q84 is a dense reading experience in that its depth is extraordinary and intellectual. There are a lot of minor details revealed to the reader from start to finish that when pieced together create a truly vivid and intriguing masterpiece. The progression of plot is deliberate and highly meticulous, which can feel sluggish and at times exhausting to push through. The dialogue exchanged between the many colorful characters also vary depending on the scene depicted. I have caught myself being aroused with amusement, frustration, intense fascination, disgust, and even boredom (but that was partly due to my impatience when I finally reached the last one-hundred pages).
Technicalities of the written facet aside, one of elements of this book that really kept me going forward was how brilliantly Murakami illustrates magical realism. You have this seemingly normal girl and boy, who have lives that are just as mundane as most of ours giving them an exceptionally relatable and realistic feel. As they go about their routine-driven existences, something begins to stir; something that is mystical and fantastical that affects their daily journeys, pushing them towards a greater end. Now, this is where those pesky little minor details I had mentioned earlier arise.
Putting forth my greatest effort not to reveal spoilers here, let me give you an idea of what these details entail (only a few though!): titles of specific songs, the number 10, repetitions galore, events that occurred in Japan’s modern history, a stormy night, the bright round balls in the sky, a young girl holding the hand of a boy she liked in junior high—the list could go on, but it can also get confusing without context. All of these elements, when combined, create a full-bodied tale of love and fate, as well as a paradox for parallel universes, which is the foundation for 1Q84.
The story unfolds slowly, but as it does so you come to realize that the world in which our main characters—Tengo and Aomame—reside in is actually special. It is not the normal, traffic trifled universe that is introduced to us in the first ten pages. Somewhere along the path as each character makes their choices with how to survive and move forward as a human being, fate begins to shift its course. You will find yourself contemplating the notion of space-time being a largely moldable concept, yet still having a single destination at journey’s end. While all of this is going on, at the core you still have the classic beauty of fiction literature. A young man and a young woman embark on a simplistic journey of self-discovery that will evidently lead them to a profound love.
All of this probably sounds terribly confusing, but I can assure you that when you pick up that first book in the trilogy (or the brick known as the omnibus) and actually read that first page, you will be transported into a story that is filled with supernatural-seasoned charm that is also wholly relatable and utterly mind-blowing. My overall rating for this is 4 stars!