Friday, November 23, 2012

1Q84 - Ichi Kew Hachi Yon

"It feels like I'm experiencing someone else's dream. Like we're simultaneously sharing feelings. But I can't really grasp what it means to be simultaneous. Our feelings seem extremely close, but in reality there's a considerable gap between us." - Aomame

Had I known, before I borrowed the book, that 1Q84 was approximately 920 pages, I might not have read it. I would have, in all honesty, picked up the Lord of the Rings again in preparation for The Hobbit. But I had already checked it out and I obviously could not put it away.

[Writing out a quick summary of this novel is going to be quite a task for me because there are so many details in it that I would love to include. I must, however, try and keep it short, so I will simply restrict myself to sharing my thoughts and opinions of the book].

The plot of the novel is quite large though it essentially boils down to a love story that persists through 20 years of time and finds closure in the alternate reality of the year 1984 - 1Q84. It is told from the perspective of three characters whose lives intersect rather interestingly: Aomame, a fitness instructor and 'serial killer' of sorts, Tengo Kawana, a prep school math teacher and an aspiring novelist, and Ushikawa, a private investigator. The common thread between the three? The alternate universe with two moons, a novel by a teenage girl, a Japanese cult, air chrysalises, Little People, murder and soul searching.
Confused? You would be until you slowly wade through the novel. I've heard that this isn't Mr. Murakami's best work, and though this is the first of his books I have read, I would consider it a very good piece of writing that encompasses all the essentials of good story telling that engulfs you from start to finish.

The main theme of the story is the 'Little People', quite like Orwell's Big Brother. The Little People seem, to me, a mystical sort of personification of whatever it is that makes the world run. They create alternate personalities of people which are devoid of any human characteristic except that they can act as a bridge between this strange world and actual reality. They are good and evil and have existed since before time; they have powers and require a human to channel them through. Weird?
Well, there's another character in the novel that kind of tops it all - Fuka-Eri, the author of a short story within the novel. A slight dyslexic girl who angers the Little People because she has brought their existence to the knowledge of the world in her writing. She, during an absolutely ludicrous encounter with Tengo, ends up impregnating Aomame with Tengo's child and this too is in a way the work of the Little People! Still weird?

The visions and worlds that 1Q84 is, is strangely true. You can relate to it on a different level in that you aren't sure that the world you live in, or the life you know, is the one you actually were born in to. There are shifts in reality and it is very possible that almost everyone that thinks has paused at some point to wonder what the proper definition of reality is because it will be different for everyone. But a lot of the book is too obscure to contemplate. The Little People, for example. Or the religious cult that they seem to thrive on. Or the strange humanoid novelists.

There is a lot of this book that I did not understand as I read it. But Murakami has a fascinating way of connecting the dots. The parallel stories of Aomame and Tengo come into flashing collision at the end of the first book and then it's only a matter of time. And time drags on and on and on.
A lot of the book is repetitive and snail paced. Maybe it's just me, but Aomame quite easily jumped into believing in the alternate world, while the others took their own sweet time going about it, and then suddenly everyone is thinking the same thing over and over again. While it may be necessary for the characters, it isn't required for the readers, I don't think. Fuka-Eri's character, though interesting, gets annoying after a point because there's nothing new. She provides for comic relief at times, but it's very disconcerting when there's nothing more to know of the character and then she has a sexual encounter, thinks nothing of it and disappears even though her life and connections is what causes all of the trouble throughout the novel.

Don't get me wrong, I am fascinated by the power of story telling in the author's magnum opus publication. I probably expected more closure, more explanation that what was provided. Some characters just fall out of the pages when everyone is scrambling about. Parts of the book bind you to the pages and then there are bits that make you wonder if it is still in the same book. It's a very bipolar read which you can indulge in when you are unsure of what you want to read.
Either way, this book has now made me want to read Kafka on the Shore because it does have higher ratings and I would love to see Murakami's magic at its best.

1 comment:

  1. One of the things I love about Murakami's novels is the little fascinating facts that are never actually explained. You wait, wait, wait, and then... nothing. That creates a weird sense of... enjoyable frustration. It's like magic.

    Anyway, in this book, I feel he forgot the "enjoyable" so at the end of the story I basically just fell frustrated. I was never really drawn inside the story and the end is disappointing. All that fascinating stuff for just a love story... good for teenagers probably, but it ain't what I'm used to coming from this author.

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