1Q84 finally made it into English. I’d been waiting to read this novel since the Japanese version was announced a couple of years ago. I even pre-ordered it on my Kindle (who wants to lug around a thousand-page hardback?) and got it at midnight on October 25th, the very second it was released. And I dove right in.
1Q84 is being called Murakami‘s magnum opus, but it’s pretty run-of-the-mill for him. It’s just really long. In typical Murakami style, the point of view snaps back and forth between two people, Aomame and Tengo, both of whom are around 30 and live in Tokyo. The novel begins with Aomame riding in a cab, in a hurry to make an appointment. There’s a huge traffic jam, though, and she gets out of the cab in the middle of the expressway and exits down a hidden flight of stairs used for earthquakes and the like. Then things get weird. Tengo, meanwhile, gets drafted to rewrite a seventeen-year-old’s novella called Air Chrysalis, the release of which angers a religious movement and some only partially explained magical beings called the Little People.
The name, of course, is a reference to 1984, and that’s the year in which the novel is set. Once Aomame discovers she’s in some sort of alternate reality, she names it 1Q84, where the Q stands for Question since she doesn’t yet know what’s going on.
This novel is really complicated, as I guess any thousand-page novel should be. It took me almost exactly a month to read, which, considering how busy I’ve been lately, isn’t too shabby. In fact, if you count Lord of the Rings as three books (which I don’t), I’m pretty sure it’s the longest novel I’ve ever read. And I didn’t get bored: something interesting is always happening. As with most other Murakami novels (I’ve read all of them), I wish some of the supernatural elements came with more thorough explanations. The translation is good – both of the usual translators, Jay Rubin and Philip Gabriel, worked on this one, so I didn’t have a problem with the style. I don’t think it needed to be quite as long as it is, though I really enjoyed every minute of reading it.
As I was reading 1Q84, I was sure it would become my favorite Murakami novel yet, but, a few days out, I’m not sure that’s the case: I think The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Kafka on the Shore might still be at the top of my list.