There is no denying that the collective effort of Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 is an ambitious piece of fiction to say the least, and reading it is no less an ambitious task. It took me a good 40 days to read this book cover to cover, and I relished every single moment of it, even if it means having to squeeze in an extra book into my regular three-a-month routine over the next two months.
It’s been quite awhile since I last read a book by Murakami and I have always found his writing fascinating, like a blend between William Gibson, David Mitchell and Neil Gaiman, with a subtle cyberfiction edge. His stories are always out of this world while being completely grounded in it, like fantasy without dragons or enchanted swords or far off kingdoms (although Tokyo is still a several hour flight from Kuala Lumpur).
Clocking in at 1157 pages, 1Q84 tells the separate stories of Aomame and Tengo, and how histories and circumstances bind them together. They were only ten when they first knew each other in school – she an outcast because of her parents’ religious beliefs, he a clever and sporty boy who didn’t fit in with the rest of his schoolmates due to his NHK-fee collector father. Later on in life, a fitness instructor with a dark streak, Aomame finds herself killing a man the religious group known as Sakigake calls the Leader. Tengo, on the other hand, is a math cram school instructor and budding novelist who ghostwrites the fantasy story ‘Air Chrysalis’ originally told by a girl called Fuka Eri.
As fate would have it, Fuka Eri is the runaway daughter of the Leader, ‘Air Chrysalis’ may not be a piece of fiction after all, and Tengo and Aomame find themselves bound together once again, although their coming together only occurs almost towards the end of the book.
A story peppered with Little People, two moons and chrysalises made out of air, 1Q84 is not for those unwilling to suspend reality. Taking place from April to December in the year 1984, or at least some semblance of it, the book is addictive and fascinating throughout. I do think it could have been a teensy bit shorter as there were quite a few repetitions, especially during part one of the ‘trilogy’. But other than that I didn’t have any other gripes, although I am still fascinated by how the story managed to span over a thousand pages!
The ending of 1Q84 doesn’t really bring you many satisfying closures as many questions remain unanswered, but that certainly adds to the mystery of the whole story. Are they back in 1984? Are they somewhere else? Will Sakigake come after the baby Aomame carries in her womb? Where is Fuka Eri? Was that really Tengo’s father knocking on their doors? What would life be like for Tengo and Aomame? Do they just go on living as usual? What about that story Tengo is writing? And will there be a continuation novel in 1Q85 or perhaps a few years later?
I marked out a few quotations I came across in the book…
“Even if we could turn back, we’d probably never end up where we started.”
“Half-baked ideas can only lead to trouble.”
… and they certainly seem fitting to how one feels at the end of the book. Yes, I certainly am hoping there’ll be more to this story. But in the mean time I think I should go and get the rest of Murakami’s books and add them to my reading list. I just have to remember which exact titles of his I’ve already read!