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Book Review: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

1Q84 Cover

1 STAR

First published in three parts and originally printed in Japanese, 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami is a book that sounds fascinating: Set in 1984, a ruthless assassin named Aomame starts to notice small changes to the world around her. She soon realizes she’s become transported to an alternate universe, which she later names 1Q84. Meanwhile, an aspiring author named Tengo takes on a ghostwriting project that involves him with a mystical cult. Their stories eventually converge and the mystery begins to unfold. Intriguing, right?

Wrong. This was one of the most boring books I’ve ever read.

Well, not read, I guess. I listened to 1Q84 on audiobook. And I’m glad I did. This beast of a book—at nearly 1,000 pages!—did not deliver an enticing story. Instead of creating a multilayered plot that drew me in, I continuously zoned out during my morning commutes. It constantly repeated itself (no wonder it was so long) and delivered a mediocre “mystery” with an anticlimactic ending. Aomame, the “ruthless assassin,” makes Inspector Gadget look like a savvy adventure series. And the major emotional draw for the entire book is the love she feels for a man whose hand she once held in elementary school, and whom she never saw again. That’s right folks. She fell in love with a man in the third grade. Not really a man, I guess. A boy. She has spent the last 20 years of her life pining for a 10-year-old. Gross. Apparently, not one single man she met in all of her life compared to the boy she fell in love with 20 years ago.

On top of that, the literary device of a parallel universe that really attracted me to this novel was completely wasted. The changes Aomame notices around her when she switches worlds don’t affect her past life in any way. And the cult that Tengo finds himself entangled in is as tame as a kitten. And did I mention that the book is nearly 1,000 pages? At that page length I expected an epic tale of love, war and mystery. What a letdown. I do not recommend it.

Stray Observations
Some spoilers ahead

• Can I reiterate this once more? It was nearly 1,000 pages! That’s more than 45 hours in audiobook world! Edit yourself, dude.

• There’s no way Tengo’s ghostwritten novel, Air Chrysalis, would have become a best seller. Just saying.

• What was the deal with the faceless fee collector? I had to listen to 20 minutes of him berating Aomame and Tengo’s door, never to hear from him again or discover the purpose of his presence, which must have ate up at least 50 pages. Was he Tengo’s dead father? And if so, what was the point? What was the point of the whole story, really?

• How have these two characters clung to that one moment in a grade school classroom for 20 years? The strongest crush I had in grade school involved me saving a pair of scissors my crush had borrowed from me. I preserved them in a Ziploc bag. But then I needed to use the scissors for a class project, so the next day I took them out of the bag. Then my feelings for this boy waned the following year because we no longer shared the same teacher. And also because we were in grade school!

• Who are the Little People? Why did Murakami never spend more time with these mystical creatures? That would have made a much more interesting novel—much more interesting than sitting around with Ushikawa for a third of the book as he investigated Aomame and Tengo, uncovering information about them we already knew.

• I will say this for the book: Reading 1Q84 made me want to read the classic novel its title was based on, George Orwell’s 1984. I have even gone so far as to buy a copy of it from my local used-book store, The Dusty Bookshelf. (My favorite place in Lawrence.) So there’s that. Thanks 1Q84.

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