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Once again Murakami has produced something that is truly magical. I would have to agree with the previous reviewer, if you have never read Murakami before, then this is probably not the best place to start, due to its length and surrealism, if you are not familiar with his work you may end up feeling rather perplexed.

It is 1984, and the place is Japan, but things are going to suddenly start altering. With two main characters, Aomame and Tengo, the tale is told in alternating chapters between the two. At first you have a mystery, in that what relation do these two characters actually bear to each other? Both characters seem to be living completely different lives, and have very little in common, but as you progress everything is slowly revealed, drawing you further in to the story. Aomame feels that she is in a different reality, or parallel universe, but is she? Could she just be more real than others? With Aomame as a gym instructor and assassin, and Tengo as a teacher and writer you are completely mesmerised by the two. Taking in such things as religious cults, and some history of what happened in Japan in the last century, this could be seen in some ways as an allergory of the Japanese people as a nation.

There is just so much to take in here, especially with the appearance of the 'Little People' that you are held in thrall. Tengo has taken part in a literary fraud with a publisher and the original writer of a story, and is hoping not to be revealed. Aomame is sent on a mission to kill 'The Leader', the head of a cult.

You could in actuality read this story twice, once reading the chapters to do with Aomame, and then the ones that are about Tengo, but it is much better to read them as a whole and enter Murakami's imagination; just relax and go with the flow, you won't be disappointed.

Once again, if you have never read any fiction by Murakami, I wouldn't suggest this as a first read. I usually tell people to read After The Quake. There is a good reason for this, as this is a short story collection where all the stories centre on one subject, an earthquake. If you enjoy and 'get' those then you should enjoy anything else written by Murakami. I can't wait until next week when the third volume comes out. I should point out that this kindle edition does have an active table of contents.
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on 29 December 2011
This is what happens when a writer gets so popular that his editor(s) can no longer advise him, or he refuses to listen. I can't see any other way that this book got published in it's current format.

I've been a Murakami reader for quite some time and have read most of his published work. This book is too long, highly repetitive, and unoriginal in the sense that he is repeatedly regurgitating his own ideas from previous novels. Add to this a translation that is poor and highly irritating, and you have a largely indigestible package.

But all of this could have been, and indeed should have been eliminated by some honest editing. The material itself could happily be cut by half without losing ideas, plot or atmosphere. It took me a while (a long while) to read this book but a lot of the time I felt like I was in Groundhog Day, with the same scenes described with the same language over and over and over. Judicious use of a large red marker could have tightened up the flow and pace dramatically, though I do worry that there are so few original [to Murakami] ideas in the book that eliminating the repetition may have left little.

But clearly the editors were too scared to criticise their master, and instead we have a slow, rambling story where we drift back and forth doing the same thing again and again.

By the time the final novel was handed over for translation into English it was way too late for the English editors to do much about the novel as a whole, but why they allowed such a ridiculous translation to be released I'll never know. The whole book reads like it's been translated in a rush with little care over choice of words. If there was any beautiful prose in the original, none of it survived. In fact, I found myself reading the whole book in a Japanese accent just to make sense of the clumsy grammar and flow. Too much prose makes no sense at all, and while I understand the original language is culturally different from ours, surely it's the job of the translator and editor to make sure the translated work at the very least makes sense? Some of the translation sounds so confused it feels like Google translated it.

But I'd be letting the English team off lightly if I left it at that. Previous translations have demonstrated that Murakami is capable of dazzling feats, and unless he's completely forgotten how to write, the fact that there is no where in this novel that his talent shines it's light, however briefly, suggests to me that the translators and editors didn't do their job with sufficient care.

This book should never been published in this format, that is for certain. But the English version is almost ridiculous.

The fable of the emperor's new clothes comes to mind. Someone should have had the guts to tell Murakami to pull his finger out and work harder. It is not acceptable to rely on previous brilliance and simply dump a stream of consciousness on us without due care and selection.

This book is dull.

If you are new to Murakami and want to read something brilliant, read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. You'll be hard pressed to read a better book.
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VINE VOICEon 19 October 2011
`1Q84' appears to be one of the most anticipated novels of the year and as a Haruki Murakami fan I was not disappointed. As with all of his books the best way to read it is to leave your disbelief at the door, jump in and enjoy the journey - as I am sure that the `Murakami Army' are already doing. The story involves 2 characters, Aomame and Tengo and from the start we knows that they are connected in some way. Aomame has a special skill and an unusual occupation, Tengo is a writer caught up in a scheme to re-write a story `The Air Chrysalis', written by a teenage girl which has been submitted for a literary prize but is it a work of imagination or a true story? Tengo is the ordinary man caught up in extraordinary circumstances that we have come to expect from Murakami's novels. As the world changes Aomame and Tengo are brought closer together but will they ever meet? There are disturbing scenes, sex and violence plays its part along with ears, cats and cooking, and, of course, Owell's `1984' is referenced throughout, Orwell gave us 'Big Brother' '1Q84' has 'the little people'. Music also plays its part with Janecek's Sinfonietta being the most prominent piece, if you like listening to music while reading then Murakami has provided the soundtrack for you.

However, if you have tried Murakami before particularly `Windup Bird Chronicles' or `Kafka on the Shore' and have not enjoyed them then I think it highly unlikely that you will get on with `1Q84'. If you haven't read him then it might be a good idea to try one of his other books first. Much as I hate to admit it there are people who don't like him at all and they can't understand what people see in his books. The best answer to that comes from `1Q84' itself `If you can't understand it without an explanation, you can't understand it with an explanation.'

Many Haruki Murakmi fans will tell you that reading his books can make them see the world in a different way, this book poses the question can literature change the world? Ambitious, stunning, hypnotic, 1Q84 is all those things and I am waiting impatiently to get my hands on book 3.
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on 15 December 2011
I am perplexed by the comments of the reviewers published as part of the product description: "his magnum opus", "maddening brilliance", "gripping originality","a mandatory read", and so forth. Give us a break. I said it about 'Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman', and I'll say it again about this latest Murakami offering: Murakami has had his day and he simply has nothing more to say. These novels (Part 1, 2 and 3) would never have seen the light of day if an unknown author had submitted them to any respectable publishing house. It is underwhelming, utter tosh. To add insult to injury Marukami has now included some of the most excruciatingly awful sex scenes imaginable. The plot is immature, contrived and unbelievable, the dialogue is stilted and artificial, there is no elegance or poetry in the prose, the translation is awful and the works need some serious editing. Really, I cannot find any redeaming features at all. A complete waste of time and money.
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on 10 February 2012
Murakami's great skill has been to combine the daily routine of a protagonist's life with a surreal events & happenings, whilst making the surreal as everyday as preparing a meal. In 19Q4 Murakami fails to display his usual prowess and instead fills far too many pages with too few happenings. Indeed he translators would have been doing both author and reader a great favour by producing an abridged version so that what little interest the reader has gained in the characters can be rewarded without slogging through repetitive and often clichéd chapters.Even the surrealism & otherworldly links aren't as interesting or involving as previous offerings, an unlike previous novels here we get a little handholding explanation.

This is the first Murakami book I wouldn't recommend reading. I finished it, but only just and certainly won't be reading book 3.
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on 10 November 2011
This book should come with a health warning. Do not start reading this if you have any time commitments - certainly not if you should be studying or have exams pending or something important on at work. I started Book 1 and then kept reading and kept reading ... into Book 2 .......... and have just finished Book 3. It's weird in places and yes it is repetitive as has been remarked in a couple of reviews but it is totally compelling.

It is, however, really one book broken down into three parts. Don't start unless you are prepared to read the full set.
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on 26 March 2012
From the outset I want to nail my colours firmly to the mast - I absolutely loved this book, loved everything about it and have now ordered Book Three and can't wait for it to arrive so I can live a little longer in the world of 1Q84.

The book follows the lives of the two main characters Tengo and Aomame in a series of alternating chapters focused on one or other of them in turn. Tengo is an aspiring novelist and writer, who eventually takes on the task of "re-writing" a book for subsequent submission for a literary prize. Throughout the book this is a great mechanism for Murakami to give a fantastic insight into the writing process and beyond. Aomame on the other hand is a kind of avenging assassin, wreaking revenge in the most subtle, understated but super-efficient way, with her victims essentially men who are abusers. In the early stages of the novel there seems no connection between the two in any way but of course you expect that connection and it comes. But it is brilliantly done. As you read it you are fed tiny pieces of the connections between the two but it's teased out gently, page after page, a bit like a spider spinning the most delicately interwoven web which is only revealed to you by the morning dew gathering on its threads - and even then it's revealed to you one dew drop at a time as it were.

The two main characters and their intertwining lives are supplemented by the story of Fuka-Eri, a 17 year-old girl who writes the most fantastic novel in terms of narrative but in terms of style and structure it's all over the place. It needs re-written and that's where Tengo comes in and eventually Aomame becomes linked into it too. Of course there's so much more to the story than this but I won't say more in any case anybody who reads this post decides to try 1Q84 - I wouldn't want to spoil it for anyone as it's a joy to read this book!

There's something odd and a kind of friction and tension within the personality of every character in the book for me, even in the very minor characters, but somehow this added to rather than detracted from my enjoyment of the novel. Consequently, because of the slightly strange feel to everything I wouldn't say I was able to completely empathise with Tengo, Aomame, Fuka-Eri or any other character in the book. But I was fascinated by them and I felt I did kind of understand them. They are so well drawn that their complexities, features and lives simply leap off the page at you.

The book is wonderfully well written. No matter what he explores in a chapter it is always done with a kind of vibrancy in the writing and yet there is a feeling of a writer applying an economy of effort at the same time. It reads like one of those books where the author says just the right words, just the right amount of words and just at the right time, on every single page.

Above all though for me what I loved most about this book is "story" itself. Clearly there are obvious parallels between it and Orwell's 1984. I read Orwell's book a long time ago as a very callow adolescent. I remember enjoying reading it but 1Q84 definitely moved me more than Orwell's book. (That may of course simply be a maturity thing for me personally). I loved the fact that somehow this is what I tend to think of as a "clever" book, in fact it's a toweringly "clever" book, and yet it stayed on the right side of clever from start to finish and never strayed into the "look how clever I am" territory that I sometimes find with some other authors.

At this point I've no idea where it will go next in Book Three - but I can't wait to find out
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VINE VOICEon 26 November 2011
I expected a lot from this, Murakami's latest, what with the queues at the midnight bookstore openings and the record-breaking sellouts in his native Japan. I was prepared to forgive the infelicities of a rushed translation and as for the themes - 1980s-set dimension-hopping romance meets sinister cult psycho-thriller with surreal dwarfs - well, the longer the better I say.

But not this long. And, please, not this badly written.

The chapters alternate, you see, between two Point Of View (POV) protagonists - stolid maths-whiz Tengo who jobs as a ghost writer for his Machiavellian literary agent and super-cool, svelte and sexy Aomame (whose name seems to be the Japanese equivalent of being called "Sweetpea") who temps as a feminist assassin offing abusive husbands and boyfriends. Attempting 3rd person narrative is a new thing for Murakami who is seemingly pushing his Oriental Raymond Chandler schtick to the extreme. Honestly, it's ghastly. You'd think he'd never written a word before, it's so clumsy. The pithy stark observations that used to pass for style degenerate in this novel into a simple inability to describe anything memorably or meaningfully.

The characterization is particularly distressing. Tengo simply has no personality, just a set of aptitudes (solving maths problems, writing short stories, having passive sex), coming across less like a real character and more like a profile on Match.com. Aomame is simply risible and borderline offensive with her hot-girl-who-likes-casual-sex-with-older-men stereotype treated with a lingering fascination that makes you wonder whether this is venting the author's issues, because it certainly doesn't resonate with me. The conversations between Aomame and her nymphomaniac cop friend reveal a shocking tin ear on the part of the writer. Has he ever listened to women talking to each other? Nobody talks like this surely, not even in Japan. Not even in the Eighties.

A lot of these longueurs and wooden unconvincing exchanges may, of course, be down to the shortcomings of the translation. Possibly, Murakami's prose sings with pithy, pregnant mystique in his native tongue but has been incompetently rehashed into the sort of English associated with GCSE student creative writing projects. Maybe, but there are signs that this isn't so. Some of the prose is so daft it can only be a direct translation. When Aomame reflects on how kicking a man in the testicles is like Hitler's breach of the Maginot Line in 1940, you want to sit the author down and carefully explain that similes only work if they illuminate the specific by illustrating the universal. It would be fine to say that Hitler's Ardennes offensive was like a kick in the privates but it simply doesn't work the other way round. And anyway, Hitler outflanked the Maginot Line, so the author didn't even get the history right.

Look, I'll admit the book has a sort of bonkers charm that did keep me reading to the end (albeit damaging my Kindle on occasions by throwing it across the room in vexation). There are unexpected twists, occasional bits of ultraviolence or fruity sex and the tracts of exposition about Siberian nomads or 1960s Japanese protest movements are not without interest. The enigmatic schoolgirl savant Fuka-Eri sticks in the mind. I'm somewhat enlightened about Czech composer Leos Janá'cek. It wasn't a waste of my time...

... But it's not good either. Or at least, not good enough. A definite case of "Emperors New Clothes" going on here. Maybe a new translation might come out that manages to make this book read like it was written by a grown-up, in which case it would certainly rank as an exotic literary curiosity, but as it is, file under "Pretentious Flop" and read Kafka On The Shore instead.
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on 8 May 2012
I read these two books and the third in a fairly brief period, a fact that indicates that they are immensely readable. The narrative that Murakami weaves is beautifully written, as always. In fact I read a recent Booker (and other) prize winning novel between these books and it hammered home how skilful Murakami is compared with almost anyone else. If I were a writer I would endeavour to write like him. The text flows so clearly, it's like a lovely stream that takes you along and makes you think everything is effortless. I think in many ways Murakami's work is getting better and better. I have loved his most recent three novels.

I do have a number of problems with 1Q84, and this takes quite a lot away from the book. If there is a trade off between plot and character in writing, I think this book is too heavy on character. Or to be negative, it is too light on plot. This is not clear until one reaches the end, and it leaves one a little empty. Murakami has never been afraid of talking about love and sex, but there were also certain parts of this book, written by a man in his 60s, that sat very uncomfortably with me. That might upset some to read, but I can't help feeling it. Maybe we are meant to feel that way.

There is plenty to redeem the book. In essence this is a story of the power of love to overcome space and time. Many others have tried this, and it is very hard to accomplish when disbelief needs to be suspended. 1Q84 requires some such suspension, but the love story is very powerful. There is also Murakami's superbly evocative rendering of Tokyo and Japan. It has a wonderful sense of place. There is stacks of emotion running cooly through the book. There are little stories told at tangents by characters that are truly wonderful, and the memories of childhood are pretty much perfect. In conclusion, I am a massive fan of Murakami, but I give this 4 stars due to some question marks over plot, and to me, morals.
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This volume contains Books 1 and 2 of Murakami's IQ84 - I understand that when originally published in Japanese they appeared separately so I want to review them that separately (and not influence the Book 1 review by reading Book 2 at the same time). I am, therefore, reviewing Book 1 now and will and modify this to include a review of Book 2 later.

The story concerns Aomame, a woman who, at the start of the book is late for an appointment - saying what for would give too much away - and Tengo, an aspiring writer who is engaged to rework a story by a 17 year girl, Fuka-eri, so that it can win a literary prize. Her story is, I think, key to the world - or worlds - described here, as its events and charecters, which are alluded to but never set out clearly, seem to be shaping both Aomame's world and Tengo's.

IQ84 proceeds in alternate chapters, focussing on the two central characters. While a loose link between the stories does emerge, they never cross over and by the end of Book 1 we're uncertain even whether the two exist - or have ever existed - in the same reality: at the start, Aomame seems to have been jolted into a parallel world - the IQ84 of the title - but whether she has gone to, or come from, Tengo's reality and whether a similar moment comes for him, is delightfully unclear. They could be living in each others' dreams, Tengo could be writing Aomame's story as he reworks Fuka-eri's material - or neither.

I only have two criticisms of the book. First, the pace is a rather slow in the middle. It's gripping at the start, as we learn about Aomame's and Tengo's lives, but then flags, only picking up speed towards the end, with threats of various sorts to Fuka-eri and, possibly, the others, looming. Secondly, some of the sex narrated here made me squirm - not, I hope, from prudery but more because it simply didn't ring true": I wondered if a nomination for the Bad Sex awards was on the cards. (I recently read The Pursued a totally different sort of book written in 1930s England and undiscovered since then and, of course, in keeping with the times it was much more reticent about such things despite being - in its own words - a story of lust, bloodshed and revenge. But it does make me wonder whether, in this respect at least, less isn't more. But I honestly can't decide whether that might not have been the intended effect ie that Murakami is using this to signal something about his characters or the worlds they inhabit.)

It's all very Alice in Wonderland and I'm really looking forward to reading Book 2.
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