three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
56-Jan-Feb-2012
user_rating: 
0

A-1Q84With 1Q84, a somewhat updated version of George Orwell's dystopian 1984, Haruki Murakami returns at his loquacious, maddening best.

The Story: Tokyo, 1984. Late for a meeting, Aomame, an enforcer for an organization that punishes those who commit crimes against women, leaves her traffic-bound taxi--"Please remember," the bemused cabby warns her, "things are not as they seem"--and begins her descent from the bridge into a parallel world. "1Q84"--question--Aomame calls the place distinguished by its two moons and Little People who hang out in the mouth of a dead goat. The story begins to make a kind of sense when Tengo, a writer and Aomame's childhood friend, is enlisted to ghostwrite the work of Fuka-Eri, a talented, dyslexic 17-year-old with a connection to both worlds. "The role of a story was, in the broadest terms, to transpose a problem into another form," Tengo muses, perhaps echoing the sentiment of his creator. 1Q84: part noir detective novel, part science fiction mash-up, part social commentary--all weird.
Knopf. 926 pages. $30.50. ISBN: 9780307593313

Milwaukee Jrnl Sentinel 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Lose yourself in the nearly 1,000 pages of Murakami's alternately mesmerizing and menacing world, living for large stretches of each day with its characters, and time actually shifts and becomes harder to measure--one of the many themes, as it happens, in this big and brilliant book. ... What is true for this novel's determined protagonists will go double for its faithful readers: Take the time to get carried away, and time itself--as well as the way you think about how you spend yours--will take on new dimensions." Mike Fischer

San Francisco Chronicle 4.5 of 5 Stars
"1Q84, like Murakami's other novels... is a remarkable book in which outwardly simple sentences and situations snowball into a profound meditation on our own very real dystopian trappings. ... [1Q84] does every last blessed thing a masterpiece is supposed to--and a few things we never even knew to expect." Andrew Ervin

Washington Post 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Murakami possesses many gifts, but chief among them is an almost preternatural gift for suspenseful storytelling. ... For me, though, there's just no getting round two crucial facts: I read the book in three days and have been thinking about it ever since." Michael Dirda

Kansas City Star 4 of 5 Stars
"[1Q84 is] so beguiling, and so ridiculously entertaining that its faults--a penchant for repetition, the jarring addition of a third narrative perspective in the book's final 300 pages--are a tiny ripple in an ocean of ideas. ... That said, it's also clear that Murakami likes the sound of his own narrative voice, and that if the choice is between cutting an uneventful chapter and keeping it, he's apt to choose the latter." Kevin Canfield

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"1Q84 is a big, sprawling novel, a shaggy dog story to be sure, but it achieves what is perhaps the primary function of literature: to reimagine, to reframe, the world." David L. Ulin

Wall Street Journal 2.5 of 5 Stars
"One of the most purely negative consequences of [Murakami's] rupture with tradition is his indifference to trying to write with anything approaching beauty. ... Yet if you can soldier through the prose and some rather tremendous longueurs, you'll find genuine wisdom and emotional depth in 1Q84." Sam Sacks

NY Times Book Review 2 of 5 Stars
"1Q84 is psychologically unconvincing and morally unsavory, full of lacunas and loose ends, stuffed to the gills with everything but the kitchen sink and a coherent story. By every standard metric, it is gravely flawed. ... It's a credit to Murakami's mammoth talent that 1Q84, for all its flaws, got to me more than most decent books I've read this year, and lingered with me far longer: a paper moon, yes, but by a real star." Kathryn Schulz

New York Times 1 of 5 Stars
"1Q84 has even his most ardent fans doing back flips as they try to justify this book's glaring troubles. ... [Mr. Murakami] leaves many of the parallels in 1Q84 cryptic and dead-ended." Janet Maslin

Critical Summary

For the last decade or so, the publication of an Haruki Murakami novel has become as much a happening as an event. Maybe for that reason--throw in the author's larger-than-life persona and his continued assault on the public with long, quirky, difficult, experimental novels--his fiction has become nearly as divisive with critics as it is popular with readers. Few critics quibble with the author's capacious imagination; a few more, however, take issue with his cavalier attitude toward coherent storytelling, an aspect of the fiction that can be mistaken, by the curmudgeon or the cynic, for writerly disinterest. Far reaching, accomplished, Byzantine, unique, at times impenetrable: 1Q84 is destined to become a lightning rod not only in the body of Murakami's work but in the burgeoning genre of New Weird fiction that breaks the rules even as it continues to attract readers. All in a day's work for Murakami, who shows few signs of slowing down.