Tuesday, November 6, 2012

IQ84 by Haruki Marukami


I have been wanting to read this book for ages; however, whenever I would go to the library to get it out, there would be no copies. Until this month. IQ84 is a play on words. "Q", pronounced "cue" in Japanese is the word for 9, so the word actually ends up being 1984. It was published in Japan in three volumes but in one volume in the United States. At over 800 pages, give yourselves a lot of time in reading this book because not only is it long, it is well worth the time and very engrossing.

The bulk of the narrative takes place in Tokyo, Japan during a fictional 1984. In the very first pages, we are introduced to Aomame, a young woman whose name literally means "peas" ("edamame" means soybeans so I figured that this was some type of bean). Aomame is a young woman that is riding in a taxi on the freeway in heavy traffic and, while in the cab, on her way to her assignments, hears a particularly uncommon symphony on the radio. When the taxi gets caught in a traffic jam that seemingly isn't moving, the driver suggests that Auomame leave the car, walk down an escape staircase though, doing so could alter reality. In spite of that warning, Aomame opts to take the walk, exits the car and goes down the staircase. Aimame begins to notice little differences about the world around her: the policemen are equipped with semi-automatic guns. There are two moons. There are major news stories that she doesn't remember ever occurring even though it's part of her job to remember those things.

We are also introduced to Tengo, a writer and cram school teacher whose enterprising editor asks that he rewrite a promising but awkwardly written manuscript originally written by a mysterious 17 year old girl. Tengo learns about the commune where the author was from and her family and becomes obsessed with finding out more about the commune and who could possibly have helped the girl to write her narrative.

I Quickly fell under the spell of this author. The narrative voice - a third person, viewing from the outside - was eerily detached (making for a wonderfully creepy tone) and the cults that were involved added an additional level. The plot in this narrative was revealed layer by layer, almost as if one were pulling back the layers of an onion. The theme of authoritarianism and the flight from it played a tremendous role in this novel and I really enjoyed how Murakami handled it - it's obvious that he despises authoritarianism because it stifles creativity and breeds other horrors upon its participants. What I didn't like is that the book seems to just peter out at some point without coming to a grand moral of the story - like 1984 by George Orwell did (well duh, Big Brother is BAD!!!). That being said, I think I am going to try another book by this author to see if he should be on my list of authors that I might recommend to a certain reader.

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