‘1Q84’ is pretty much nothing like ‘1984.’
And that’s not a bad thing, because quite frankly Orwell shoves his politics down the reader’s throat.
Of course, this book is a homage and that shouldn’t be ignored. There are strong dystopic elements in this, and many other, Murakami books: above all, the creeping paranoia that results from being constantly watched and knowing that the watchers can and will ruin your life.
However…it’s Murakami. He expects his readers to take the strangeness in stride, or at least he’s not going to wait for them to catch up. Sex is there, and complicated: it protects, it kills, also have I mentioned it’s a pretty enjoyable activity for grown people. The story’s more complicated than some of his other works because there are two full narratives here–not his occasional dalliances with something happening elsewhere, but, for a change, two main characters.
They’re a man and a woman who, at first glance, have nothing in common: he’s a cram school teacher who dreams of writing, she’s a health nut with secrets. Like all Murakami characters, they’re complicated–and they have to grow before they can grasp what they want. Murakami sets them on their hero’s journeys–and I use that term entirely in the Campbellian sense, because it’s hard to think of any Murakami character as a ‘hero’ in the proper sense. So much of his narrative is driven by the world itself (in particular, its surrealistic rules).
In this book, the world is so much more central to the plot than it was in either ‘The Wind Up Bird Chronicles’ or ‘Kafka on the Shore’. I’d go so far as to say it’s more important than in ‘Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World,’ but I read that a longer time ago so I could be misremembering.
Anyway, if you like Murakami you’ll like this. It doesn’t stray far from his usual material, although I have to admit that the direction of the story—the reason driving the story—was a huge letdown. The way things play out means that a number of stories remain unresolved (or, depending on how you see it, never happen at all).
Get ready for some disappointment, but know that it’s still a Murakami.