A young assassin named Aomame enters a parallel existence, which she calls 1Q84 – “Q is for ‘question mark.’ A world that bears a question.” Meanwhile, an aspiring writer named Tengo takes on a suspect ghostwriting project. Their narratives converge over the course of a year as a parallel reality seems to supplant what existed before.
… Murakami’s most elaborate and sustained riff yet on themes he has reworked for thirty years: solitude, thwarted desire, Japan’s (and humankind’s) latent violent streak, the shadow of mortality, the shape of time, the elusiveness of the self, the malleability of reality … 1Q84 induces a quintessentially Murakamian vertigo—the past seeps into the present, cause and effect become scrambled, and the characters are swept along by forces beyond their control and comprehension. The most potent of these forces is fiction. 1Q84 is rife with stories-within-stories, and some of these stories, once told, can warp reality, or literally change the world … The microfictions planted throughout 1Q84 are like little time bombs, detonating not on impact but later, unexpectedly, as they take on new resonances or intersect with other narratives. More than any Murakami novel to date, 1Q84 is fiction about the power of fiction—a metafictional experiment that has the effect of a spell.
In this book, Murakami, who is nothing if not ambitious, has created a kind of alternative world, a mirror of ours, reversed … At one point, a character argues against the existence of a parallel world, but the two main characters in 1Q84 (Q=‘a world that bears a question’) are absolutely convinced that they live not in a parallel world but in a replica one, where they do not want to be … What’s fascinating about 1Q84 is its ambivalence about ‘the logic of reality’ and its wish to plunge the reader into the ‘far greater power’ of Unreality’s unlogic, which has the advantage of revolutionary fervor and reformism.
Somehow all of it — Tengo, Fuka-Eri, the book they created together, Aomame, and the dowager who hires Aomame to kill abusive men — is connected … Murakami’s characters, too, live their lives in time. Not the artificially compressed narrative time of a shorter novel or most movies, but the regular, stop-and-start time of actual life, which sometimes drags and sometimes even just seems to go around in circles … It is an exhilarating idea: not two worlds, side by side, but just one, swallowing itself, turning itself inside out, becoming the world that it isn’t, while still being the one that it is. The world as a self-revising document. To have even reached for this — to have articulated the idea well enough — is admirable. To have actually gotten ahold of it and conveyed it to the effect that Murakami has in 1Q84 is a feat of remarkable imagination.