By Lily Barnette
1Q84 is a dystopian novel by Haruki Murakami published in 2009; originally it was written and released in three separate volumes before being combined into one novel. Set in 1984, Tokyo, Japan, the reader follows the lives of Aomame, Tengo, and later, further revealed in part three of the novel, Ushikawa, as they are placed into an alternate reality named “1Q84” by Aomame. This parallel world features bizarre occurrences, unexplainable through the lens the characters currently perceive their reality, along with the emphasized fact of 1Q84 having two moons.
This is similar to George Orwell’s 1984 as it also features another moon and the titles of the novels are strikingly similar along with their themes. Both novels create a dystopian world where reality is uncertain, distortions are prevalent within life, and there is an air of helplessness as the protagonists lack control in the world around them.
To give a bit of background on 1Q84, the novel starts with the perspective of Aomame who is stuck in traffic on a busy highway, headed to an important meeting. Faced with the fact she is going to be late, the taxi driver offers her a solution by taking an emergency exit from the gridlocked Tokyo expressway that would get her to the subway station. It is later learned that this important “meeting” is actually a scheduled assassination of a domestic violence perpetrator where Aomame is the hitwoman and has been contracted to complete. So, of course, she descends down the stairs and this is where she believes she has crossed over into 1Q84, noticing the first signs of subtle differences in what police officers wear and the guns they hold. Furthermore, she goes through a historical archive, as a lover of history, and is met with a slew of historical events that she has never heard of. One particular event features an extremist group facing off police in the mountains, an event that would be hard to forget.
Similarly, our other protagonist, Tengo, finds himself to be in the same alternate reality through literary means. As a fiction novelist, he is tasked with rewriting Air Chrysalis, a novel that is actually fiction and turns out to be a record of its author’s experience as an adept of a secret religious cult: Sakigake. He begins to notice that certain features of his normally boring everyday world seem to be changing as if they were being repositioned to the lifestyle and aura of Air Chrysalis’s imaginary universe. The extra moon, which can’t be blinked away, is one of the foremost signs.
As you read further into the novel, you find Aomame’s and Tengo’s life to be connected and intertwined since they were in grade school, one event happening between the two that have impacted them both for 20 years. Furthermore, they both managed to get themselves involved with the religious cult: Aomame eventually being tasked and completing, the murder of Sakigake’s cult leader; Tengo having rewritten Air Chrysalis, and doing further independent research on Sakigake, leading him into getting into trouble.
To be honest, that is something I have always enjoyed about books or shows. I enjoy watching individual characters discover important details or crucial pieces of information regarding the same event whilst they are unknowing of each other’s presence. To me, that is how the world works. And I like watching them come together, sharing what they know, figuring out the truth of the matter together. It is romantic, in its own way. Regarding Aomane and Tengo especially, they do end up getting romantically involved, which leads to the wholesome ending of them leaving 1Q84 behind and transitioning back into 1984 together.
Something I also enjoyed is the concept of the butterfly effect that is showcased in 1Q84. The butterfly effect states that a small change in one state can result in large differences in a later state. You see this rippling effect when Aomame interacts with Sakigake and how it affects Tengo or vice versa when Tengo interacts with Sakigake and how it affects Aomame.
Overall, 1Q84 is 1000 pages or so, making it a lengthier book. I enjoyed the ways in which the author Haruki Murakami connected the two main characters, the descriptions he used, his symbolism, and allusions. I read this novel back when I was in high school, actually, and it has been one of my favorites ever since (thank you Mrs. Briney for recommending it to me!).