Book Reviews

1Q84 – Book 2 * Haruki Murakami

The story of Aomame (spelled like Green Peas) and Tatsuo continues in the second book of the 1Q84 series with Aomame heading towards the great Leader’s hotel room in order to kill him.

The year is 1984. In a parallel world, the year is 1Q84. This is the real world, there is no doubt about that. But in this world, there are two moons in the sky. In this world, the fates of two people, Tengo and Aomame, are closely intertwined. They are each, in their own way, doing something very dangerous. And in this world, there seems no way to save them both. Something extraordinary is starting.

Aomame, along with the dowager, plan the murder of the Sagikake cult leader as he was found guilty of raping three 10-year old girls, one of them being his own daughter. As Aomame is allowed next to the “Great Leader”, she finds herself swayed in her decision by what comes out of his mouth. She starts believing him when he says he only acts as a voice for the Little People and he goes into full-body paralysis whenever they take over him. At those time, his shrine maidens, not even of bleeding age, climb him and have sex with him. He calls this disturbing act a sort of conceptual sex making, as the people he is having intercourse with are not the real maidens but their shadows.

OK, did I lose you?

This is where the concept of Dohta and Maza comes in. It’s explained a bit more in Book 3 (no spoilers) but you can think of the Maza as the original who gives birth in an Air Chrysalis to the Dohta, like the Leader’s daughter described in her book. Fuka-Eri described the making of the Air Chrysalis by plucking strands out of thin air and shaping a cocoon. When the Little People were finished with the Cocoon, there was something inside and when Fuka-Eri looked, it was her, but not her. It was the concept of her – a shadow of her heart and mind.

So this is how the stories connect. The Leader had a daughter who run away and found Tengo to write the book for her, based on her original story. Tengo got drawn into the plot and he’s now the “Receiver” based on what Fuka-Eri tells him, and she is the “Perceiver”. Aomame hears all of this as she is straddling the back of the Leader, on a massage mat, ready to push the pin that will take his life.

Aomame’s true love will live if she kills the leader now. The Leader wants his death as the pain associated with “receiving” is too much to bear. One of the greatest passages in the book appear around the discussion of Religion and what it means to people.

“The religion brings many people together, so some degree of discipline is necessary, of course, but if you focus too much on formalities, you can lose sight of your original purpose. Things like precepts and doctrines are, ultimately, just expedients. The important thing is not the frame itself but what is inside the frame.”

Aomame kills the leader and escapes the guards just to go into hiding and this is when the book starts getting really good. As she goes into hiding, from her balcony she spots the love of her life, Tengo – who is within walking distance and came to the park near her. Tengo for the first time sees the two moons in the sky and is surprised to find out that they were exactly as he described them – one big and round, the other one with a grassy texture and smaller. He is now realizing he has stepped into another reality, one of his own construction, but that the people around him do not seem to notice. He goes away before Aomame has time to catch him.

Tengo’s father goes into a coma and at the same time an NHK fee collector appears in different parts of the city (first at Aomame’s door, then at Fuka-eri’s and also at the creepy stalker’s) and demands payment for the TV licence (actually payment for something they have but have not paid for). Even the dowager seems to use the same words when she talks to Aomame. They have taken something but paid no price. I think Tengo realizes that his dad is the one doing all the knocking as he used the same methods when he was younger.

All the worlds seem to converge into tighter and tighter circles. Aomame might be alone but she is not lonely as she finds out she conceived the night she killed the great Leader. The same night that Tengo had sex with the 17-year old Fuka Eri. And now Aomame thinks that this might be Tengo’s child. WOW.

“It’s not me but the world that’s deranged.
Yes, that settles it.
At some point in time, the world I knew either vanished or withdrew, and another world came to take its place. Like the switching of a track. In other words, my mind, here and now belongs to the world that was, but the world itself has already changed into something else. So far, the actual changes carried out in that process are limited in number. Most of the new world has been retained from the world I knew, which is why the changes have presented (virtually) no impediments to my daily life – so far. But the changes that have already taken place will almost certainly create other, greater, differences around me as time goes by. Those differences will expand little by little and will, in some cases, destroy the logicality of the actions I take. They could well cause me to commit errors that are – for me – literally fatal.
Parallel worlds.”

Can’t wait for Book 3!


Other great reads:

“WHAT A STRANGE WORLD. WITH EACH PASSING DAY, IT’S GETTING HARDER TO KNOW HOW MUCH IS JUST HYPOTHETICAL AND HOW MUCH IS REAL.”

Behind Murakami’s Mirror

Murakami must be lauded for his ability to think of such an intricate plot – almost every detail is leading you further into the story and almost nothing is there by chance. It all combines together later in the second book with exquisite tension before the explosion of the bittersweet ending. Be aware that there is a fair bit of sex in this book but I felt it was needed to show where the characters were coming from and where they were heading.

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