Asia,  Book Reviews,  FICTION,  FOUR STARS ****,  Suspense

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami **** (of 4)

Tokyo, 1984 (the title refers to the year and the Orwell book of similar title, not the IQ measurement of intelligence). Boy meets girl in the fifth grade and without a word being spoken they form an unbreakable love bond.  Boy loses girl who turns into a contract killer.  There follows sex, violence, magical realism, suspense, and a compelling love story that is sustained for three consecutive books, published separately in Japan, but as a single volume in the U.S.   Japan in the mid-80s feels very cold and lonely.  Religious cults, here standing in for Orwell’s Big Brother, dominate large swaths of people.  Everyone else appears to be either stuck in traffic jams or mindlessly trudging through their working day.  And yet.  Aomame, Tengo, and Fuka-Eri hooked me.  I wanted them to succeed by finding connection and meaning in their lives.  More than once I felt like I was being unnecessarily drawn into the sexual fantasies of an aging Japanese writer and wondered how the plot would have been handled in the hands of a female author.  (Japanese women don’t really purchase Manga, do they?).  Nevertheless, I blazed through all 900 pages to find out if individual actors could overcome the forces of thought-control and the magical realism that suffused the book and was sometimes hard to deal with.