It's a fantasy/ romance novel that is focused around the characters of Aomame and Tengo who are wrapped up in a mysterious sort of alternate reality that has Little People and two moons in the sky.
I loved the beginning of this book, I have never read anything by Murakami before and I thought his prose was absolutely magical. There were times when I had to stop reading and ponder over every word in a sentence and just let it wrap around me while I thought of every facet of meaning. I stopped and wrote done numerous sections that I really liked. The translators deserve a big round of applause as I did not feel at any point that I was reading a translation which is very rare.
I've read that Murakami has always been interested in Western culture and that is quite evident throughout the novel as there are frequent references to the literature of Shakespeare, Proust, Carl Jung, and of course Orwell. The title and Aomame's name for the alternate world is, of course, based off of Orwell's 1984 but apart from a couple references to the book itself by a couple characters and connections between Big Brother and totalitarian religious organizations, he didn't really do much with the 1984 theme. I did like that it was set in that year as modern technology would have drastically changed a number of aspects of the novel. The connection to 1984 has made some people label this as a dystopian type novel but I think that's quite inaccurate though since it is one of the factors that lead me to read this rather large book I am glad of it.
I really enjoyed several segments in which Murakami was basically writing about writing and the process thereof.
A number of the supporting characters were intriguing and I particularly liked Tamaru.
Some things I didn't really like:
- almost everyone mentioned was described as having a face that shows little to no emotion.
- there are a number of rather disturbing descriptions of sexual situations
- I love fantasy and am usually able to suspend my disbelief but this book was got way too surreal and unrealistic at several points.
- Often quite repetitive as he writes the same event from different perspectives but almost no new information is presented. He also often describes quite mundane everyday actions that are very realistic but as they're part of everyone's life are rather boring to read about. i.e. aimlessly looking in the fridge when you've just thought about the contents and then describing that the contents were exactly as you thought before opening the door. That kind of thing.
- The last 'book' of the story was quite repetitive and had lost almost all of the anxiety and worry for the characters that drove on earlier sections and I found the ending rather predictable. Though there is still mystery around what is going to happen to the characters in the future and whether the ending is the real ending to their story.
This also makes me curious and worry about whether Japan is as rife with domestic violence and random violence against women as this book made out or was the fact that almost everyone knew a woman who was killed or driven to suicide by the violence of men was a just a connecting factor? Their porn suggests that their may be some truth to it. Japan kinda scares me in that respect.
I'd rate this book a 4 out of 5 and I'll probably read more Murakami in the future.
"When the time comes, though, they just quietly go off and disappear. I'm sure it means they've died, but I can never find their bodies. They don't leave any trace behind. It's as if they've been absorbed by the air. They're dainty little creatures that hardly exist at all. They've come out of nowhere, search quietly for a few, limited tings, and disappear into nothingness again, perhaps to some other world." -about butterflies
This is the first new book I've read this year after rereading the Lord of the Rings books so I'm already behind in my 50 book count for this year. Must read more!