Sunday, December 4, 2011

Audiobook Review: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
Genre: Fantasy Horror
Length: 46h 50m
Audio publisher: Audible, Inc (2011)
Translated by: Philip Gabriel
Read by: Allison Hiroto, Marc Vietor, Mark Boyett
From: purchased from Audible

Story: Tokyo, 1984. Aomame hears some music in a taxi, and ever since things have been different. When did the police change guns and uniforms? How does she not remember the building of an observatory on the moon? She concludes she's in a parallel universe and calls it 1Q84.

Tengo is presented an offer he can't refuse: rewrite a moving fantasy story written by a 17 year-old girl to enter in a writing competition. But as Tengo learns more about Fukaeri, he begins to wonder how much of her story is true, and what that means for both of them.

Thoughts: The connection between 1Q84 and to George Orwell's 1984 is in name only. 1984 has Big Brother while 1Q84 has the Little People, sinister sprites with no clear goals or agenda. 1Q84 ostensibly takes place in Tokyo, but the setting could be anywhere. There are few references to Japan and none to Japanese 80's pop culture. 1Q84 mostly takes place in a vacuum of place and time with no clear goals or agenda.

The first third of 1Q84 has a lot going for it. Aomame is serious, calm and in control. Nothing rattles her, but she still wonders if she's doing the right thing in her job as a contract killer. She cares about the results of her actions. When she discovers the differences between the world she knows and the world she's in, she doesn't even consider that she's going crazy. She decides it's not her, it's the world that's wrong. And she stands by her convictions. Tengo is a mess, still fixated on his mother's breasts, but he loves to write and is slowly getting himself together. Unfortunately, as the book progresses, the fun action from the beginning stagnates and is replaced by repetition and horror. The Little Men are seriously creepy, the characters affectless, and I haven't been able to look at the moon the same since. Most disturbing is the defense and support of child molestation and pedophilia.

If someone asked me to abridge 1Q84, I would have no problem. This book needs some serious editing. There are many sections that are merely repeated as the point of view goes back and forth between Aomame to Tengo, and late in the book a completely unnecessary third point of view is added. I'm sure I could take off 20 hours and not lose any of the small amount of story. Long, boring books are particularly hard to listen on audio. When you're reading the print version, it's much easier to skip over or skim the boring bits.

Reading: Allison Hiroto reads in a soft, lightly accented voice. Some words were too heavily enunciated while others were difficult to distinguish, but overall she gave the feeling that Aomame is a fun-loving person despite her voluntary isolation.
Marc Vietor starts out reading Tengo's point of view enunciating every word, like a robot, but as the story goes on he loosens up and reads in a more relaxed manner.
Mark Boyett has a small part at the end of the book, but adds a lot with his reading. He uses an almost gangster accent, contributing a noir feeling to his sections. Even though this part of the book is completely superfluous, I enjoyed his reading the most of the three narrators.

Final thoughts: The cover is the best part of this book.

Grade: 2 out of 5 - I enjoyed the first third, but after that it falls apart.

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