1Q84 is undoubtedly the biggest literary let-down I have ever come across. The synopsis and plot outline sound fascinating, the reviews have been glowing - am I (trying to) read a different 1Q84 than everyone else?
Apparently not, judging by the far-too-few reviews that sum up my feelings towards this empty, boring, nothing of a book. One of my favourites was this, from theatlantic.com: "It's hard to believe that some of the critics praising 1Q84 didn't really feel, at times, like throwing the book in the air and walking away. Trying to say anything definite about it is like trying to nail Jell-O to a wall. (Even the title's allusion to Orwell seems vague. It's an elaborate puzzle... which, when assembled, adds up to a picture of a perfect blank. For me, reading it was the literary equivalent of biting into a large, pumped-up soufflé. After finishing five pounds of book, I was still hungry — for a novel."
The only difference between this critic's view of the book and mine is that I remain unable to finish the damn thing.
These are a few of the more superficial problems I had with 1Q84:
Aomame comes across as a flat, two-dimensional character whose main purpose is to serve as an older man's fantasy. As the writer happens to fit this demographic, it is more than a little creepy. Within a few pages of meeting her, she experiences flashbacks of a detailed lesbian encounter she experienced with a friend, though she is not, in fact lesbian, bi-sexual, in the slightest bit attracted to woman. This would not be an issue if it appeared to serve any purpose towards her character development - but it doesn't. Instead, it begins to follow the pornographic trend of girl-on-girl sex for the sole purpose of pleasing men. Literally, Aomame and the other woman have sex for NO other reason then to attract the men they have picked up. This male"fantasy" further continues as it is blatantly told to the reader that she is attracted to older men with receding hairlines, and proceeds to detail each of these sexual encounters. There's nothing wrong with any of the aforementioned in general, and it would not be a problem if it served a purpose to the story but as far as I'm aware so far it really doesn't. The story would in no way be impacted if any of these scenes were to be removed.
I rarely read books from a feminist standpoint, and I wouldn't consider myself as a textbook feminist (in the clichéd "capital F" sense), more as someone who hates unfairness in any form. If it's in the best interest of the book in question, I am perfectly ok with reading about bigoted characters, or even books written by writers with an obvious agenda that clashes with my own beliefs, if the book is good enough, and provokes thought. 1Q84 is not one of these books. The blatant misogyny does not serve a purpose and therefore I must assume that it was not considered to be an issue at all for the purposes of the book. I honestly felt that all the female characters in this were written as male fantasy - not just Aomame, but every single woman. There is the "older married girlfriend" who is shown as no more than a sexual object for Tengo; there is the police woman who befriends Aomame and constantly wants sex with her though she is "straight" (and appears to serve no other purpose in the book); and even with Fuka-Eri more attention was spent on the shape of her breasts than on her merits as a person.
Tengo is likeable, but all his segments of the story have so far been the most repetitive in the book, which is a constant source of frustration. Also - and likely because of this - he doesn't really do much. He has a lot of sex with his older, married girlfriend (and we know that she is older and married because that statement appears to have taken the place of her name, appearing at least 5 times in every chapter about Tengo).
Moments of this novel appear to hold onto a central plot, but it is so bogged down with Twilightesque mundane details
I'm not sure if it is to do with the culture difference (I have practically no knowledge of Japanese culture), but the characters reactions to everything were utterly implausible to me. Tengo and his editor are totally panicked about the idea of anyone finding out they re-wrote Air Chrysalis (the idea of co-writing or "editing" is completely out of the question) but Aomame isn't even bothered by the fact that she is in a world that is not her own. She has essentially fallen into a parallel universe and her reaction to that is... actually, I'm not even sure if she reacted at all to this knowledge. She also freaks out when she holds a gun, but has no apparent qualms about killing a man with a needle. There are many, many other reactions that bothered me but I can't think of them clearly enough to write about them - I think my mind has an innate defence against boredom that means I forget anything that has bored me to this degree.
The very worst part about this vapid 1000+ page "novel", however, is that people who have finished the book tell me that nothing else happens!!!!! I can't handle it, I really can't. Perhaps if I'd come into this with lower expectations, I may have been less disappointed. It would have still been a terrible book, but I would feel less betrayed by this fact.