I wish I was a Murakami leading character. They are often beautiful, intelligent, strong and supernaturally intuitive. In fact, they are almost superheroes. This is not a criticism, he manages to make them just human enough for us to identify with them but special enough for us to want to read about them. It doesn’t help that the novels of his that I have read, and it is no small number, are translated so beautifully that his prose is almost poetic. When I stop to think about it his dialogue in IQ84 is unreal, and that’s not the only thing about this novel that is unreal, but he manages to keep it flowing well enough that it doesn’t jar. That’s exactly what I’ve come to expect from him. He defies convention.
IQ84 begins in 1984 and slowly edges its protagonists to a unity that the reader would have thought impossible until at least half way through. The plot centers on Aomame (Green Pea) and Tengo. Tengo is a writer who has a distant, yet strangely intimate relationship with his agent who calls at odd times and dispenses with preamble knowing without ever speaking of it, that Tengo knows it is him on the line. He offers Tengo a morally dubious job that quite literally changes the world. This is just one of the strange relationships in the novel.
Interwoven with Tengo’s narrative is Aomame’s. She is a sort of mercenary who ends the lives of men who have mistreated women at the behest of her friend and benefactor, the Dowager. Aomame also makes a decision that changes the world. The plot gradually draws the two closer filling in background details as we go along. Tengo’s relationship with the supernaturally beautiful Fuka-Eri, the writer of the story he ends up rewriting, is explored and the mysterious young woman brings two worlds together. A shadowy religious organization, the Dowager’s wonderful bodyguard and a gnome like private eye character round out the narrative. The plot twists and turns and we gradually realize that the novel is changing shape. Murakami keeps readers interested because he is never predictable and because as I have already said, he does defy convention. He does not disappoint here.
At 1000 pages this may test the dedication of some readers but it was enthralling and too hard to put down.