Best book of 2011: IQ84

Book: IQ84
Author: Haruki Murakami

Okay, if you have read one of my old blog posts, you will probably know that I have a Chinese edition of IQ84 lying in my bookshelf and I was dying to read it given all the hype surrounding Haruki Murakami’s magnum opus.

As much as I did try, it was honestly too much of an effort that I decided to head straight to the English version right away and that was probably the best decision made.

IQ84 was a total hit for me and I am going as far as to declare that it is decidedly the best book of 2011. Indeed, I was that impressed with it.

This novel contains a mix of science fiction, romance, fantasy, thriller and even religious elements in it that gives the plot the depth, breath and variety to keep readers on the tenterhooks.

The story revolves around two main characters, Aomame, a sports club instructor, and Tengo, a cram school math teacher cum aspiring novelists, who at the start led wholly parallel lives, with almost no connection or inkling with each other. As their world turned inside out, it is fascinating to watch how their fates of these two people slowly converge and merge.

Instead of devolving into a run-of-the-mill, boy-meets-girl romance, Murakami’s characters are more than that. They are essentially lonely, empty individuals who feel detached and isolated from the rest of the world, often emanating a whimsical and self-deprecating sense of humor. It feels almost akin to watching a Tim Burton movie.

So in the IQ84 world, they are tightly bounded together by an enigmatic quest that almost sounds like a scene coming out from a fantasy story. The moon is once again invoked as a strong recurring symbol in the night sky, like poets did for centuries, in a mysterious but sensual manner. This made me think of Japanese poet Basho and the moons in his haiku verses:

猫のこい やむときねやの をぼろずき
(cats’ love/ when it is over/ hazy moonlight in the bedroom)

しばらくは 花の上なる 月夜かな
(lingering a while/ above the blossoms/ the moon in the night sky)

月見する 座に美しき 顔もなし

(in this group of people/ admiring the full moon/ not one beautiful face)

Murakami’s entire work is almost like a surrealist portrait – abstract, ambiguous and at times poetic.

“Time itself was uniform in composition, but once consumed, it took on a deformed shape… Occasionally the order of things could be reversed, and in the worst cases order itself could vanish entirely, and in the worst cases order itself could vanish entirely,” Murakami wrote on Page 255. “By adjusting time this way to suit their own purposes, people probably adjusted the meaning of their existence.”

Despite Murakami’s efforts to build castles in the air, the story has a more chilling undertone due to the presence of George Orwell’s 1984 ‘big brother’ figure – this time clad in religious garments. Murakami’s research for his previous book “Underground,” which discusses about the 1995 Tokyo sarin gas attack, is evident in IQ84 where the omnipresence of a clandestine religious cult group constantly lurks in the background.

After portraying the frightening and mystical side of religious cults, paradoxically, Murakami himself is commonly regarded as a cult writer who has “legions of fervent fans,” which in turn does make him sound like a religious leader of sorts.

IQ84 is definitely the book that I would highly recommend if you need a great read to end of 2011. It will captivate your imagination and heart so be prepared to be spellbound by it.

Will end of this post with the ‘theme song’ of IQ84. ENJOY!

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8 thoughts on “Best book of 2011: IQ84

  1. I loved the wind-up bird chronicle, fantastic review. Two things to do now, read and review 🙂 thanks for the inspiration, I just started reviewing books on my blog and my kindle and I will follow you as inspiration! Thanks again!

    1. Sinfonietta is such a haunting and powerful song that I feel absolutely complements the surreal atmosphere in IQ84. When I started reading this book, I was totally hooked onto it that I literally brought it out to read everywhere. It was so good. (:

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