Tuesday, 6 March 2012


I've been having trouble putting a synopsis in my own words, so I'm taking one from the inside jacket for a change:

The year is 1984. Aomame sits in a taxi on the expressway in Tokyo.

Her work is not the kind which can be discussed in public but she is in a hurry to carry out an assignment and, with the traffic at a stand-still, the driver proposes a solution. She agrees, but as a result of her actions starts to feel increasingly detached from the real world. She has been on a top-secret mission, and her next job will lead her to encounter the apparently superhuman founder of a religious cult.

Meanwhile, Tengo is leading a nondescript life but wishes to become a writer. He inadvertently becomes involved in a strange affair surrounding a literary prize to which a mysterious seventeen-year-old girl has submitted her remarkable first novel. It seems to be based on her own experiences and moves readers in unusual ways. Can her story really be true?

Both Aomame and Tengo notice that the world has grown strange; both realise that they are indispensable to each other. While their stories influence one another, at times by accident and at times intentionally, the two come closer and closer to intertwining.

1Q84  reminded me of so many other pieces of work, especially as it is supposed to be Murakami's nod to George Orwell's 1984.  However, I could not help but notice the similarities in the message that Stieg Larsson's highly popular Millennium series conveyed about violence against women.  Aomame's second career and involvement with a woman known only as the Dowager, is tragically thought provoking.
It was for this reason that in Book one I found Aomame's story arc more interesting.  However, in Book Two Tengo's arc became more assured and more is revealed in his chapters that I found myself anticipating his narrative.

Overall, it was fascinating to see how the two stories related to each other.  In the beginning there is no information that links Aomame and Tengo, but by the end of Book Two their narratives have been braided together, often revealing answers to the other but never crossing over.  Murakami's writing is extremely detailed and atmospheric, but crafted in a way that never becomes boring or overwrought. 

It may seem daunting with books one and two amalgamated, but 1Q84 is definitely worth reading.  A lot is asked, but never answered.  If you don't understand when asking, you're not going to understand when answered.  A few attempts were made on trying to figure out what was happening but in the end I had to follow this strange journey.  Book Three is going to have to wait while I've got other books that need to be read, but I look forward, and am intrigued, to see how Tengo and Aomame's stories pan out.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Third Grave Dead Ahead

I wish that I liked this series as so many others seem to be enamored with the adventures of female grim reaper Charley Davidson.  There are pages where I do find myself intrigued and that's why I have persevered to read all three books in the series so far.  However, after finishing Third Grave Dead Ahead, I am certain that Darynda Jones has a writing style that is not to my taste. 

A good series makes sure to inform new readers of what has happened before, while at the same time still rewarding previous readers with new information.  Yet, with almost a third of the book rehashing what went on in the prior two novels, and a nearly identical plot to the Second Grave on the Left, the only redeeming feature of TGDA was the introduction of a biker gang and their dog Artemis. 

The biggest disappointment was the reveal as to why Owen Vaughn tried to run Charely over in high school; it was such a waste of a possible plot line that could have integrated itself into the main mythology of the series. Instead I was left questioning as to why it was included in the books to begin with.. 

Another sticking point, which I may be reading into too much, was what felt like a continual message throughout the series that it's okay for the men in your life to mistreat you.  Both Reyes and Charley's father betray her, enough so that she's gravely injured in both circumstances, but she makes excuses for them. Everything will be okay because she loves them and that notion doesn't sit well with me.  I think it is the main reason why this is the end of the road for me and Charley Davidson.  I can't help but think good riddance.