1Q84 by Haruki Murakami is quite the novel. While being incredibly lengthy, it also does justice to that length. There isn’t a single word, character, or subplot that the book could do without; they all carry their weight. I will be the first to admit that around the beginning to section 3, I was ready to throw something at Murakami in frustration. I couldn’t understand why he just kept drawing out waiting for the meeting between Aomame and Tengo. But when they finally do meet, it’s entirely the right moment.

Murakami is a mastermind of magical realism, but I will argue that this novel is a straight up fantasy. On page 462, one of the characters informs Aomame that, “You’ve been reading too much science fiction.” because of her conjectures about dropping into a world with two moons. And I agree, this isn’t science fiction. It’s not some far flung future, with crazy advanced technology. No, this takes place in the recent past and deals with little magical people who build air chrysalises that create some kind of doppelganger. And they way you can tell you’re in the world of the little people (some call is 1Q84, some call it the Cat Town) is that there is a second moon–smaller, malformed, and greenish. Fantasy, straight up.

I don’t want to talk too much about the plot since there are a ton of twists and turns that I really don’t want to give away, but I do want to talk briefly on the structure of it. The chapters alternate between Aomame and Tengo’s point of views and their two discreet storylines. This is sometimes a hard feat to pull off because one storyline will end up more compelling than the other. Murakami somehow managed to make both lines just as compelling, which is interesting because the content of those separate lines would seem to lend themselves to an interest disparity. No, I’m not going to tell you what they are, that would be doing you a disservice. Pick it up and read it!

And for all that the book is enormous (925 pages of narrative alone without counting front and back matter) it’s got an interesting design. I love the cover, it uses an onionskin book jacket with transparent sections that spell 1Q84 allowing the girl and boy on the covers to peek through on the front and back. And the spine alternates where the letters are. Half are on the onionskin, the other half printed on the spine of the book. It just makes for a unique and engaging cover design which speaks to the dual and uncertain nature of the text itself. Inside however, I have one qualm with the designer. There are no running headers or footers, but a side bar with 1Q84 in a square and the page number…well, the page number appears in random places along that sidebar, sometimes backwards, and it changes from chapter to chapter. For someone like me who likes to know where in the book I am incase my bookmark falls out, it drove me a little bit crazy. But I’m sure very few people even notice it.

But all told, definitely worth the time it takes to make it through this opus. When you finish it, you’ll put it down and go to the window–just to make sure there is only one moon floating in the sky.

Cover of 1Q84