So I am pretty fascinated by Haruki Murakami's novel IQ84, which I picked up for my (long!, big!) summer read as part of my Other Worlds & Alternate Realities project. I have no doubt it is going to take me all summer to get through this door stop of a book, but so far I am quite absorbed in my reading. There are two seemingly disparate storylines taking place. I am not sure when the story is set or even if they are occurring concurrently. I am guessing the time is now and maybe the characters are inhabiting the same space even if they have no idea the other exists. (Don't tell me--if you have read it--I want to figuring it out along the way).
So the first story involves a young woman, Aomame, who is trying to get to an appointment and finds herself stuck in traffic. The cab driver suggests (though he isn't necessarily advising her to do it) getting out of the car, which is on an elevated expressay, and climbing down the emergency ladder and then taking the subway the rest of the way. She does just that and gets to her appointment. Should I tell you what that appointment is for? It is early on in the story, so I don't think I will spoil anything, but . . . no better not say. It surprised me however, and sucked me in as it was a twist I was not expecting.
The second story is about a writer, Tengo, who is talented, and has entered his writing into a competition for which he is involved (and knows one of the judges). He also teaches at a local cram school. His friend tells him he is talented but the story lacks something and likely will not win the award. They discuss another submission, however, by a high school student. She can tell a cracking story, but her writing style leaves a lot to be desired. So his friend suggests Tengo rewrite the story with his good prose yet keep the feeling of the story and the plot. They then plan on submitting the story which surely will be a winner. Now Tengo is going to meet up with the young woman and share this idea and hope she will agree.
Curious, yes? What does either of these have to do with the other? The novel is supposed to be Murakami's homage to George Orwell's 1984 and has been described as "a love story, a mystery, a fantasy, a novel of self-discovery, a dystopia". I have a feeling this is going to be quite a journey.
Before I share a little teaser I have to mention that I love the way the book is designed. There are some cool graphics, and I am sure the illustrations will make sense as I read. This is a story that has some sort of alternate reality or parallel universe where things are not quite what they seem. Check out the page numbers and how the right side mirrors the left. All kinds of interesting things going on here.
So, this is what the cab driver tells Aomame as she is getting out of the car:
"The driver nodded and took the money. 'Would you like a receipt?'"
"'No need. And keep the change.'"
"'And also,' the driver said, facing the mirror, 'please remember: things are not what they seem.'"
"Things are not what they seem, Aomame repeated mentally. 'What do you mean by that?' she asked with knitted brows."
"The driver chose his words carefully: 'It's just that you're about to do something out of the ordinary. Am I right? People do not ordinarily climb down the emergency stairs of the Metropolitan Expressway in the middle of the day--especially women."
"'I suppose you're right.'"
"'right. And after you do something like that, the everyday look of things might seem to change a little. Things may looks different to you than they did before. I've had the experience myself. But don't let appearances fool you. There's always only one reality.'"