1Q84 features two seemingly parallel storylines: Aomame, a physical trainer who kills violent, abusive men and Tengo, an aspiring novelist who ghost writes a promising short story he feels particularly drawn to. The first two books of 1Q84 are magnificent. They draw you in immediately and introduce you to the strange and sometimes creepy world of 1Q84 in which there are two moons instead of one and policemen carry semi-automatic weapons instead of revolvers. The pacing is tight and characters are motivated to act. The third book of 1Q84 feels weak. Another character's POV is introduced (he doesn't really add all that much to the story) and things that should get resolved sooner drag on. The antagonists in the story are also surprisingly disappointing, especially when they've been built up as so omniscient and cunning.
I liked Tengo right off the bat and initially looked forward to his part of the story more. As the story went on, I found myself liking Aomame more. Her struggles are deeply moving and become more fascinating as the novel progresses while Tengo seems to take a more passive role. There're many minor characters and I wish more of them had felt more like real characters rather than plot devices.
Of the minor characters, my two favorites were Fuka-Eri and Ayumi. Fuka-Eri is the mysterious teenager whose story Tengo ghostwrites. Fuka-Eri is wise beyond her years but deeply damaged and oftentimes unable to communicate her wisdom. She also had this strange, intimate dynamic with Tengo that I almost wish Murakami had explored more. I would love to read a whole novel just about her. Ayumi is a policewoman who befriends Aomame. Ayumi has had a very damaged background just like Aomame but deals with it in a very different way.
IQ84 is at its best when it builds up to its fantastic climax- it's exhilarating and terrifying. There are a lot of moving pieces and it's especially satisfying to see the characters behave unexpectedly. I also really enjoyed the stories both about the characters (the dowager's history, Aomame's friendship with Tamika) and about the books that they read ("The Cat Town" and "Air Chrysalis"). Cat Town and Air Chrysalis are both haunting in their own ways and Air Chrysalis does live up to all the hype the characters in the book put around it.
In many ways, the love story in IQ84 feels like the weakest part. Despite the relationships they develop in their parallel story lines Aomame and Tengo both still feel terribly alone and only find solace in their idealized love for each other . In some ways, I wish the author let them develop deeper relationships with others around them because those relationships felt very raw and much more realistic though what the love meant to Aomame is genuinely moving.
I also still have so many questions about Air Chrysalis and the world of 1Q84 and if any of you have read it I'd love to get into a debate about what the more mysterious things in the book meant.