Even at a daunting 932 pages, Japanese cult superstar Haruki ÂMurakami's breathlessly awaited 1Q84 is one of those books that Âdisappear in your hands, pulling you into its mysteries with such speed and skill that you don't even notice as the hours tick by and the mountain of pages quietly shrinks. At its core, the latest from the author of acclaimed mind-benders like The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle follows two people who find themselves in an alternate world (dubbed 1Q84 by one character) where dual moons hang in the sky and small differences start to have big implications. Several characters spend extended periods sitting by themselves in small rooms. A mysterious band of ''Little People'' crawl out of a dead goat's mouth. Religious cults, menacing bill collectors, expert assassins, and questions about the nature of time and space all figure prominently. ''It's like the rules that govern the world have begun to loosen up around us,'' says one of the book's lost souls. In typical Murakami fashion, the result is deeply weird and surprisingly convincing.
1Q84 is ''a place where questions outnumbered answers,'' and this is not the kind of book where the long, tangled threads all come together in the end. ''I find [it] hard to understand,'' says one character about a Carl Jung quotation, ''but the difficulty in understanding makes it all the more profound.'' Well, exactly. I finished 1Q84 one fall evening, and when I set it down, baffled and in awe, I couldn't help looking out the window to see if just the usual moon hung there or if a second orb had somehow joined it. It turned out that this magical novel did not actually alter reality. Even so, its enigmatic glow makes the world seem a little strange long after you turn the last page. A