The intertwining tales of a feminist assassin and a literary ghost writer living separate lives but pining for one another since they held hands at age 10 doesn't seem to have gained much momentum in 800 pages. Aomame (the assassin) and Tengo (the ghost writer) have been inexorably drawn closer together and seem to be just on the verge of meeting, but I don't think I care as much as I should.
Fuka-Eri, the enigmatic author of a strange--but apparently true--story of "little people" emerging from the mouth of a goat to build "air chrysalises" that give birth to clones of some kind is the arresting heart of this novel, but I'm not sure what to make of the way she links the two other main characters. Tengo rewrites her story to high acclaim, and Aomame becomes entangled in a plot to assassinate her father, the leader of an obscure cult based on the little people--and raping pre-pubescent girls (in a nonsexual way, of course).
As if this isn't enough, we also have the parallel worlds angle. Since first exiting a cab and climbing down an emergency exit from an expressway, Aomame seems to have entered some parallel world in which 1984 has become 1Q84, where police carry different guns and there are two moons in the sky. OK, so we're introducing parallel worlds, and the distinctions between them--firearms and the number of moons--have no apparent connection to the rest of the plot?
Then, there's the writing. Lines like "his voice as hard and cold as a metal ruler left for a long time in a fridge" make the prose seem very very translated. Yes, I know it is, of course, translated. But lines like this (and there are many) read as if the novel has been translated from Japanese to English, back to Japanese, and then back into English again.
And yet I'm still reading...