Here is an unorthodox suggestion: Try to read Haruki Murakami's 1Q84 in as close to a single sitting as you can. It won't be easy — the novel clocks in at 926 pages and is often densely allusive, if readable throughout. Still, there is something about the book that requires the deep immersion, the otherworldly sense of connection, or disconnection, that only an extended plunge allows.1Q84, which renders the boundary between reality and imagination moot, takes place in a world much like this one but tweaked slightly: less an alternate universe than a variant. "What the real world is: that is a very difficult problem," a character known as Leader explains in the exact centre of the novel."What it is, is a metaphysical proposition. But this is the real world, there is no doubt about that. The pain one feels in this world is real pain. Deaths caused in this world are real deaths. Blood shed in this world is real blood. This is no imitation world, no imaginary world, no metaphysical world. I guarantee you that."For Murakami, such a statement establishes the stakes of 1Q84, framing it as no mere fantasy but rather a multilayered narrative of loyalty and loss.Such issues have often marked Murakami's fiction, most vividly perhaps in Kafka on the Shore (2005) or the stories of 2002's After the Quake. But with 1Q84, Murakami evokes a fully articulated vision of a not-quite-nightmare world, in which reality goes its own way and we have no choice but to adapt. "Principles and logic didn't give birth to reality," reflects a man named Ushikawa, a disreputable figure who nonetheless observes his surroundings with a certain tarnished clarity.At the centre of this reality is the question of love, of how we find it and how we hold it, and the small fragile connections that sustain us, even (or especially) despite the odds.To highlight this, Murakami constructs the novel as a pair of interwoven narratives, the first about Aomame, a health-club trainer with a dark sideline, and the second involving Tengo, a maths teacher and an aspiring novelist who has secretly rewritten "Air Chrysalis", a speculative work by a high-school girl named Fuka-Eri that has become a bestseller.Aomame and Tengo knew each other in grade school and once shared a brief moment of connection; the memory has sustained them each for 20 years. It is Aomame who sets the story here in motion when, on an April afternoon in 1984, she leaves a taxi on a congested Tokyo elevated highway and descends an emergency staircase to the street. By the time she reaches the ground, reality has subtly shifted, a change she notices because the police are wearing different uniforms and carrying different guns. That is a small but significant distinction, and in pursuing its meaning, Aomame slips through a set of wormholes in which the universe turns back upon itself.To say much more about the plot seems counter-productive, since among 1Q84's charms is its sense of the unexpected. For all that, the truest pleasures of the book may be the most writerly, primarily its epic sense of structure (like a fun-house mirror, endlessly reflective) and its references to history and literature.But none of this is to suggest that 1Q84 is perfect; in places, the coincidences line up too neatly and a plot line involving the "Little People" — actual beings who may or may not have a spiritual agenda but mostly function here as agents of chaos — peters out like a neglected thread. But in the end, that is minor stuff in the face of a vision this profound. 1Q84 achieves what is perhaps the primary function of literature: to reimagine, to reframe, the world.