Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Book Review: Life of Pi


Grade: B -

Why: It's a fun tale with a good twist, but it used a gimmick to gain popularity.

The Life of Pi did make me think - which is the ultimate test of a book.  It made me consider, ponder, evaluate.  I liked it for those reasons.

It was also long, boring, and I fell asleep multiple times while reading it.  Like the author says at one point: "The hours last forever.  You are so bored sink into a state of apathy close to a coma."
Yep - that describes the story, and how it feels to read it. But the ending was unique and intriguing - so it was worth it.

The author has great knowledge of animals, the sea, zoos, survival needs, etc... These made his tale realistic and insightful to read.

Sadly - his idea for a book was only a good idea - he had to throw in a gimmick to make it "go viral" and be selected for schools and book clubs etc.

(SPOILER ALERT) I'm going to pretty much give away everything but the twist at the end.
It's a castaway story, but it's told better than most.  First of all - there is a Bengal tiger on the boat.  That's a pretty cool way to keep the story interesting.  I think the Tiger's name is dumb and a bit forced, but, oh well, it works.

The beginning of the book is great.  The tale of Pi's name, growing up in a zoo, learning from his father about animals, how zoo's work, and what respect to give to animals.

It's exhilarating, fun, and draws you in.

The next part I felt was out of place and was the "gimmick" to draw press, media, and book clubs.

Pi is a young man who starts living faithfully as a Muslim, Hindu, and Christian.  He goes to all their religious services, prays to all their gods, and believes all of them.

It's like the author thought "Tolerance is popular now. This boy ought to show that all religions have good parts, but no ONE religion is correct, and to subscribe to one alone is absurd."
He chooses to make it seem like there is no real right or wrong when it comes to religion - there is what makes you feel good. You don't have to choose one because no "one" could ever be right.

I agree there are good things in all religions. Everyone should become educated, learn about religions, seek out truth and understanding from all sources. But this reminds me of a college freshman who never picks a major and takes years of 100 level courses.  He never REALLY learns a subject, never takes tough courses, and never thinks deeply about a subject.  He also never graduates.

The author makes it sound like religions are really just buffet tables. "I like this part of Christ, and this part of Vishnu, oh, and Muhammad said something inspiring - but the rest is wrong so I'll just take what I like.  Religion is a "pick and choose" buffet.

That was my main problem with the book.  It's like the author couldn't write a great castaway story that could stand on it's own.  So he picked something that would grab media attention (like a main character who follows 3 major religions).
It was a cheap trick and it detracted from the book.
(I'll now step off my soapbox)

 - The ending is what makes it all worth it.  There is a genius twist that makes you think, and think, and think.  I loved it.

I can give this recommendation: Read it if you have time and can borrow it from someone.  Don't go out and buy it.
Here are my favorite Quotes:

"It is on the inside that God must be defended, not on the outside."
"The main battlefield for good is not the open ground of the public arena but the small clearing of each heart."

"A castaway’s worst mistake is to hope too much and do too little."

1 comment:

Joe Hunt said...

It is interesting, what we're drawn towards or against. You--being a mono-religionist [me, too]--thought that was gimmicky, disliked.

Me--being a writer--thought the ending was gimmicky. Like, trying to have cake and eat it, too.

And that Yann Martel kind of stole the plot from "Max and the Cats." But we all forgot about. As T.S. Eliot said: "Good writers borrow; great writers steal." (I think he was kind of pompous.)

But I'm not unbiased. Professional jealousy. But p.s. I liked the movie a lot!

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/11/06/books/tiger-in-a-lifeboat-panther-in-a-lifeboat-a-furor-over-a-novel.html