This is not a story of a boy and his BFF tiger.
This is nothing like Calvin and Hobbes
The tiger is nothing like Tigger or Lassie.
This is not a YA book.
That is worth pointing out I think, because the movie
poster and trailer gave me this impression.
This book has teeth.
My initial thoughts on Life of Pi
is that it is a book that demands to be read slowly due to a rambling nonlinear narrative in the first few chapters. Actually it is not, it can be read fairly quickly once you hit your stride with it. Any way, the novel got off to a slow start for me though I found the intro "Author's Notes" immediately appealing. Initially I was also a bit confused about which part is narrated by the author and which by Piscine "Pi" Molitor Patel the book's protagonist. That sorts itself out after a while as I settled into the author's narrative style and the book's structure. There are some expositions about about running a zoo and animal psychology which I find very interesting. I certainly know some people who believe zoos are immoral and all the caged animals should be set free, this book presents a plausible case for why this may not be such a good idea and that the animals are unlikely to be grateful to the liberators. I am not normally a fan of infodumps, but these expositions are affably written and mostly non-technical.
Once the main part of the story begins, where poor Pi is cast away on a life boat with some wild animals the books becomes very engaging and I was devouring his adventure and could not wait to find out what happen next. The ocean adventure part of the book is really a riveting read. As Pi settles into his life on the life boat the book becomes trippy and metaphysical in parts. If you read online discussions about this book you will find several interpretation of what it all means and what really transpires in the book. To go into too much detail about this ambiguous aspect of the book would risk spoiling the book for potential readers, suffice to say that the book left me with plenty of food for thought which is still swirling in my head as I write.
There are elements of humour scattered throughout the book, the style of humor tend to be fairly subtle, my favorite humorous scene involves three bickering wise men and a boy of multiple faiths. I also love how the major supporting character Richard Parker came by his name. My favorite aspect of the book is the prose style which is lyrical, accessible and generally very pleasant to read. Here is one of my favorite passages:
"I will not die. I refuse it. I will make it through this nightmare. I will beat the odds, as great as they are. I have survived so far, miraculously. Now I will turn miracle into routine. The amazing will be seen every day. I will put in all the hard work necessary. Yes, so long as God is with me, I will not die. Amen."
Even if you are entirely irreligious you can still appreciate the eloquence of the writing.
This book is often classified as a fantasy but I wonder if it is actually more scifi? Some strange places and things are rationalized with scientific assumptions, particularly a mysterious island that appears in the last section of the book. Some people are understandably frustrated and annoyed by the epilogue of the book where everything seems to turn upside down, or not depending on how you want to interpret this part of the book. It surprised the hell out of me but adds to the enjoyment of the book, and I don't think it invalidates anything that goes on in the preceding chapters. Looking at other Goodreads reviews Life of Pi
seems to be divisive among its readers. Quite a few people find the book pretentious and not as intelligent or profound as the author presents it to be. They may be on to something, I don't really know. Oftentimes I find the reviewers just as pretentious as the book they are criticizing, is this a case of an eye for an eye? Personally I just wanted it to be entertaining and interesting and it meets these criteria in spades. A little pretentiousness does not bother me as long as the book is a good read.
I have no qualms at all about recommending this book, may be you will love it like I do, may be it will make you mad and you will throw it at the wall. I really don't know how it will be for you. Totally worth a shot in my opinion.