Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A boy, a boat, an ocean... and a tiger

Title: Life of Pi
Author: Yann Martel

I'm not quite sure what all the fuss was about with this book. It was good, sure, but it wasn't fantastic. I'm sure I must be missing something. I haven't read fiction in a while and it kept me interested, so that's a start. Maybe I just don't like books that throw you for a loop in the last 15 pages. Life is confusing enough, give me a clear final answer please.

Piscine Molitor Patel is an Indian boy whose family owns a zoo. Because "Piscine" is quickly changed to "pissing" by cruel children, Piscine becomes Pi (like the number). When Pi is 16 his family decides to emigrate to Canada... with their animals. On their way across the great big ocean, their Japanese cargo ship sinks and Pi soon finds himself in the lifeboat with an orangutan, a zebra, a hyena, and... Richard Parker, the oddly named tiger.

Soon it is just Pi and the tiger. Throughout his 200+ days at sea, Pi has to establish his dominance over Richard Parker. He does this by providing food and water, marking his territory (yes, by peeing all over it), blowing a loud irritating whistle, and more. And he succeeds.

This is all very well-written, believable, and great.

Then comes the disappointing end of the book. WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!

So, Pi runs out of food and water and enters into a state of delirium during which he:
  1. Holds conversations with himself
  2. Holds conversations with Richard Parker (who has a French accent, by the way)
  3. Encounters another lifeboat drifter at a time during which both Pi and the other drifter are blind. Richard Parker quickly dispatches the other guy.
Things are getting just a little harder to believe because #3 is supposed to actually happen. Pi, whose blindness goes away once he's had some food, finds the body.

Then, it gets worse. Pi comes across an island made of delicious seaweed, free-floating in the ocean with millions of meerkats as its sole inhabitants. And the island is carnivorous! Pi finds a set of human teeth in the fruit of a tree. Apparently at night the seaweed becomes poisonous to walk on.

So he leaves the island and winds up in Mexico, where Richard Parker quickly leaves him. Which results in a lack of proof for his story. Hmm.

So, to sum up this long, rambling post, I have the following issues with this book:
  1. At the very end, a second story is made up to detail Pi's time at sea, so you are left not really knowing if there was a tiger or not.
  2. The author went through great lengths to make the story completely believable and then scrapped that in the last fourth of the book.
  3. The part of the journey between the island and Mexico was completely brushed over, as if the author had gotten tired of writing the book.
If anyone has a different opinion, or some light to shed, please comment.


posted by Kate at 10:52 AM


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