I've been wanting to read this book for a few years. I think it was the picture of the tiger and boy in a lifeboat that did it. Good art. That's the key to making millions in the book industry.
The current back of the book talks about what a great writer Yann Martel is, but I remember when it first came out it just said something like "What would you do if you were a 16 year old boy trapped in the pacific ocean on a lifeboat with a Hyena, Orangutan, Zebra, and a 450 pound Bengal Tiger?" Then it said something meaningful about how the other animals start disappearing and Pi has to rely on his wits.
Well, that was good enough to get me to want to read it, but not good enough to free up my busy schedule. 4 years go by, and now I've read it. Here's a couple of parts I like to set the mood:
"How I had failed to notice for two and a half days a 450-pound Bengal tiger in a lifeboat twenty-six feet long was a conundrum I would have to try to crack later, when I had more energy. The feat surely made him the largest stowaway, proportionally speaking, in the history of navigation. From tip of nose to tip of tail he took up over a third of the length of the ship he was on.
"You might think I lost all hope at that point. I did. And as a result I perked up and felt much better. We see that in sports all the time don't we? The tennis challenger starts strong but soon loses confidence in his playing. The champion racks up the games. But in the final set, when the challenger has nothing left to lose, he becomes relaxed again, insouciant, daring. Suddenly he's playing like the devil and the champion must work hard to get those last points. So it was with me. To cope with a hyena seemed remotely possible, but I was so obviously outmatched by the tiger that it wasn't even worth worrying about. With a tiger aboard, my life was over. That being settled, why not do something about my parched throat?"
And another good part as the multi-religious Pi rants on the shame of agnosticism, while revealing much of his character as an older man and his outlook on life:
"I can well imagine an athiest's last words: "White, white! L-L-Love! My God!" — and the deathbed leap of faith. Whereas the agnostic, if he stays true to his reasonable self, if he stays beholden to dry, yeastless factuality, might try to explain the warm light bathing him by saying, "Possibly a f-f-failing oxygenation of the b-b-brain," and, to the very end, lack imagination and miss the better story."
(from the book Life of Pi)
The book is about Pi Patel, who is the son of a zookeeper in India. When dad decides they're moving to Canada, they pack up and hop on board a ship with animals in-tow. Or in stow.. I don't know. Anyway, the ship sinks, leaving one human survivor and four zoo animals trapped on a lifeboat in the pacific. Pi has to figure out how he's going to survive on the ocean with an unstoppable predator.
I'm glad to note that M. Night Shyamalan is involved in writing the screenplay and producing the movie form of this book, due to begin shooting next year. It's definitely his style, and has a great ending. And a great middle. And a great start to finish over-all.
The book is intelligent and witty and fun. It's gripping and gruesome. And really believable. I hate when people confuse my brain with stuff like believable books that are published as fiction, but which bill themselves as true. And I'm too lazy to check around and see if this really is true. Which I don't think it is.
Anyway, I look forward to the movie, (even if it is directed by the guy who did Aliens 4 – and Amelie, by the way) because the book was great. I recommend it to anybody who either doesn't mind animal violence, or who minds but lacks the imagination to visualize it. And, graphic as it was, it added to the overall quality of the book. I wouldn't have been able to share Pi's fear of the hyena – psychologically speaking here – if I hadn't 'seen' it do what hyenas do.
And all the little drips and drops of event and character and circumstance add up to an ending that is just superb – one that grabs the reader by the throat in the fashion of a bengal tiger and pulls you in whether you wanted to go or not.
Give er a 3.5 on a scale of -5 to 5