I'll start negative and finish on a high. The first 70 pages of this book are boring and unfulfilling. It's dedicated to his life and establishing character before the journey, but it basically boils down to 1)Animals are dangerous 2)Pi can swim and 3)Pi is religious, through long stories and anecdotes. The writing has a very unique voice which unfortunately serves to distract from the content and because nothing progressive happens in terms of plotting, there's very little to set you back on the tracks if it takes you off. But it's the third point that is the most problematic, in Life Of Pi
, there was the unfortunate misstep that everyone who disagrees with Pi is stupid and it means no-one is asking the questions which allow us to understand who Pi really is. Pi is ecumenical, and a big thing is made of him being Hindi, Christian and Islamic. But both the Imam and the Priest spend their time comically saying things along the lines of 'b-but you can't do that?!' and neither thinks to ask how Pi reconciles, for example, the Koran explicitly stating Jesus is not the son of God. Because we don't learn how he does that it feels like Pi has a deep but completely blind faith, taking ritual and the most basic of ideas without actually understanding what a religion is. Since this is meant to be his core character point, it leads to a situation where I don't understand Pi and can't name a single aspect of his personality. It mangles the ending which I can't even decide is meant to be atheistic or religious. And this isn't an artful type of ambiguity because it's promoting the idea that I should just dismiss these ideas because the books never approached them in depth.
Now the good. This book can possibly be considered comparable with the works of Jules Verne
. Space is no longer a mystery boundary, we've drawn lines over all the globe and no longer would consider merpeople in the depths of the seas. But crossing the oceans on a lifeboat with a tiger is exactly the exotic situation and boundary left to be considered, where the small details of survival and the odd encounters fascinate us and allow us to share the feeling of an adventure exploring a new situation. The writing style suddenly gets enveloped in the larger driving narrative and it doesn't matter that I don't know Pi from before, because I can see what he's doing and learn from that.