Form: e-book, mobi format
Genre: philosophical fiction, adventure, survival, contemporary fiction
Target audience: YA and adults as well
The ship sinks. Pi finds himself alone in a lifeboat, his only companions a hyena, an orangutan, a wounded zebra, and Richard Parker, a 450-pound Bengal tiger. Soon the tiger has dispatched all but Pi, whose fear, knowledge, and cunning allow him to coexist with Richard Parker for 227 days while lost at sea. When they finally reach the coast of Mexico, Richard Parker flees to the jungle, never to be seen again. The Japanese authorities who interrogate Pi refuse to believe his story and press him to tell them “the truth.” After hours of coercion, Pi tells a second story, a story much less fantastical, much more conventional–but is it more true than the first one?
As it was published in 2001, there are plenty of excellent reviews of this book around, both very positive and very negative; there’s no chance I could outdo any of them, so I will try to be as brief as possible. I will just tell you about my personal impressions and conclusions. Short and honest.
I also liked how Pi’s opinion about his feline companion changed during the journey. It showed that the real strength we can find turning obstacles and weaknesses into advantages, ‘taming’ them in a way. It certainly isn’t anything easy but it is more often than not the best solution. First Richard Parker was the bane of Pi’s castaway life, a wild beast which should be fed or else (a very unpleasant else as you can imagine). The boy didn’t get rid of it just because he couldn’t – the animal was definitely stronger. Then Pi realized that without the tiger he most probably would have had thougher time and he wouldn’t have survived. Finally Richard Parker became as close to him as his lost family although feeding it still cost him a lot of efforts. Touching. What a pity the author decided against a proper good-bye between those two.
Finally the cover I find really nice and fitting.
What’s more, the author suggests that we tend to embrace made-up stories about different gods because they make us comfy, warm, safe and fuzzy, taming the reality and offering an award if we follow the rules and behave. Whether the God from these stories actually exists becomes totally irrelevant. Perhaps he got a point. I wouldn’t like to turn this review into a discourse whether the God (or gods) exists or not, opening a big fat can of worms which really is left tightly closed, preferably at the bottom of the sea; let me just say that the author didn’t manage to persuade me of his version of an ‘atheistic’ gospel because, when I come to think of it, Martel’s message simply disintegrates after serious reflection. Let me also say that, coming from a country where atheism used to be a kind of official religion-cum-outlook for quite a long time, preached, spread and drummed home into the heads of stubborn infidels, I don’t find it particularly exciting. Not really.
Overall his basic argument I found rather trite – I think the author stumbled when he offered an alternative explanation for Pi’s experiences and then challenged the reader to choose: the “better story, the story with animals” or “the story that will confirm what you already know.” Martel compares belief in fiction to belief in God, mixing those two together. Well, I used to read a lot of myths coming from different parts of the world and created by different religions; some of them were really interesting and “pretty” so, according to this author I should now believe in Hermes, Loki, Buddha, Zarathustra, Quetzalcoatl and Osiris to list just few of my favourite deities featuring in these myths. Hmmm…