Sunday, February 23, 2014

Review: Life of Pi, by Yann Martel

Life of PiLife of Pi by Yann Martel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

To successfully write a novel like Life of Pi requires a skilful author capable of revealing the fantastic in a credible, engaging manner. Yann Martel clearly is one such writer, following in the footsteps of adepts at magic realism from the time of Jonathan Swift through Salman Rushdie.

The story itself is simple: a boy who survives 227 days aboard a lifeboat on the Pacific Ocean. But what Canadian author Martel explores in this fantastic tale is far more. Martel reveals the struggle between the spiritual and the bestial, high moral ethics and the brutality of survival, the divine and the profane.

Martel chooses as champions for this struggle the characters of Piscene Molitor Patel, a practising Muslim, Hindu, Christian, and the awesome power of the Royal Bengal Tiger, Richard Parker. Of one body and yet two entities, thus the struggle to control the beast while maintaining the fundamental principles of the human in the grasp of the divine. How to balance this? How to reconcile that in each of us dwells the killer, the predator?

The answer Martel delivers in one of the last, frank, heart-breaking scenes when Pi responds to his interrogators after his rescue: And so it goes with God.

That only in embracing the divine can humankind find balance.

I highly recommend this novel to anyone 16 years of age and older. It is a profound work worthy of your time.

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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Review: The Warrior Chronicles, by Bernard Cornwell

The Warrior Chronicles Books 1-6The Warrior Chronicles Books 1-6 by Bernard Cornwell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When you go to Bernard Cornwell for a reading fix, you go for impeccable historical research, gritty reality(no sanitized Jane Austen romance here)and characters who are larger than life, very human in their flaws.

This six book series of Cornwell's is no exception, chronicling the embryonic years of England's conception under the vision of Alfred the Great, and told through the crusty voice of Alfred's fictional warrior, Uhtred of Bebbanburg. It should be noted, however, the character of Uhtred is very loosely based on one of Cornwell's own ancestors.

I would have to work hard to find a criticism of the series, and at that it would be the battle scenes often seem repetitive, the skill of the protagonists legendary. Such hero-building can become wearying; however, Cornwell retains a reader's interest in his unflagging dedication to his subject matter and minute details which he weaves beautifully into the flow of the narrative.

Overall, a great winter or summer read, escapism with virtue.

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