Friday, March 4, 2011

Luka and the Fire of Life by Salman Rushdie

Luka's father, the legendary storyteller Rashid Khalifa, has fallen asleep and no one can wake him.  The longer he sleeps, the less likely he is to ever wake up.  Luka must journey to the Magical World and steal the Fire of Life, the only thing that can save his father.  The only problem is that stealing the Fire of Life is impossible.  Luka knows he has to try though.  There isn't any other choice.

I was disappointed by this.  It's Salman Rushdie.  I was expecting something amazing.  And I was feeling kind of guilty that I wasn't enjoying it.  But now I've decided that no, I don't HAVE to like it, just because it's written by Salman Rushdie and he is awesome.  It doesn't mean that EVERYTHING he writes will be awesome.

So now that I'm feeling better about that, here were my issues:  First, it dragged and was heavy.  I don't mean heavy as in "dealt with serious issues."  I mean it just felt heavy and sluggish.  It was a fantasy, and Luka is a world of magic and word play.  It should have been light and airy.  It was not.  I kept thinking, "It's trying to be like The Phantom Tollbooth.  This is no Phantom Tollbooth."  But then, whatever could be?  There was a lot of word play, which usually I enjoy, but it was so heavy handed it wasn't fun.  Rushdie didn't just let it be.  Everything had to be stretched out and over explained and that took the fun and lightness out of it.  For example, Luka meets the Sultana of Ott.  The people of Ott are known for verbally abusing each other, and so the Sultana is known as the Insultana.  Cute.  Or it would have been if it wasn't laid out like, "That's the Sultana, she insults people, she's the Insultana."  And everything was like that.  Takes the fun out it.

I also didn't enjoy the video game aspect.  When Luka enters the Magical World, he gets a level and life counter in the corner of his vision.  As he goes through obstacles in the Magical World, he goes up a level.  When he completes an obstacle, he can find a save button to save his progress.  He collects lives and so if he makes a mistake and dies, he'll come back at his last save point.  It didn't feel right to me.  He was in a purely magical world and the video game aspect, which is more sci-fi, felt out of place.  Also, kind of a cop-out.  Luka can make massive mistakes and then come back at his last save point.

Luka as a character wasn't very interesting.  He also did very little on his journey.  He kept meeting people along the way that would take him along with them.  He got to skip over some of the hardest parts of his quest because the Insultana has a flying carpet.  This made it less exciting and adventury.  Luka skipped over most of the hard parts and did very little for himself.

So I didn't really like it, and was disappointed because I was expecting something great.  I haven't read Rushdie's other YA book, Haroun and the Sea of Stories (Haroun is Luka's older brother), but I have heard good things about that one.  This was just not Rushdie's best.

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