Luka & the Fire of Life Paperback – Jun 1 2011
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“A magical fable . . . nonstop fun.”—The Washington Post
“A fantastic adventure tale.”—New York Post
“Riddles, puns and other wordplay enliven the writing. . . . The charm and cleverness of this buoyant fantasy will draw you into its Magical World.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Smart and entertaining . . . should please children and adults alike.”—The Miami Herald
“[Rushdie’s] exuberant wordplay is evident on every page.”—The New York Times Book Review
NAMED ONE OF THE 10 BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE HUFFINGTON POST
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
Maggie Galehouse, NPR • The Kansas City Star
About the Author
Salman Rushdie is the author of ten previous novels—Grimus, Midnight’s Children (for which he won the Booker Prize and, recently, the Booker of all Bookers), Shame, The Satanic Verses, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, The Moor’s Last Sigh, The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Fury, Shalimar the Clown, and The Enchantress of Florence—and one collection of short stories, East, West. He has also published three works of nonfiction—The Jaguar Smile, Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism 1981-1991, and Step Across This Line—and co-edited two anthologies, Mirrorwork and Best American Short Stories 2008. He is a former president of American PEN. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.See all Product Description
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This is a fable and has the conventions of a fable or fairy tale, yet it's a modern one in that Rushdie nods many times toward the audience as if to say, "Guess what? I'm having fun with this, and you should, too." It's mostly a wry commentary on families, life, and how everyone is searching for his own identity in his own way -- but it's done so well, and with so much brio, that it's almost impossible not to like it even though if you've read many fables or fairy tales, you know how this is going to end.
So plot by itself is really not the upthrust of this book; rather, I'd say this is a book to seek out if you enjoy language, social commentary, and a sideways look at our ever-shrinking world. It's enjoyable, witty, fast-paced in its own way (remember, it's fast-paced for a _fable_), and fun.
Four stars. Recommended.
Luka's story was created by Salman Rushdie for his own 12-year-old son, Luka. The novel is filled with contemporary references, clever puns, and wonderful language, so why would I rate it only three stars? Let me explain:
This is my first experience reading Salman Rushdie, and it's quite a treat. Mr. Rushdie has wide-ranging classical knowledge which he brings to his narrative. His use of the English language is stunning. For the first 100 pages of this novel, I was charmed by his skills.
For me, the problem with this novel is the story. In spite of the wonderful language, I was never able to connect with the story. In fact, after the first 100 pages, I found myself skimming rather than engrossing myself in the reading. Too bad, because Mr. Rushdie is a wonderful writer -- but a not-as-good story creator.
To illustrate: A dog named Bear, and a bear named Dog, were amusing when first introduced, but this name reversal quickly grew stale and, eventually, annoying. Although these two characters contributed to the story, it was not enough to rescue a tale that stretched on far too long.
So, would I buy this novel for my own 12-year-old son? No. I don't find the story strong enough to hold (what I remember of) his interest.
For his writing, five stars.
For the story, two stars.
Average: 3.5 stars
Luka Khalifa is the much younger brother of the title character in HAROUN AND THE SEA OF STORIES, Rushdie's earlier fantasy for the child in all of us. His father, the great storyteller, the Shah of Blah, is in a coma and Luka must journey into the Magic World to steal the Fire of Life before his being is sucked away by the spectral Nobodaddy, who becomes more and more visible as he empties the dying man of his substance. The quest involves the assistance of elephant-headed Memory Birds, a shape-changing dragon called Nuthog, and the benevolent but fierce-speaking Insultana of Ott, who provides a magic carpet to take Luka much of the way to his destination. But Luka is no shrinking violet himself. He started the whole chain of events by cursing a cruel circus-owner so effectively that the animals revolted, and he can hold his own in a battle of riddles with a terminator-blasting Old Man of the River, or in a rigged trial presided over by the god Ra, who speaks only in Egyptian hieroglyphics. This is not a book to read in a single sitting; the point is less the journey than the encounters along the way, each chapter having its own atmosphere and treasure-trove of wonders.
I don't know if I was simply in a more receptive mood, or if it actually the better book, but I enjoyed this a great deal more than its predecessor. I remember thinking that HAROUN suffered from being too close to a video game such as MARIO BROTHERS, but here the connection is quite explicit and oddly enough it works even better. Luka is a modern boy, quite at home in the electronic world; he is hardly surprised to find a life-counter in the top left-hand corner of his vision, and he knows which objects to punch to replenish his store. The modernity helps to anchor the book, to bring the vaguely Indian setting closer to home -- as does the fact that Rushdie is no longer confined to his own mythology, but freely references Greek, Norse, Japanese, and other cultures as well. Indeed this is the point: in a modern world, where the old deities no longer wield their power, stories are the only means of giving them life. As Luka explains to the disgruntled deities in their broken-down pan-cultural Olympus: "When your story is well told, people believe in you; not in the way they used to believe, not in a worshipping way, but in the way people believe in stories -- happily, excitedly, wishing they wouldn't end." He might have been describing his own book.
'Luka' is meant to be a fantasy story, a magic tale suitable for a 12-year old that is also meant to appeal (I think anyway) to adults, and comes from a very personal place in the author's heart (much as the previous, not-quite-prequel 'Haroun' book did). Whereas 'Haroun' dealt in its own way with the author's then-current life crises - it was in the 80s, you could look it up - Rushdie is now a good deal older and as such faces new life crises, ie an older father who may or may not be around to see his young child grow to adulthood. Givem that grim thought, Rushdie has crafted a magic tale that considers that reality but means to do so charmingly and with humor and love.
I followed the story closely for just past half the book, over 100 pages. I didn't hate it. In fact, I thought for the first 50 pages or so that it might be a fun book for my nephews. However, it's no Harry Potter book. After a while it seemed to drag on, not getting any worse, but just not getting anywhere else good, either. I do not wish to damn with faint praise, but faint praise is all I felt ultimately. The book deals touchingly with real issues of importance to both children and adults; the author can certainly write when he applies himself; but the story didn't seem gripping enough to stick with till the end. Not sure exactly why not. Perhaps you will feel differently about it.