I think the book in itself tells a story that very important for our time. It is a fictional reflection on a theme that is less interesting than the original reality and the end of the book is an interesting reflection of ways to hide a reality that should be dealt with.
Sitting in Doha during the climate negotiations my thoughts of the book might be colored by the fact that I’m in the middle of what the Economist describes as “Theatre of the absurd”. Policy makers, media, NGO’s and scientists gather at a meeting that is a about ideas of meetings that could result in a process that might deliver something that could help create what is needed. In short, we have a situation where few do anything that is even close to what is actually needed.
As many books recently I finally came around to reed it as a movie was done. With Ang Lee behind it I’m expecting a beautiful movie, but I wondered if it would have any content. It could be a really amazing movie if the fable/fantasy was contrasted against the more likely story that the book is opening up for in the end. In our connected society funny/graphic stories are powerful and can help or undermine the work that is needed to address the challenges of our time.
I might also feel frustrated that the book seems to have “stolen/borrowed” so much from one of the books I really enjoyed when it was published back in 1986. Adrift: 76 Days Lost At Sea, by Steven Callahan. It is a really fascinating story about survival and the elements. The way he relates to nature and his situation is something that inspire, he referred to his experience as “A view of heaven from a seat in hell”. Comparing the two books feels so unfair, one is a real story about someone who has actually experienced something and have something to say. Yann Martell feels like just another author trying to become famous but without anything to say, but being quite good at that.
I only found any value in the book when I read the last few pages when the “alternative” story is revealed. How we as humans like to create stories that makes us look better, the world more simple and that can hide things that hurt is very interesting. Maybe the book can be read as a critique of religion as Pi is described and a person who is drawn to the big religions. This search for simplicity might be what allows him to create his own fantasy universe when things gets difficult. But if that was the story, and that would have been an interesting story, I guess Yann would have spent some time writing about it?
To sum up: Don’t waste your time read this book. If you are interested in religion read something by Richard Dawkins and if you are interested in adventure/being lost at sea read Adrift: 76 Days Lost At Sea, by Steven Callahan. If you want to kill some time with fables, read something more well written than this, maybe Kipling (but remember that George Orwell called him a "prophet of British imperialism" for some very good reasons).