18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Salman Rushdie's fable "Luka and the Fire of Life" is a fun book about Luka, the son of Rashid Khalifa, a storyteller, and Soraya, a woman of scientific bent. Rashid and Soraya were older parents with a son already full grown when they had Luka, so Luka feels vaguely embarrassed, more so than do most adolescents in search of adventure. That his older brother Haroun already had an awesome adventure of his own (told in Rushdie's earlier "Haroun and the Sea of Stories") just put pressure on Luka to find something, anything that he could call his own. That Luka has two interesting pets -- a bear he calls Dog and a dog he calls Bear -- that came from a dying circus only adds to Luka's internal frustration that he hasn't yet had adventures -- and now that he's hitting puberty, he wants his own adventure.
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.
77 of 92 people found the following review helpful
Luka's father is dying, and, without Luka's help he will soon be gone. But what can a 12-year-old boy do to save his father? As it turns out -- quite a lot.
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
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
What a father Salman Rushdie would make! Imagine being read to from a book that opens with "a boy named Luka who had two pets, a bear named Dog and a dog named Bear." And then to learn that the former "was an expert dancer, able to get up onto his hind legs and perform with subtlety and grace the waltz, the polka, the rhumba, the wah-watusi, and the twist, as well as dances from nearer home, the pounding bhangra, the twirling ghoomar (for which he worse a wide mirror-worked skirt), the warrior dances known as the spaw and the thang-ta, and the peacock dance of the south." For Rushdie is a wizard with words, taking us in a sentence from ordinary to exotic and back again. This is a book for children to hear with wonder and for adults to understand, for Rushdie's range of reference (and fondness for erudite puns) is immense.
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.
22 of 28 people found the following review helpful
While this book is a follow-up to Haroun and the Sea of Stories, you don't have to have read it to appreciate Luka's story. It is another magical journey into the enchanted world of Luka's father, Rashid's imagination. The poetic analogy of videogames as alternate reality, which was an ongoing theme throughout Luka's adventure, was hilarious. There were great pop-culture and literary references that made me chuckle and an abundance of cameos of mythological creatures from various cultures. Luka's great quest to find the Fire of Life to save Rashid, the allies he acquires along the way, and the final battle against Time were reminiscent of Wonderland, Oz, and a variety of other well-known favorite fantasy worlds. Though I'm afraid my imagination has become less imaginative to appreciate these whimsical expeditions, I still found it charming and clever.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Salman Rushdie can be an outstanding writer; his language skills are a major strength when well employed (and a major weakness when he allows himself to fall into language trickery and allows the effects to take away from the story). His plotting and story telling are sometimes focused and excellent, sometimes more spotty and episodic, depending on the book involved. In this case, well, I'm not sure.
'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.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 19, 2010
The important context that you need to have before reading this review is that Haroun has stayed in my top ten books since the time I first read it. I find it enchanting, beautiful, lyrical, magical, and fantastic. Hence, Luka was going to have a tough time always, irrespective of how good it was. And that is what happened. Luka's a very true sequel to Haroun: the same real and magic worlds, the same people, the same lyrical writing quality, but, but, but, it's just not the same. Everything feels, to steal words from the author, just half-a-step to the left or right, and hence not quite spot on.
But let me be fair and highlight the books positives (of which there are many). Luka is all-in-all, a charming book. It has nice, solid principles and ideas forming the book's foundation and weaved into the narrative, but without the book ever becoming preachy or pedantic. The plot is detailed, interesting, and complex, but never beyond comprehension, thanks to Rushdie's lucidity of thought and communication. The characters are great, and great fun, and detailed enough to make you feel like rooting for the good guys and booing the bad ones! But above all, it's Rushdie's imagination and poetic lyricism which elevate the book from another children's fantasy book to something very special. And there's one whim of Rushdie's I find very, very endearing - taking everyday words and phrases from the Hindi language and using them to very intelligently name characters and places e.g. the 3 Jo's - Jo-Hua (the past), Jo-Hai (the present), and Jo-Aiga (the future). I find word plays like this extremely smart and ticklish! (Non-Hindi language speakers are unlikely to appreciate this however).
Alright, now for what makes me take the one-star off this rating: the book is just not as magical as Haroun. Rushdie uses exactly the same ingredients, the same recipes, but, it's as if his heart wasn't in this the same way as it was in Haroun. Haroun felt honest, real, and natural - reading Haroun was like having Rushdie (or Rashid Khalifa) sitting right there and spinning out the yarn spontaneously and dramatically - Luka, on the other hand, feels planned, practiced, formulaic. All this notwithstanding, Luka's still a very worthwhile read and I would definitely recommend it to everybody from ages 10 to 100!
Luka, like Haroun, opens with an acrostical dedication to his second son, Milan (the first one was for Zafar). And to illustrate the difference between the two books, I'm going to put down the two dedications here, and let you see the subtle, but real, difference in the magic between the two books.
Haroun (for Zafar)
Zembla, Zenda, Xanadu:
All our dream-worlds may come true.
Fairy lands are fearsome too.
As I wander far from view
Read, and bring me home to you
Luka (for Milan)
Magic lands lie all around
Inside, outside, underground.
Looking-glass worlds still abound
All their tales this truth reveal:
Naught but love makes magic real.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Salman Rushdie has delivered another marvelous, magical tale full of fun and pun and wonder. Picking up where Alice in Wonderland and Harry Potter left off, the author serves up a delirious allegory of the transit from childhood to maturity set in a mysterious land as familiar as our own neighborhoods. Twelve-year-old Luka's quest is not down a rabbit hole, through a mirror or into Middle Earth or Hogwarts, but to the core of his father's story, guided and protected by his mother's love. Yet the setting is that of an electronic game, complete with point counts, expendable "lives," resets, achievement levels and sound effects whose opponents comprise all the gods of every myth in the history of humankind. Still the game is not a game, the goal is too terribly real to abjure, and real lives are on the line. This is a book that can be savored on multiple levels by readers from adolescence to senescence, with cultural referents targeted at all levels of intellect and experience. Rushdie has once more proved himself to be a master of language and plot, nuance and fantasy. Absolutely wonderful.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Rushdie, a Booker and other prize winning author, but not for this volume, is a master of language. This novel focuses on a search, very similar to the famed one undertaken by Jason and the Argonauts, but written as a strange, seemingly impossible fable, such as Alice in Wonderland. It is definitely clever, but perhaps too clever, overdone, repetitious, and tiresome.
The story is about a boy, Luka, who sees his father fall into an inexplicable deep sleep from which his family is unable to waken him. Luka is certain that he can revive his dad if he can steal the "fire of life," a task, like Jason's, that seems impossible. We read about his journey and adventures, which, as mentioned, is told in clever fashions, as well as with humor. A bear, for example, is named dog, and a dog is called bear. Rushdie also fills the tale with many witty illusions to biblical as well as ancient and modern classics, which are enjoyable, but fewer would have been enough.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I honestly can't decide how I feel about this book. On the one hand, it's the intriguing story of a boy's love for his father and the lengths he'll go to save him; on the other, it's a peculiar fantasy that -- for me, at least -- never quite takes hold. Perhaps that's because, from the very beginning, I had the sense that it was either all a dream, or maybe just that the transient nature of this particular fantasy universe (which had been created through the father's storytelling) never felt real enough for me. There were some allusions to pop culture (ex. Doctor Who, Angelina Jolie), which served only to take me out of the moment, and it felt very thrown together: it couldn't quite coalesce into a clear image in my mind because there were too many disparate elements involved.
Still, there's no denying that Rushdie is a clever, engaging author. I'm not sorry I spent time with this book, I'm just not particularly happy about it, either.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on February 17, 2011
Luka and the Fire of Life was disappointing. Clearly Rushdie loves words. It is full of puns. Clearly he knows his myths and theology. There are all kinds of god and minor deities across many societies and races.
So Luka is off on a quest to save his father. As I read I ws reminded of The Wizard of Oz, The Hobbit, and even the Percy Jackson series. The quest is loosely structured around a gaming paradigm.
Doesn't all of that sound like it should be great fun? It is for a while. But after a bit, it becomes a giant hodge podge. Rushdie is trying to juggle to many balls. And like juggling, all you have to do is drop one and they are all likely to come down.
Far too often, deus ex machina, both literally and figuratively, the answer to a plot problem. The plot itself is too episodic. Finishing the book was a chore, not a joy. I recognize the litterary fun. I'm not sure a young teen would. But the litterary fun is not in itself enough to drive the book.
So here I am having to recommend that a person not read the book despite the writer's skill.