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Luka and the Fire of Life by Salman Rushdie
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Dec 08, 2010

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Read in December, 2010

A follow-up to Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Luka and the Fire of Life doesn't require you to have read the earlier book. Luka, Haroun's younger brother, is the second son of the famed storyteller Rashid Khalifa. As Khalifa lies on his apparent death bed, Luka must journey into a fantastical world to retrieve the Fire of Life, the only thing that can save him. There are talking animals, gods from various mythologies, an allegorical town full of very sensitive rats, and flying carpets. For those of you who haven't yet been turned off, I should mention that there's also a system of losing lives and saving progress that's stolen from the world of video games; oh, and puns, lots and lots of puns. OK, now that we've gotten rid of most readers, on with the review...
There's a great tradition of children's stories that were created to entertain specific children -- Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Thomas the Tank Engine: The Complete Collection, for example. This book was written specifically for Rushdie's 12-year-old son, Milan. It does feel at times that Rushdie is more concerned with entertaining a particular someone, rather than the random reader who just happened to pick up the book, and that made me forgive things like the video-game conceit (there's a good chance his son got a kick out of that). It's not his strongest work, nor is it probably meant to be. Yes, there are all sorts of allusions and metaphors that are obviously aimed more at adults, and some of the themes are those that you'd find in "grown-up books," but this is Rushdie indulging the playful side that's present, but not quite as dominant in his other books. Fans of Neil Gaiman, The Phantom Tollbooth, or The Neverending Story will probably see evidence of their influence, although that could just be coincidental.

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