A few minutes into this book I began to worry that I had wasted my purchase on an uninteresting, navel-gazing, mystical study of relativistic, religious pap. The writing seemed clear enough the narrator's voice was just fine, but I had to force myself to remain interested. The story-within-a-story structure seemed to indicate that a deeper level was still to come, so I suspended my skepticism in order to really buy into the main character and his flashbacks and childhood memories. Soon I was almost fascinated by this young man and where he was headed, and I found myself in a kind of disappointed state of shock when the story abruptly changed, slathering me in the kind of plot-driven action that I had been craving in the earlier chapters. But I soon became so absorbed in this new plot that the other became a faraway memory-- the earlier flashbacks now became my own as I tossed in the book's new drama. From this point on I was riveted. I squirmed with a real desire to join Pi in his dilemma, and I reacted to his every decision and thought as if my own. At the end of the book, after an odd and unsettling ending, I had to admit that I had been hooked, had struggled, and had been reeled with resistance into a layered, colorful, and fascinating world that I could never have entered on my own. Only the best of authors can pull this kind of thing off, and I glowed for days afterward. As a matter of fact, I've been inspired to write my first and only review of anything-- this one-- so read this book and stick with it; it's worth it.
This is really a very well written book and -- considering the subject matter-- amazingly well read by the narrator, but it is long. I stayed pretty interested, rivted even, throughout most of it, but I had to take in much shorter listening chunks than usual due to its density. This meant that it felt like it went on for ages, and when I reached the anticlimactic last quarter of the book it was hard to pay attention (especially since medieval philosophy is obtuse and wholly bogus, as the author points out repeatedly). The Dark Age is not the fault of the author, and it does make the Greeks look even more brilliant by contrast, but in an audiobook it's a long slog when you're already worn out. If you're tempted by this book, by all means get it, but it's okay to let yourself off the hook at the end-- you're not missing much if you skip it.
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