Luka and the Fire of Life – Salman Rushdie

I had been meaning to read another Salman Rushdie for ages, ever since I read and was shocked by how much I loved ‘Midnight’s Children’ some time ago, yet I promptly didn’t read anything else, and yet I seem to have bought rather a lot of his previous works.  I do notice that it is often the case when there are so many books and authors you want to read years and years go by before you do though. Or is that just me? Anyway it was The Bookboy who brought Rushdie back into my reading sights as he had a copy of the latest Rushdie ‘Luka and the Fire of Life’ for his book group at Simply Books. So I decided to pilfer it off him for a read myself.

When Luka’s father Rashid slips into a deep and dangerous sleep of which he cannot be roused and seems to be drawing all the life from him it becomes clear that the only person who can save him is his youngest son. Luka has always known there is something different about himself and his family, especially after hearing of the tales of his elder brother Haroun, and is aware from an incident early on in the book that he has some magical powers. It soon becomes clear Luka’s fathers state are a revenge attack on those very powers and the events Luka used them on and the ones that gained him his sidekicks Dog the Bear and Bear the Dog. When Luka sees his father walking the streets he follows him, only this is not his father at all it is in fact Nododaddy who tells Luka to save his father he must find The Fire of Life, something no one has ever managed before.

The tale really sets sail from this point onwards. There are more characters and adventures ahead than I could, or would want to, tell you too much about for fear of ruining the story. There are more gods of all beliefs and periods in history than you could wish for (sometimes it seems a little too much), many mythical beasts, mysterious riddles and even at one point a brief and fleeting glimpse of none other than Doctor Who. It’s a book that both looks at the past and various mythologies yet also has a modern feel as rather like a computer game Luka must ‘save’ each times he gets into the deeper ‘levels’ of this magical world.

‘Luka and the Fire of Life’ is one of those books aimed at the adult and younger adult markets at once. I think this novel is a rather unofficial is a sequel to ‘Haroun and the Sea of Stories’ as Luka is Haroun’s much younger brother. Though the previous adventures are mentioned now and again you don’t need to have read them as this is a separate story in its own right. These are both stories that the author has written for his children the first was for his son Zafar and this one for his youngest sun Milan. It’s both and interesting and weird sense whilst reading this novel because as you read along you can almost feel the love Rushdie has for his youngest sun Milan, who I think Luka must be based on just as I think Rushdie has written himself in the book as Rashid, in the pages as you turn and read on. This means you can feel the passion in the book but also in a weird way I found slightly too intimate and almost like you a reading a novel filled with personal ‘in’ jokes.

The in jokes and almost too much to take in with characters and gods etc, which I did find occasionally confusing, could have put me off – though equally they could be rather stimulating to a younger reader. I am aware I am probably not the market the book is aimed at yet with characters called Ratshit and monsters such as the Willy-Snake I did wonder if maybe aiming it at younger readers was appropriate. It felt rather like it wanted to please everyone and so aimed itself in lots of directions and tried to please people who loved myths, computer games and a fairytale all at once and loosing something slightly because of it.

That said I really enjoyed it. In particular it was Rushdie’s us of language which had me reading along. Playing with words like a father with no body and creating ‘Nobodaddy’ and having a bear called Dog and vice versa along with making jokes about how things get their names such and then twisting them to a literal version like with ‘the hot pots’ was very clever and that is where the book excelled. Whilst I couldn’t whole heartedly recommend you rush out and read ‘Luka and the Fire of Life’ unless you are a big young adult fan or want a rather different read for a child over ten, it has reminded me how much I like Rushdie’s prose, his magical worlds and the fact he can really spin a good yarn. I must read more of his adult fiction very soon. 6.5/10

This book was kindly lent to me by The Bookboy.

Interestingly I asked The Bookboy what his thoughts were and he summed it up rather well  by saying it was slow starting, then very fast paced, rather confusing but overall quite entertaining but maybe not a book for children under 11 or 12. Which I found interesting, and gives you two reviews for the price of one. In fact this is the prime time to tell you that The Bookboy and I will be tackling Jeanette Winterson’s ‘Tanglewreck’ together in a post over the next few weeks if you want to join in? Now back to Rushdie, which of his adult novels should I head for next?

11 Comments

Filed under Jonathan Cape Publishers, Random House Publishing, Review, Salman Rushdie

11 responses to “Luka and the Fire of Life – Salman Rushdie

  1. I recently read Shame and Rushdie’s prose is as rich and as luscious as exhibited in Midnight’s Children and he spins yarn into such an intricate story. I recommend it.

  2. Erika W.

    Chick lit. science fiction? I nominate Robert Heinlein’s “Friday”.

  3. Chelsea

    I just pulled out Midnight’s Children off my bookshelves last night and put it on the TBR pile (right after Tina Fey’s Bossypants and Nicole Krauss’ Great House ! I can’t wait to give it a go, and from the review you just gave, I now can’t wait to find as much Rushdie as I can! Thanks so much for a great review, Simon, and happy reading!

    • It’s a pleasure Chelsea, have you started Midnights Children yet (as it has taken me so long to respond to comments, sorry to you and everyone else)? If so what do you think or what do you think so far at least, its a real epic.

  4. I keep meaning to read another rushdie ,my freind loved this one ,all the best stu

  5. Sue

    ‘Satanic Verses’ was one of those books I read through quickly then started at the beginning and read it through slowly. Wonderful. He sucks you into the story and then smothers you in language and imagery – like Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

    ‘Midnight’s Children’ and Haround were also good but I got a bit fed up with ‘The Moor’s Last Sigh’ and the ‘Enchantress of Florence’.

    • I haven’t ever tried Satanic Verses though of course its one of his most famous, or do I mean infamous, novels. I have yet to come across a book I have read fast and then gone back through slowly, isnt that odd? I tend to start swiftly and suddenly slow down, apart from with thrillers when I can’t stop.

  6. Pingback: Rounding Up The Reviews #2; Drivers Seats, Seas of Stories, Days of Deer and Wavewalkers | Savidge Reads

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