Salman Rushdie’s Haroun & the Sea of Stories is probably in my top five favorite books ever. I’ve read it to my 5th graders for the past three years and they too have thoroughly loved it. It’s a story filled with so much imagination you can’t help but smile. It’s also heavy on figurative language, and imagery – perfect for young readers learning how to read and write. So imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon Luka & the Fire of Life at the used book store we frequent – it’s a follow up book to Haroun. I wouldn’t call it a sequel -more of a continuation. My wife and I both loved Haroun so much we were immediately excited to dive into Luka. I was currently reading one of the Game of Thrones tomes so my wife had first crack at it. She said it was not particularly good. Now that I’ve had a chance to read it I’m sad to say I agree. In fact, it was hard for me to finish. I thought it was an embarrassingly inferior follow-up to Haroun & the Sea of Stories.
I’m usually quite easy to please. I read strictly for entertainment. I don’t think I’ve ever made it through a complete textbook in my life. I don’t think I’ve ever disliked a book I’ve chosen to read on my own. But this book was difficult. I think Salman Rushdie is a fabulous author, and I have three or four more of his books on my to-read shelf, and I’m looking forward to them. But I found Luka & the Fire of Life fails to keep the wonder and joy of Haroun. It takes place almost in the same magical world but this time instead of the world being a delight for the reader to discover it’s instead quite lame. The surprise connections between the real world and the magical world of Stories in Haroun were fabulous to stumble upon. In Luka, however, Rushdie has created many incredibly silly (not silly in the funny way) worlds and characters. So many it’s hard to keep track of. And the worst part? The characters are entirely forgettable, which was not so in the previous novel. To this day I find myself randomly talking about Iff the Water Genie, or Butt the Hoopoe. Finally, the conflict/problem in the story was very weak, and the resolution unfulfilling. It really seems like Rushdie phoned this one in to fulfill some contract because he is a much better writer than this. In the end, I felt like I was reading a combination of an embarrassing imitation of Haroun & the Sea of Stories, Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, and a Rick Riordan Percy Jackson novel.
Also, minus 1,000,000 points for the use of the Wingdings font in the book. Just inexcusable.
I gave Luka & the Fire of Life 2/5 stars on Goodreads.
If you’ve not read Haroun & the Sea of Stories – read it. Now. It will be the most fun you’ve had reading a book in a long time. And it’ll make you feel good because that’s the kind of book it is.
I’ve already started my next book: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. It was recommended by a friend who has steered me toward some excellent books in the past. I’m already about 25 pages into it and already very intrigued. Definitely excited to keep going. I’ll report back when I’m done!