Life of Pi by Yann Martel is a fantasy adventure story, but with an underlying theme that I never expected. Let me begin with a brief synopsis. This is the story of Piscine Patel, nicknamed Pi, and his misadventures. He is a young teenage Indian boy, son of a zoo owner. Importantly, he is a practicing Hindu, Christian, and Muslim. His experiences growing up with animals, his family, and his faiths are the main topic of the first part.
The second part of the book is about his misadventures at sea. His family decides to immigrate to Canada, bringing most of their zoo animals with them to sell in North America. They board a cargo ship, but the ship sinks, and Pi spends a total of 227 days floating in the Pacific Ocean, with a hyena, zebra, orangutan, and a Bengal tiger for company. The first three animals die one by one, but the tiger and Pi survives until they float and reach the Mexican shores. This is the longest and in my opinion, most gruesome part of the book.
The final part of the book is an interview between Pi and a couple of Japanese maritime officials. Pi narrates his story of his ordeal at sea with the animals. However, the Japanese officials find his story incredulous and unbelievable, so Pi provides another story, without the animals. The Japanese officials find parallels between the two stories, and later on, Pi asks the officials which story they prefer, to which they respond that they prefer the animal story. Pi ends the conversation with and so it goes with God.
I could analyze this novel in so many different ways. No one can deny that this is an adventure novel. I am impressed with the wealth of information this novel has with respect to marine biology and survival. The author definitely did a great deal of research for this. Some of the descriptions on survival tactics were rather disturbing, to the point that one can almost think of this as a horror novel.
However, I realized that it is only disturbing because most of us humans have the creature comforts that our day to day lives provide. We usually never find ourselves thrown into such an extreme scenario that we lose our humanness and revert to animalistic measures.