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Customer Review

on 6 June 2005
I have not read "Life of Pi" yet, but I have heard so many good things about that novel that when I saw this collection of short stories in the bookstore I was intrigued. I started browsing through the foreword, and immediately came to the conclusion that Martel has an innate ability for writing that places him in a select group of authors. That is why I decided to read this book, which contains four stories from the early stages of his career. When I compare the writing used in these stories with the one in the foreword, I cannot help feeling that the author has evolved considerably, but the stories still show early signs of a great writer.
The topics of these short works are highly unusual, which I believe makes them interesting overall, but at some points I found myself feeling that the author was trying to be unique to the extreme, and therefore, going overboard. The first story is the one that gives name to the collection, and the one I found to be the most touching. In this narration, the author presents the account of his relationship with a friend from college and the events that unfolded after this friend was diagnosed with AIDS. Martel shows a natural ability for reaching the heart of the reader with its vibrant descriptions of the emotions the characters experience when faced with such an enormous tragedy. Maybe the fact that the story is based on a real life event, that the author had to face, helped him with making it so vivid.
The other three stories use as topics a peculiar concert in Washington DC with references to how the Vietnam war affected the life of many, a collection of letters with different outcomes regarding the termination of a prisoner waiting for his death sentence, and a machine that makes mirrors by feeding on stories. As you can quickly realize, none of these have as a topic one that you are likely to find in works by other authors, and that makes them unique and valuable based on the author's imagination. The fact that the writing is not as polished as one would like is just evidence that the author was in the process of discovering himself and searching for the style that suited him best. It is extremely interesting to see how Martel wrote before becoming famous, and this is enough reason to make the book worth reading. - 3.5 stars.
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