Luka and the Fire of Life

Luka and the Fire of Life

A Novel

Book - 2010
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Like all children about to set off on an adventure, Luka Khalifa is a special kid. For one thing, his father is the famed storyteller Rashid Khalifa, "the Shah of Blah," "the Ocean of Notions." For another, Luka''s older brother, Haroun, had already had an adventure of his own, travelling to a previously unknown moon and overthrowing a terrible enemy who threatened the Sea of Stories. Finally, and most importantly, Luka''s mother announced on the day of his birth that her newborn son had the power to turn back time; after all, he had been born well after his parents'' youth. Plus, he was left-handed. So it is only a matter of time before Luka finds himself in the midst of a great adventure.
It begins, however, with something Luka gives very little thought to. When the Great Rings of Fire circus comes to the city of Kahani, Luka stops to watch the animals and performers troop through the streets. When he sees that the gentle beasts are treated cruelly by the brutish leader of the circus, the hard-hearted Captain Aag, he does what any other kid would do: he curses the circus master.
The difference between Luka and other kids, however, is that Luka''s curse comes to pass. An evil fate befalls the circus, and the next morning, outside Luka''s door are waiting a circus bear named Dog and a circus dog named Bear. They have come to be Luka''s companions.
But curses are not things to be thrown about lightly, and Luka''s first experiments with magic soon come back to haunt him, as a mysterious illness takes hold of his beloved father. Just when it seems that Rashid Khalifa will fade away altogether, Luka is visited by a flock of hideous vultures bearing a message from Captain Aag, threatening vengeance for the boy''s curse.
The next morning, he looks out into the street and sees an apparition that looks exactly like his father. As he dashes out into the street to try to make sense of this double, he stumbles, and when he regains his balance he realizes he has somehow stepped into the World of Magic.
And so begins his adventure.
In the company of Bear, the dog, and Dog, the bear, and led by this troubling version of his father, whom he calls Nobodaddy, Luka must do what his mother said he was born to. To save his father, he must work his way upstream, against the current of the River of Time, and do what has never been done: he must steal the Fire of Life.
The episodes of his quest are hair-raising and often hilarious. Luka and his companions must make their way past the many dangers of the River of Time as they head upstream. Some, like the Old Man of the River, are there to guard against intruders. Others, like the rats of the Respectorate of I, are merely ill-tempered. And the most perilous dangers aren''t enemies at all, but the simple fact that it''s difficult to go upstream, and if you do you''ll have to pass the Swamp of the Mists of Time and the Whirlpool of El Tiempo, to say nothing of the Rings of Fire.
But the World of Magic is not all hostile, and as he works his way towards his goal, Luka makes many friends, receives help from strangers and even falls in love. By the end of his adventure, the whole World of Magic has been stirred up like a hornets'' nest by the young intruder.
Still, the best adventures aren''t about swashbuckling or narrow escapes; they''re about learning something about the world and about yourself. As Luka is drawn deeper and deeper into this strange world populated by nearly forgotten gods and figures from exotic myth, it is not the World of Magic that comes into focus for him, but his relationship with his beloved father back home in bed, the storyteller who conjured this whole world out of nothing by the sheer force of his imagination.
In the end, Luka''s adventure is quite literally a race against time. But to succeed, the young boy must not only make his way to the Fire of Life - to return, he must convince the angry gods of the truths he has learned on his quest. Only when he has changed the World of Magic can he return to his own world and his father''s bedside.
Weaving together bits of mythology, fairy tales, children''s puns, metaphysics and echoes from well-known tales as different as The Matrix and The Wizard of Oz , Luka and the Fire of Life becomes a story about things as intimate as a boy''s love for his family, and as sprawling as the meaning of life itself.

Publisher: Toronto : Alfred A. Knopf, 2010.
ISBN: 9780676977561
Characteristics: 218 p. ;,25 cm.


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Oct 13, 2019

I had hoped for much more of a human interest story when I took this book off the shelf after the reading glowing reviews, but was disappointed. I could relate only to the beginning and the very end chapters. The outlandishly fanciful middle bulk of the book was overly tedious and ultimately just not for me. No question, though, that Rushdie is a creative genius.

Apr 02, 2013

Take your grandmother's Oster blender out of the attic. Mix in:
a dash of Shel Silverstein's imagination + a pinch of Vyasa's circumspection + a tablespoon of Roald Dahl originality + a dollop of Joseph Campbell's mythological mastery +
a sliver of the Dalai Lama's life wisdom...stir it gently in a rue of John Steinbeck's fantasmagorically-simple storytelling prowess...bake it onto a paper plate...and you get Salman Rushdie! HOLY TOLEDO what a brilliant mind.

I hardly know anything about this man. I heard tell on the wind that there is a price on his head, a contract out on him, paid assassins on his heels for one of his books...a big political/religious brouhaha. So was unsure what I was getting into when I picked up this book. Not knowing the bigger why of that issue, I set all that aside and dove in to Luka's world. WOW. I LOVED IT. It was old yet new. Unexpectedly fresh, clever, fun, but surprisingly woven with depth that beg contemplation on human relationships, including the one we have with ourselves.

This is an adventure of a young boy, painted with the flavor of an Ancient East Indian fairy tale, but referenced to our modern world. Luka enters his rite of passage into manhood by seeking the Fire of Life, in order to prevent his dear father (and best friend) from dying. Along the way he stumbles 'left' into the world of magic, with his dog named Bear and his bear named Dog...tried and true sideby's who dance and sing and have his back. It is a story of friendship and hardship. Intuition. Fear. Awe. Curiosity. Resolve. A story of a journey to the core... kind of OZ style. The landscapes are unorthodox and enchanting. Very witty. Sometimes daunting. Always interesting. Luka meets nonconformists, eccentrics, mavericks, has-beens and lost-souls...some who seek to help him and other who wish to hinder. He loses his life several dozen times, faces into the nightmarish angst that tears apart his belly yet keeps getting back on the magic carpet and flies. Add in herds of abandoned gods from Babylon, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Sumeria and the like, an 8 legged horse, bottomless pits, fanatical rats, the lake of wisdom, elephantine memory birds, paper airplanes and Angelina Jolie. HA! RIOTOUS!! Repeatedly, I could not stop laughing out loud every time the great god RA yelled at Luka in hieroglyphs. OMG so funny...we never do find out what the heck he says but my-oh-my my does he carry on vexed hexed and cross.

This is a hard book to review because it is so fertile, so juicy with so many toothsome threads, I cannot do it justice, other than to say...JUST READ IT. Not one to be missed. He gave me glee and grace and morsels of wisdom sewn inside folly. Genius mind. Thanks Sal for the monsters, the mayhem and the magic.

Nov 06, 2012

Salman Rushdie is a very imaginative and good author, but his character naming skills weaken by the minute.

May 24, 2011

At first, this book was a little hard for me to get into because it's about a magical adventure and I don't read too much fantasy. I'm glad I stuck with it though because I loved this book. It's a very cute story about a boy who has to go to the world of magic to steal the fire of life in order to save his father's life. He meets many interesting characters along the way, who help him and join him on his adventure. There are some good lessons, which makes this book also good for kids.

This is a fun, fast read that I can definitely imagine reading out loud to children age seven and up. Lots of creative wordplay and use of current cultural phenomenon to make the story relevant.

Mar 03, 2011


Feb 16, 2011

Could not get into this book

Feb 01, 2011

I didn't like this book as much as I enjoyed Haroun and the Sea of Stories. It seemed a bit too contrived, and the quest seemed less important and the magical world less cohesive. I found myself wishing that Haroun and Rashid played a bigger role in this book.

debwalker Nov 04, 2010

Chosen by Maria Tatar as her Book of the Year: "My book of the year is Luka and the Fire of Life, by Salman Rushdie. Rushdie is a master not just of magic realism but also of the counterfactual, creating breathtaking worlds in response to the burning childhood anxieties captured in the question “What if?” In Haroun and the Sea of Stories, dedicated to his son Zafar, storytelling is imperilled, and it is up to a boy to preserve the Ocean of the Streams of Stories and keep it flowing. In Luka, dedicated to Rushdie’s younger son Milan, the stakes are even higher, for the hero must navigate his way to the Heart of Magic and steal fire from the gods to revive his dying father, Rashid Khalifa, also known as the Shah of Blah.

"Rushdie’s cauldron of story is always boiling, and this time it contains a heady mix of mythical ingredients, along with an incandescent speech given by Luka to the gods and heroes of ancient times, reminding them that their only shot at immortality is through the storytelling practices of Rashid and others. Like Philip Pullman before him, Rushdie has created a book for children because his themes and subjects are too large for adult fiction. Inspired by Lewis Carroll (both writers attended Rugby School), he gives us a volume with cross-generational appeal, creating poetry out of nonsense and revealing that the consolations of imagination are not imaginary consolations."



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debwalker Nov 04, 2010

Magic is fading from the universe. We aren't needed anymore, or that's what you all think, with your High Definitions, and low expectations.

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