12 January 2011

Book Review 1: Maya by Jostein Gaarder

"It takes  billions of  years to create a human being .
And only a few second to die." - Maya, Jostein Gaarder

DSC_1184I came to know Gaarder when my friend in high school let me borrow his Sophie's world. Sophie's World is an introduction to western philosophy cleverly concealed in a mystery novel. Because I like Sophie's World and The Solitaire Mystery so much, I bought a third Gaarder novel, Maya. I got my copy from Powerbooks for 429.00 Pesos.

The novel presents itself as a series of letters written by a Frank to his estranged wife, Vera. Frank, lonely as he is, goes to the virginal island of Taveuni. In the island, he meets the couples Jose and Ana, Laura, and a talking philosophical gecko named Gordon. It is not until the final chapters that the narrator (John Spooks) will reveal himself.

As the story unfolds, it will ask you to ponder on some of very classic philosophical questions: Why are we here? Are we alone? Where did it all begin? What happens when we die? Does the Earth have a soul? But if you expect that the book will answer all these questions for you, you're up for a disappointment.

In the chapter on Postscript, it seemed to me as if it was an apology of the narrator. It seemed as if it was  a last minute attempt to save the whole story. It summarizes and "gives away" the unresolved aspects of the story. Not to mention, the narration sounded preachy.

It is unfortunate that while I really enjoyed Gaarder's Sophie's World and The Solitaire Mystery, I didn't get the same satisfaction in reading Maya. The main character was not well developed.  There was no real climax to speak of  and the back stories aren't interesting. The story does not build up, too. The genre is also confusing. It is hardly a love story. It does not qualify as Magic Realism either, it's not a mystery novel either, a textbook on philosophy perhaps? (like Sophie's World) I doubt it.

Nevertheless, I kept on turning the pages hoping that the philosophical questions he poses (evolution, concept of time and space, physics, etc. ) will be solved in one way or another - which unfortunately, didn't happen. Instead, the last chapter "Manifesto" is a collection of quotable quotes of the whole book. Some concepts, as pointed out, are either  very broad or very debatable, specially for the students of philosophy.


So, should you read the book?

Short answer - No.

You're a fan of the author after reading Sophie's World and The Solitaire Mystery, and you still have a lot of time to in your hands.

Favorite quote:
"If there is a god, he is not only a wizard at leaving clues behind. More than anything, he's a master of concealment. And the world is not something that gives itself away. The heavens still keep their secrets. There is  little gossip amongst the stars. But no one has forgotten the Big Bang yet. Since then, silence has reigned supreme, and every thing there is moving away. One can still come across a moon. Or a comet. Just don't expect friendly greetings. No visiting cards are printed in space."


Will said...

Aw. So Gaardner fans will be very disappointed with this one? Nice review you got here.

Rah said...

@will, unfortunately, yes. It seems Gaarder fans will not appreciate this book as much as they liked Sophie's World.

pusang kalye said...

awww-ayaw ko ng preachy narration. I like stuffs like that of paolo Coelho, medyo me religious aspect pero di pushy ang ideas, it's still up to you. still, a very good book review. nagustuhan ko. you write well.

cseamus said...

hmm...ang cool siguro nung "high school friend" mo who introduced you to Sophie's World ♫ ♪ waaay back in 2000!

Rah said...

@cseamus, cool talaga yon :) hayaan mo, papakilala kita don, kapit bahay ko lang yon eh :) hehehe

Tagal na pala non, noh. 2000 pa. May millennium bug scare pa non.

Rah said...

@pusang kalye, nagbabasa din ako ng paolo coelho, gusto ko yung style niya, melo dramatic. :)

gillboard said...

people have been urging me to read sophie's choice but i have yet to find the time and copy of the book. maybe this year.

good review of maya though. will avoid it. :)

Sendo said...

un gusto ko lang subukan na libro about new age eh ung ke paolo coelho hehe...kaya if mabibighani ako sa maya pag napadaan ako sa bookstore..di ko na bibilhin dahil sa review mo kaya salamat...at di masasayang ang 429 ko hehe....magbasa ka rin kaya ng purpose of driven life hehe..masasagot lahat ng tanong sa libro ni maya sa libro ni rick warren...bili ka rin ng it's not about me by max lucado hehe

krn said...

I rather go for sydney sheldon's than this one pala. nice review.

Tsina said...

Oooh. Wala pa ako nabasa na works niya. But sana ma-try ko yung Sophie's World. =)