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a pleasure to read
Luka and the Fire of Life is the 11th novel by Salman Rushdie, his second children’s novel and the sequel to Haroun and the Sea of Stories. He dedicated this book to his second son, Milan, born 18 years after Zafar, to whom the first was dedicated. The story centres around left-handed Luka, second son of storyteller, Rashid Khalifa, and younger brother (by 18 years) of Haroun. Now that he is 12, Luka longs for an adventure like his big brother had 18 years ago, and, through casually cursing a cruel circus owner, he suddenly finds himself in the World of Magic, on a quest for the Fire of Life, needed to save Rashid, comatose and close to death. Soon enough, he realises that he is in the middle of a life-sized video game, amassing lives, losing them, reaching higher levels and saving his progress. Throughout his quest, he is accompanied by Bear, his dog, and Dog, his bear, as well as Nobodaddy, a being resembling Rashid, which is waiting to take Rashid’s life force and implode. Luka travels along the River of Time, towards the Lake of Wisdom and the Mountain of Knowledge, surmounts terrifying obstacles and meets a myriad of magical beings including Elephant Ducks, the Insultana of Ott, Prometheus, the Old Man of the River, Respecto-Rats and the ancient ex-gods of a great many civilisations. Rushdie is a master of clever word play, riddles and delightful puns; he makes thinly-veiled references to many well-known time travelling icons of film and TV like Dr Who, Time Bandits and Back to the Future. He has Luka watching a Beauty Contest of a very different kind, berating former deities, riding a magic carpet and battling the Lords of Time. We learn how Karaoke began and how Slackweed overran the Waste of Time. Ultimately a story about the love between a father and his son, the book is aimed at adolescents, but any adult who enjoys fantasy will find it a pleasure to read.