* spoiler alert ** oh.
this book is absolutely fantastic.
Yann Martel's narrative about a boy stranded in the Pacific Ocean for almost a year with a Bengal Tiger is so profoundly moving. I reached the end of the book and I was shaking. Not even seeing the movie before reading the book ruined it at all.
Piscine Molitar Patel, Martel's young protagonist, cuts away most of the suspense from his introduction- we know, by the end of chapter 1, that this man has suffered much and survived. We know throughout the novel that Pi is going to live. Yet, the graphic, gory, vivid descriptions on the lifeboat make one wonder how he ever got to land, even causing doubt on that one fact.
Though his language seems simplistic at times, Martel paints with words rainbow colored zoos, tall mosques and worn down churches. He perfumed the pages with the pungent smell of blood and death and sea water. Pi's battles with Richard Parker roared in my ears as his orange whistle screeched.
The whole story is fantastical in the darkest way possible- the way that Pi adapts to his new conditions in the ocean is disturbing, gruesome, and pitiful all at once. The faiths that he embraced in Pondicherry seem to be the only things holding him together, but only barely.
Just. Wow. This does not do Martel's masterpiece any justice.
re: the final question- I agree, the story with the tiger is the better story. It doesn't really matter which one is true.