I had high hopes with this one. After all, Gaarder was the man who penned one of the modern classics that is Sophie’s World.
And he didn’t disappoint me. Maya is definitely a worthy successor to the likes of Sophie’s World and Vita Brevis. Staying true to his calling, he takes us in a tour-de-force of hard philosophical questions that were difficult to imagine, – let alone deliberate, by anyone alone. This, – I think, is where his greatest influence is supposed to be : in his provocations where one is forced to take a long, hard look at oneself and ponder why is he living at all. Such incitements are necessary because by default, man always strive to fulfil, but not question, his needs.
Focusing more to the question of evolution and biology, Maya nevertheless feel a little bit constrained by the love-story plot. This did not become obvious, however, until the last 40 pages or so. A savoring reader thus will not have any problems in immersing into Gaarder’s typical mental discourses happening all over this book.
What more interesting is his try to take on mystery / thriller genre, – however slight. Granted, in the end the mystery was only used as a device to build the momentum towards climax; but it’s still intriguing for me that he adopt such an adventurous plan. Not that it didn’t work. On the contrary, the execution was of such excellence that I was fooled into thinking that this is truly an enigmatic book in the same league as Eco. Now that I had time to think about the issue, maybe it shouldn’t be surprising at all. I mean, a man who can construct a very exciting verbal scene full of anguish between his human character and a gecko; will surely be able to keep us in his grip in one or two alternate methods.
The epilogue, then, explains all. Only then it became apparent that this is a first and foremost, a love story. A very beautiful and profound love story, for that matter. Yet, I can not help but think that this is also this book’s weak point. Had Gaarder been more flexible; maybe letting go to the momentum and taking on the metaphysical thriller theme to the end will pay more. It almost feels like a hangover for me : riding so high in the buildup, but then take a sharp ( although admittedly sweet ) drop in the end. It then dictates a necessary evaluation of the question : Should a literary work’s end justify the means ?
Finally, this book again exhibits Gaarder’s ability as a storyteller. Bearing that small complaint in mind, I’d still gladly recommend this one. If you don’t read this book with a critic’s spectacle, then it’s truly enjoyable to let yourself go, even swept by some of the finest dialogues I’ve ever read in modern fiction..!!