there are writers who impress us with their immensely detailed universes in which science, philosophy, art, all collide, such that leaving the novel is like leaving an entire universe. then there are the parable tellers.
lots of people get really worked up when their favorite parable-teller is trashed here on GR. go see the entry on 'The Road,' where the blood is flowing between road haters and road lovers.
life of pi is a parable, deceptively simple, in which a philosophy is laid out. it sold millions upon millions of copies and was so good that it even made martel's second book, beatric and dante, a best-seller even though it was trash.
so, like most simple parables, it divides opinion a lot, and it doesn't have enough characters and scenes so that seven or eight fully-realized personalities can be explored, but as with most things human, greatest flaws are also the greatest strength.
if you buy the parable, this might be one of your top 10 books in life.
if you don't, you hate the book, that simple.
the island is being a ship's boy, and servicing hundreds of sailors