Author: Philip Pullman
Type: Fiction, novel
Collects books: His Dark Materials #1-3
I read it: December 2007
His Dark Materials is yet another fantasy epic that I would not hesitate to recommend. The subject matter is very (anti-)religion oriented, and Lyra Belacqua’s journey is filled with profound encounter after profound encounter. Actually, I am still confused as to how these are considered children’s books. What grade level would read them? Maybe as early as 6th, but I’d say 8th to begin to understand the scope of Pullman’s ambition.
However expansive, the HDM world is filled with wonderful characters including, of course, the young girl protagonist. After reading The Golden Compass, I thought she would be able to join the ranks of Harry, Frodo, and the Pevensie kids. During the second book, Lyra meets Will, who becomes an almost equally important child character. This installment also had some classic middle-chapter dual-storyline confusion (think The Two Towers syndrome). By the third book, the story explodes into such vast territory that Lyra seems to become just another character in the story engine.
The pushing of Lyra to the side is my primary contention with the story. (Yes, I know Tolkien could go hundreds of pages without mentioning Frodo, but some of that was due to the publishing decisions behind those books.) Pullman is a superb modern writer but gets a little carried away with all the intense divine activities as the trilogy progresses. By the end, I was so set on trying to figure out what the hell happened to heaven that Lyra seemed to be on the sideline just hanging out.
But, I’ll probably read it again someday anyway.
Movie corner: “The Golden Compass” movie looked promising but was less than stellar. It definitely had the let’s-go-for-Narnia look to it and didn’t deliver. The movie tried to fit in almost the whole book piece by piece, which was admirable, but also kind of boring. The only cool parts were Sam Elliott as Lee Scoresby (hell yeah) and of course the polar bear grudge match complete with jaw rip.