Dy's Take

September 7, 2008

The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman

Filed under: Alternate History,Book Club,YA — Dy @ 23:05

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His Dark Materials, Book 1

I get upset when people condemn a book without bothering to read. Someone in my book club, which is an offshoot of my local online mom’s group, posted the standard “Pullman is an atheist and this is gonna take our kids on a one way ride to Hell!” email that was circulating in the weeks before the film version of the Golden Compass came out.  I’m in a children’s writers group and the topic was pretty thoroughly dissected there, with links to in-depth articles on both the author and the series, so I felt pretty confident in saying the Internet-panic email was hogwash.

But, I wanted to make a point.  So, waaay back in January I chose this book for our online discussion bookm, so that people would be a little more openminded, I hope, before forwarding inflammatory comments that lead to book banning and burning.

Now that I’ve said all that, I made a horrible mistake with this book.  I *gasp* watched the movie first. My 7yo wanted to see it, and I’m one of ~those~ moms, which means I had to watch it first.  I didn’t find the material objectionable in a conceptual way, but the whole lower jaw of the ice bear flying at the screen (thank goodness it wasn’t 3D!) made me say NO to letting her watch it.

Unfortunately, watching the movie affected how I viewed the book.  The book was, as almost always, better, but having the movie in my head made it easier for me to get into the book and through parts that several friends mentioned were hard to get into.  I knew what was ahead, and pushed through.

Here’s where I make my big confession.  I ama  shallow reader. I may occasionally dig below the surface, but not too often.  I’m not interested in the Miltonian influence in this book, or the paradigm of church vs. science. I read a book with an eleven-year old girl as the heroine and enjoyed it as an adventure story.

My overall impression of this book was DARK.  There’s a reason it’s called “His Dark Materials.” There are no true, pure heroes in this story, with the possible exception of Iornek Bearnison — and he’s a drunk when we meet him.

The characters were pretty shallow, outside of Lyra.  Some of that read as a child’s perspective of people around her, and some as lazy characterization.

More later, probably, as I delve into the discussion questions with my group.


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