Posts Tagged 'Philip Pullman'

Book Review: The Golden Compass

So here’s my take on The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. It’s a little rambly. (If you want to read a great article about this book check out Christianity Today’s take on The Golden Compass.)

Honestly Guys, I really liked the book. It was tremendously well written. The characters were engaging and unique. The plot like was intriguing and packed with action. His use of simile and metaphor throughout the book is beautiful.

I probably think the book only had one problem with it: the slams on religion.

I‘m not just saying that because I’m a Christian. When I went to college I actually earned a BA in English and I’m speaking as a guy with a literary background.

Hear me out.

Essentially you have this excellent book, it’s multilayered in it’s meaning and subtle in it’s approach – at least throughout most of the book. I found this so refreshing for a fantasy novel. A lot of fantasy will straight up take a break from the story to go on and on about the history of the characters or to spell out very blatantly and in a boring manner the unique rules of that fantasy world. (*cough* Fellowship of the Rings *cough*) Pullman doesn’t bore you with this drivel. Instead he uses the characters and plot to reveal fantasy elements.

For example, he doesn’t take you on some ridiculous tangent to explain the fantasy rule: a Daemon must maintain a close physical proximity to their human. Rather he reveals this quite cleverly through the story. At one point Pan (Lyra’s Daemon) starts to “pull”(move outside of the normal physical closeness) and Lyra describes how retched she feels. It’s more engaging because you are told about an experience rather than a simple sharing of facts.

Enter the theology bashing. Honestly, a lot of it is clever and subtle like the rest of the book. For example, Pullman doesn’t come right out and say, “The Church is Bad,” at least not early in the book. Instead he does things like introducing a character who is a clergyman and that character has some really negative traits. It’s like an underhanded and slight way of bashing on the Church.

Then, in the closing chapters of the book, that all of a sudden changes and out of nowhere you get a face full of dissertation.

Lyra asks her father a few questions and he launches into a several page monologue on theology and original sin. It was completely out of place in this story. Most of the book is fast-paced, emotional and very real. This was the boring junk you expect out of fantasy. It’s not even that huge of a bash on the Church because he gets so specific about what original sin is and what it isn’t he’s really only bashing a subsection of the church who holds to that theology. (Keep in mind this is just a review of The Golden Compass. I haven’t read The Subtle Knife or the Amber Spyglass, which I heard are more deliberate in the selling of atheism.) I almost laughed out loud when in the monologue this character quotes the Bible and Pullman’s re-written it to include daemons. This was so dorky and cheesy. It didn’t fit with the rest of the book which is pretty hip for a fantasy novel.

The Golden Compass, from a literary point of view, would have simply been better with the final monologue omitted.

Unfortunately you couldn’t do that without sacrificing the entire story. Throughout the book Pullman is a genius about setting up very subtle foreshadowing that pays off big time later one. He does it over and over again very masterfully – except for the main point of the book!

It’s like he set up all the clues a hints and they’re all pointing at something and when it came time to write the final chapters he just ran out creativity and was like, “Oh well, I’ll just be lazy and have this one character tie up all my loose ends in one chapter through the use of a long boring monologue.”

I call this the Star Trek syndrome. Ya know – they’d invent some type of complicated situation and you never thought they’d get out of it and your totally intrigued with what’s going to happen. In the end all the problems get solved simply and easily because some science guy invents a weird device and launches in a monologue to explain some made-up science fiction reason why it works. It’s unimaginative at best.

So for all my ranting I really enjoyed the book.

Go check out the Christianity Today Golden Compass Article.

Leave a comment. I’ll talk more about this with you.

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I’m Reading The Golden Compass

Given the amount of discussion that was generated by my last Golden Compass post I decided to read Philip Pullman’s book. I picked it up from the library earlier this week and I’m about 75% of way through it.

My first impressions:

This is not even close to being a Children’s book.

  • At 350 pages of small print it’s way longer than any of the Chronicles of Narnia.
  • The main character in the book is 11, but I’d say the target audience is far closer to 13 -17.
  • In fact, the library sticker on the side says, “Young adult.”

I’ll write a full review when I’m done.

I doubt I’ll see the movie as everyone seems to agree how artistically terrible it is.


 

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