The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman (8 November — 14 November)

I have really got to stop watching movies based on books before I read the books themselves. Because really, the books are usually way better, and even so I still spend too much time comparing the book to what I remember of the movie.

Such is the case with The Golden Compass, the movie version of which I really don’t remember much from. But many times in the book I felt like something was “wrong” compared to the movie, and then I had to be all, “Self. Shut up and read.” So it took a while to get through.

But it was pretty good. The story is of Lyra Belacqua, an orphan in the care of Jordan College in Oxford. Of course, her Oxford is much different than ours, seeing as it’s in a whole other universe altogether, where people have daemons in animal form that follow them around and act as sorts of guardians of their humans. Lyra is getting along well at Jordan College until one day her uncle shows up and peeves off a bunch of Scholars, and then next thing Lyra knows she’s off to be personal assistant to someone who is kidnapping children. Fun? Lyra, of course, escapes, and then she finds out lots of truths (some from people, some from her “golden compass” that tells you the answer to anything you want to know) that she doesn’t really like, and then ADVENTURES happen. There are bears, and hot-air balloons, and witches, and oh my, it’s pretty darn exciting.

This is a banned book, because it paints the Church out to be pretty awful (which, in this other world, at least, it kinda is), but from all of the talk I thought it would be more anti-Church than it is… maybe it gets worse in the rest of the trilogy?

Nonetheless, I liked the world that Pullman put together (though I am so over prophecies these days, which is not his fault), and I thought that Lyra was true to a 12-year-old, which doesn’t happen often in books like these. She was kind of stupid sometimes, and kind of genius sometimes, and was generally willing to believe anything she heard (which is a little of both). I liked her. 🙂 But the story itself… eh. It was exciting and adventurous, as I’ve said, but I’m not itching to go out and find the next book. We’ll see, I guess.

Rating: 7/10
(My Year of Reading Dangerously Challenge)

See also:
Just One More Page…
books i done read
Blogging for a Good Book
Back to Books

Pass me yours, if you’ve got ’em.

3 thoughts on “The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman (8 November — 14 November)

  1. Mary says:

    Two things:

    1) At least the movie had Daniel Craig in it.

    2) Your description of the church stuff here made me think of how I never picked up on the Christian symbolism in the Narnia books all 4 or 5 times I made my way through books as a kid… and then saw the movie and suddenly Aslan's just a big Jesus lion…

  2. Alison says:

    Um. I just posted this like ten seconds ago! Criminy, you're fast. 🙂

    Also, yes, Daniel Craig. Mmm.

    Also also, I read maybe the first… two? three? …something novels in the Narnia series, and only once, so I definitely didn't pick it up. But in this book (and, I'm assuming, the other two) the author specifically mentions the Church and how the Papacy is spreading and taking over and how it's promoting organizations that aren't exactly awesome just in case it can take credit for something awesome in the future. Which is bad for the Church in this world, certainly, if taken all together, but Pullman makes these specific points very briefly and the focus is really on what's happening in the world, Church-caused or not.

  3. H. Justice says:

    Spoiler alert: yes, the books become much more sacriligous (and in my opinion fantastic in their allegations). This is what makes Pullman interesting. The books are a must-read in trilogy form. They are dangerous, thought provoking, and full of symbolism I fear is drastically overlooked by the masses.

    The Narnia books I've read at least five times, and all of them are pretty consistent (the questioning of faith and provoking an alternate reality in trouble war times for a sense of greater hope).

    Pullman takes on no such charge. Interestling, look at the images. What you have is a lead character–a female at that. Undoing the “Adam”-like lead of the Narnia books, if a comparison is really necessary here. Lyra is not an innocent girl; rather she is potrayed as the relatable 12 year old we adore in the novel–one who breaks her Uncle's rules, eavesdrops, cusses occassionally, and in some cases later–assists in murder. It is a parallel to human nature, and undoes the concept that we are born into innocence–one that Romantics have maintained for a hundred years–that carries over into our current society. This modern criticism brings to light several issues: the concept of “Eve” bearing “original sin” is a farce according to Pullman's depiction and character development. Magic is injected in massive doses to battle this Christian notion and act as a balance. “Lyra” itself as a name suggests the telling of a story in the epic form–the novel replacing this, though it is an entirely different arguemnt. In an older story-telling tradition, this name is magical as well–as a bard would be said to contain the power to captivate and capture the audience with a message. Finally, though there is much more to say about this trilogy, is these “daemons” are an outward projection of the human spirit, what is impalpable and perceived now in magical, physical form. Angels? Bah. “Daemons” as gaurdians of what, per say, I dare you to ask. These “daemons” are repeatedly implied to understand the very emotion and thoughts of humans, because inexplicably they are part of a humans existence, and the two cannot be seperated. Hence the human spirit, and one could venture to say the human spirit in a more bereft form–not in the harsh, critical, damning light of Christianity.

    I challange you to take a more dangerous look. These books are fantastic, thought provoking, and full of suggestions and imagery that will continuously shock you. If you think Pullman has no intentions of offending the Church, the third book where God is depicted as a crippled, dying old man who has no power over his renegade angels will make your jaw drop. Pullman doesn't make these so-called “Narnian” assummptions; Pullman says flat out: God is not dead, he exists, and has other concerns. In fact, God's own convictions and “mistakes” (humans and angels) could be assumed to be the illness that is crippling him. Pullman doesn't trip us up with hope. No, no. He says God is there, and we are at war with him for our very survival.

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