Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Book Review: Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials"

Before I write on this book, I need to explain a few things about myself.

#1, The fastest way to get me to do something is to tell me not to. I am contrary that way. Unless I can see how it will cause pain to me or anyone else, I am most likely not going to take your advice. So when I recieved an Email (at work, no less) telling me to help protect the children by NOT taking them to see "The Golden Compass," of course, I was intrigued. I had never heard of the books until that Email and am not even sure I had seen any movie trailers. Then I found the entire trilogy for a measly $12.97, well, really, what choice did I have but to buy it and read it?

#2, I am an avid reader. I do not go anywhere without a book in my hands. I have been that way as far back as I can remember. Sometimes I think that is a commentary on my inability to be alone with my thoughts, because I am never alone if I have another world to sink into, but that is an entirely different post. Having said that, please understand, that I LIKE pulp fiction. Mindless and entertaining is what I look for in most of the books I read no matter which genre they can be filed under. While I do read biographies, autobiographies, histories and true crime, I have to be in a certain mood to do so. I read to be entertained, not depressed, and I learned a long time ago to stay away from any book with a big O in the corner.

#3, I don't get the "underlying" meaning in most literature. I read the words and assume (a lot of times wrongly) that the author was trying to say exactly what he/she said. In a recent American Lit class, I spoke very little during class discussion. I sat quietly and listened to the thoughts and feelings of others and then decided if I agreed with them or not, and managed to get an A that way. But, while actually reading the short story or novella, all I got was the words/the story/ the overlaying meaning (if that makes sense at all). Maybe that makes me a moron, but that is the way I was built.

Having said all of that, let me first state that any child who reads "His Dark Materials" is a very impressive child indeed. This was not an easy read. I spent the entire first book "The Golden Compass" fairly lost and confused. It wasn't until the first couple of chapters of "The Subtle Knife" that it all came together for me. I experienced that lovely hook of a great and interesting book, that "Ah-ha!" and fell completely into the world inhabited by Will. Of course, Will's world was my world and not confusing at all and when he wandered into another world, well, that was interesting, powerful and wonderful.

According to Snopes, Philip Pullman is an atheist, but his official website does not say that. And I did not get any sense of atheism out of this trilogy. The entire set concerns the Authority (God, YahWah, a Higher Being, etc) and I don't know how a true atheist could have written this compelling story of what is going on in Heaven and on Earth. Or, at least, I don't know why an atheist would want to .

The books were wordy (is that a word?) and I don't know how to explain what I mean by that. It seems to me that a good editor would have cut the couple hundred pages of extraneous B.S. that bored me and did not seem to bring anything to the story. The stories themselves, however, were so full of love and compassion and hope that I do not even have the words to express how awesome that was. By the end I truly cared for each of the characters and hoped for the best out of life for them. And I don't want to give away any of the story to anyone reading it, but I do have to say that no one kills God. No one, no two, no group. If you haven't heard that, then I apologize for bringing it up, but DSD's X has told the little man that she will not take him to see the movie because God is killed in it. (This is the woman who takes him to see almost every movie available, including movies rated R, and has for years. He is only just 13 now!). I read the whole 3rd book waiting for this HUGE apocolyptic battle.. and it just didn't happen.

The books are very spiritual (did I say that already) and VERY anti-religion. Let me ensure you understand, NOT anti-God, but anti-religion. Against the Baptists, the Methodists, the Catholics, every other Protestant church and Judaism. That may offend some, but since I believe most religions are pure BS, it didn't bother me a bit.

To sum it up, I enjoyed the books and am glad I read them, although it wasn't the easiest trilogy I have ever read. I would certainly encourage any parent considering allowing their child to read them to read them first to ensure that they don't conflict with the way you are raising your child. I also request that those who HAVE NOT read the book, keep your damned mouth shut, you don't know what you are talking about. But that is wishful thinking I know.

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