The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

12 Aug

Title: The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials #1)

Author: Philip Pullman

Publisher: Alfred Knopf 1995

Genre: YA Fantasy

Pages: 399

Rating:   5 / 5 stars

Reading Challenges: YA; My Years — 1995; Mount TBR; Book2Movie

How I Got It: I own it!

In The Golden Compass, readers meet 11-year-old Lyra Belacqua, a precocious orphan growing up within the precincts of Jordan College in Oxford, England. It quickly becomes clear that Lyra’s Oxford is not precisely like our own—nor is her world. In Lyra’s world, everyone has a personal dæmon, a lifelong animal familiar. This is a world in which science, theology and magic are closely intertwined.

This book is so much more than I thought it would be.  I went into the book thinking it was a YA Fantasy novel (more or less).  But this story has so many layers.  Pullman throws in theology and philosophy and ethics and history and sociology and psychology.  This is a story of who we are and where we came from.  As Lyra learns of the world around her and makes mistakes, we journey with her.  We encounter the same puzzling questions and dilemmas.  We sometimes make mistakes and sometimes make the right choices.  We learn of parallel universes and the possibilities they hold.  We learn of deceit and betrayal, but also of loyalty.  We learn what it means to be human and bear and witch and daemon and everything else.  I loved the characters and the settings and the adventure.  But I really loved the revelations and conversations.  The plot helps us to journey along the path to a higher realization of the universe.  I can’t wait to jump into the second book, The Subtle Knife.  I’m told we travel even further down the rabbit hole.

Movie Version:

I saw this movie before reading the book and even then I thought it was bad.  Now I know how truly bad it is.  They took a wonderfully complicated novel and turned it into a silly family adventure movie.  All the complexities are gone.  Although somehow they are hinted at, leaving the audience in complete confusion.  They cut out huge swaths of the plot line.  Characters disappeared everywhere (especially my favorite, the witches).  I think part of the problem is summed up by this bit of trivia courtesy of

Director Chris Weitz has himself adapted Philip Pullman‘s work, citing the film and its sequels to be influenced by Barry Lyndon and Star Wars. He also mentioned that the film would make no direct mention of religion or God, two of the key themes of the books – a decision attacked by fans of the trilogy. According to Weitz, New Line Cinema feared that “perceived anti-religiosity” would make the film financially unviable in the USA. However, Weitz reassured fans by saying that religion would appear in euphemistic terms.

His Dark Materials:

  1. The Golden Compass
  2. The Subtle Knife
  3. The Amber Spyglass


Posted by on August 12, 2012 in Book Reviews, Movies


Tags: , ,

3 responses to “The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

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