The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, Bk 1)
The Golden Compass - His Dark Materials, Bk 1 Author:Philip Pullman Lyra Belaqua is content to run wild among the scholars of Jordan College, with her daemon familiar Pantalaimon always by her side. But the arrival of her fearsome uncle, Lord Asriel, draws her to the heart of a terrible struggle—a struggle born of Gobblers and stolen children, witch clans and armored bears. And as she hurtles toward danger... more » in the cold, far North, young Lyra never suspects the shocking truth: She alone is destined to win, or to lose, this more-than-mortal battle.
Some books improve with age--the age of the reader, that is. Such is certainly the case with Philip Pullman's heroic, at times heart-wrenching novel, The Golden Compass, a story ostensibly for children but one perhaps even better appreciated by adults. The protagonist of this complex fantasy is young Lyra Belacqua, a precocious orphan growing up within the precincts of Oxford University. But it quickly becomes clear that Lyra's Oxford is not precisely like our own--nor is her world. For one thing, people there each have a personal daemon, the manifestation of their souls in animal form. For another, hers is a universe in which science, theology, and magic are closely allied: As for what experimental theology was, Lyra had no more idea than the urchins. She had formed the notion that it was concerned with magic, with the movements of the stars and planets, with tiny particles of matter, but that was guesswork, really. Probably the stars had daemons just as humans did, and experimental theology involved talking to them. Not that Lyra spends much time worrying about it; what she likes best is "clambering over the College roofs with Roger the kitchen boy who was her particular friend, to spit plum stones on the heads of passing Scholars or to hoot like owls outside a window where a tutorial was going on, or racing through the narrow streets, or stealing apples from the market, or waging war." But Lyra's carefree existence changes forever when she and her daemon, Pantalaimon, first prevent an assassination attempt against her uncle, the powerful Lord Asriel, and then overhear a secret discussion about a mysterious entity known as Dust. Soon she and Pan are swept up in a dangerous game involving disappearing children, a beautiful woman with a golden monkey daemon, a trip to the far north, and a set of allies ranging from "gyptians" to witches to an armor-clad polar bear.
In The Golden Compass, Philip Pullman has written a masterpiece that transcends genre. It is a children's book that will appeal to adults, a fantasy novel that will charm even the most hardened realist. Best of all, the author doesn't speak down to his audience, nor does he pull his punches; there is genuine terror in this book, and heartbreak, betrayal, and loss. There is also love, loyalty, and an abiding morality that infuses the story but never overwhelms it. This is one of those rare novels that one wishes would never end.« less
I have learned long ago that I enjoy books for the quality of the material and that I shouldn't discriminate based on the intended audience of the book. His Dark Materials
Book One-The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman is an excellent example of a fantasy novel created for young adults that transcends that category. In my opinion this Young Adult category, in its best sense, means that foul language and sexual content have been eliminated from the story. Although I enjoy a little foul language every once in a while I notice no lack in a novel when it is absent.
This novel follows a young scamp of a girl through a world that is very similar to our nineteenth century world. Lyra resides, as an orphan, at Oxford and is thrust, through her own intense curiosity, into a religious and metaphysical maze of treachery. Gradually she is able to piece together answers to a number of strange occurrences that include disappearing children and a beautiful woman with a golden monkey. You see, there is at least one big difference in this world. People have physical representations of their souls, called deamons. While children have deamons that are able to change form at their whim, adults have deamons in a fixed form. This is at the heart the novel and allows Lyra to finally begin to uncover what a mysterious substance, called Dust, really is.
Philip Pullman pulls the reader into this piece through a fantastic portrayal and adventure of a young girl that one can easily relate to amidst the strange world that she lives. I was enthralled throughout the whole book as I could never begin to guess what would happen next. The flaws in each character give this story something to sink your teeth into and allow you to truly engross yourself in this tantalizing world. One thing that intrigued me was the idea of a physical soul. Each character seems to have a deep and affectionate bond with their deamons, but I can't help but wonder what would happen to a person filled with self-loathing.
I purchased this book prior to all the controversy about it in the media. My husband read it and enjoyed it, and I was planning to read it as well. I debated about reading it when I heard about the author. After much debate, I decided to go ahead and read it. I read this book partly as a teacher and partly as a parent. Knowing I would have students who would read or wish to read the book, I wanted to be able to give them an honest perspective. Many of my students' parents have neither the time nor the inclination to preview a book before allowing their child to read it. That being said, this is not a children's book. It lists the reading level as 5.6 (grade level), but I would not give it to someone younger than 15 or 16. It deals with some very adult themes, including the killing of children. I did not sense huge atheistic undertones in this book, but my husband says they are much stronger in the 2nd and 3rd books. I did enjoy the story and am curious as to how it continues. I will most likely eventually finish the trilogy. If you are confidant about what you believe in and decide to read this book just for the sake of entertainment, then you will probably not have a problem with it, but it is much too mature for children.
Probably one of the best young adult series novels I have ever read, this is much better writing than that of Frank (Wizard of Oz) Baum or JK (Harry Potter) Rowling. Get it now and read it before the film comes out. Like LOTR, I fear this may be a scenario where the book series outshines any film presentation. This is great reading for adults --- our teenagers today are much too busy at the mall, but if ever we could pull them into this series, our poor shopkeeps may be sitting idle for quite a while. The concept of having a live animal that talks as your 'conscience' is fascinating --- what would your "daemon" be?
Kerry reviewed The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, Bk 1) on
Helpful Score: 5
This is an interesting story. The movie, "The Golden Compass," came out in December 2007 and is much less nuanced. After reading the story, the movie feels rushed, it does recreate Pullman's world to good effect. After reading the entire trilogy, I feel this first book is the most enjoyable because it's tightly written and well paced.
Pullman creates a first-class alternate fantasy universe that both older children and adults should enjoy exploring. This first book is not a total cliffhanger but it does leave much for the next two books to explain. Items of religious controversy mostly come out in the third and concluding book.
This is a wonderful book for children and adults alike. Small children aren't going to understand the so-called Atheist viewpoints-the will just enjoy the story. And older children will enjoy the story as well. However, I'm not sure any child will be sitting there trying to nitpick every "non-Christian" sentence and storyline in the series. We'll leave that one to the ignorant parents. ;)
All sarcasm aside, this is a wonderful series and I encourage everyone to read it for themselves and decide whether or not they enjoy it... rather than let someone else's review scare them off.