Tuesday, December 2, 2008

His Dark Materials: A Recommendation Rather Than a Review

Over at the The Fabulous Life of Lopez, I noticed Jaimie's been reviewing the books she reads. I loved the idea because I always like hearing about the books other people read. (Even if it's the kind of thing I'd never read myself, you know know like nearly everything John reads)

So I decided I would review the latest book I've read. Although really I listened to it rather than technically reading it,and really it's a trilogy rather than a single book, and really I'm not going to review a whole heck of a lot because three books is a lot to talk about and the best part of the series is the surprises.

I decided to read His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman after John and I saw the movie based on the first book, The Golden Compass. Initially, we only saw the movie because of all the hype about Pullman being an atheist. We thought it was worth seeing just because so many people didn't want us to see it. If all you see is the movie, even if all you read is book one, the hype won't make sense. The movie itself doesn't have any anti-Christian themes. The book doesn't either, unless maybe you are a super hard-core Jesus freak and then you're used to being offended, right?

Book two has a fair amount of blasphemy. There are several passages that will make you realize why groups were protesting the film's debut. By book three we are in a full-blown interdimensional war on god. If you aren't easily offended by this sort of thing, Pullman's ballsy jab at Christian theology is really pretty amusing (in a oh-no-he-didn't kind of way).

The books are part fantasy, part science fiction. We follow Lyra and her demon (an animal manifestation of a person's soul) Pan on their quest to uncover the mystery of Dust. By way of big surprise number one, we learn that Lyra's world is not the only world. There are 1,000s of worlds and a handful of explorers have discovered various ways to travel between them.

Honestly, I can't remember what happened in which book. By the end they all blend together. The overarching story is so predominant that you'll want to the read the whole thing. The best thing about the series is there are three of them, so you can drag it out for a bit. It's definitely one of those books you are sad to see end.

I'm purposely dancing around the story line. I really think that the slow plot reveal makes the series. The universe Pullman creates is entertaining enough to keep you happy until you figure it all out. There are scholars and pirates, talking bear warriors and witches, ghosts and angels. By the end you think nothing else will surprise you but it does. Each book has some pretty big shockers (the movie was a big departure after about 2/3, so the ending hasn't been given away).

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