Sunday, May 4, 2008

Book Review - The Golden Compass

I just finished reading The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman. I started it for two reasons - one, I have been teaching Science Fiction/Fantasy writing in my creative writing class, and figured if I was really going to teach the genre well, I needed to be better read. Second, I got absolutely bombarded with emails being forwarded, etc. from various people and groups about the fact that this series of books was going to corrupt our youth, turn them away from Christianity, and made a very persuasive argument for Atheism.* Here are my thoughts.

First - very interesting and well written story. I loved the way the author depicted different events from different characters, but without having to retell a whole chapter to show it from the different point of view.

Second - I loved that all the new things that were created were just put in the story as though they were normal and standard to everyday life, rather than feeling the necessity to explain the functionality of each. At this point in my life I definitely want a daemon.

Third - I just finished a 300+ paged book and I still don't know who is truly good or bad, either in character or intention, except that the main love relationship is heart wrenching and Lyra has an amazing amount of courage for a young girl.

Fourth - I think the whole thing with the Church sounds more like the Catholic church in general than Christianity or pretty much any other faith. All the references to power and control made me think of Catholicism with a side thought that it could, I guess, be Christianity.

I guess the whole review can be summed up in the following - I still believe in Christ, don't really have plans to leave the church anytime soon because of a fantasy novel, think this book shouldn't be read by anyone younger than 13 minimum because there is some decent violence (polar bears fight without weapons - use your imagination or read the book) and if those scenes are depicted that clearly in the book, I can only imagine that the PG-13 rating of the film wasn't just for intensity. If I get around to watching it, I'm expecting to see some violence and traumatizing scenes. Finally, I've ordered the next two books in the series and plan on having a fun time reading them over the summer. So I guess that equals a review of approval and recommendation for teens and up.

*By the way, and just as a side note - I found it interesting that all the emails were talking about how this movie was going to corrupt our youth, but the movie is rated PG-13 - so if all the fundamental Christians are taking their children younger than 13 to a movie, don't we have to question the logic if they are overriding a rating by someone who is less conservative than they are, and further, if a child 13+ is going to have the plot of a movie stray them from their fundamental beliefs, wouldn't you wonder about the conversations that have taken place to teach them the chosen beliefs in the first place?


Harmony said...

I read this book too, and didn't find anything seriously offensive about it. It actually bothered me a little not to know who was truly good or bad, but that's just me--I prefer to have things cut and dried. I can't say I enjoyed it enough to want to read the rest of the series immediately, but I guess I should give them a shot sometime.

Daniel B. said...

i read it, too. While I liked the first, i felt like he lost his flow the further he got from the start. The plot got thicker, but the story became more and more driven by agenda than entertainment or cogence, especially as we approached the end.

Also, I think he is a little presumptuous to self-describe as on par with Lewis and others.

As sci-fi, i thought it was average. For good sci-fi, i recommend Heinlien, Asimov, or SM Stirling. All are very plot driven, but also far more scientifically imaginitive and creative. Pullman writes in a way that feels more fantasy than science.

Daniel B. said...
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