Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Golden Compass

Book: The Golden Compass
Author: Phillip Pullman
Read: December 2007
399 pages
Rated: 4
out of 5

This is book one of three. The trilogy is call His Dark Materials. Pullman is a pretty good author, who can build interesting worlds. Lyra is the heroine who believes that there is more to the world than what she sees and being told. There is this matter of Dust and the city beyond the end of the world.

Lyra us being brought up as an orphan amongst scholars at Oxford. Life is pleasant if a bit mysterious. She has an uncle—rich and famous, who is an explorer of the North. She hears about Dust through her uncle, while secretly stashed away in a wardrobe, in a room where females are not allowed. Shortly afterwards, kids start disappearing, including her best friend. Then a Mrs. Coulter takes her under her wind and whisks her off to London. Lyra is introduced to the finery of London. But then she overhears her real purpose—to be bait to catch other children

She escapes and catches. up with the Gyptians, who adopts her. She then discovers through the Gyptians who her parents are—her Uncle and Mr. Coulter, who are now bitter rivals. The Gyptians take up her cause. That is to help free the kids held up North—including her best friend and free her father who is held by the Armored Bears for Mrs. Coulter.

Kids are freed, father is saved to continue his quest for the City in the Sky and Dust. Sort of what you expect. (There are a lot of pages which you read through—better written then this summary.)
The question, why kidnap the kids? In Pullman’s world, each person has an animal personality—their other half. The other half is not quite like a soul, but is an essential part of the human psyche. Mrs. Coulter is running experiments to see if you can split this other half from a person. By the way, there animal halves are called daemons.

According to Pullman, Dust came into the world through original sin. See the end of Genesis 3. Dust starts to attach itself to humans about the time puberty strikes; the time when the human daemons stops being able to change shapes. Mrs. Coulter’s project was to separate the daemon free from the human, to be free from the original sin. This project had the blessings of the Church. The side effect was the kids were dying a very lonely death.

Lyra’s father’s project in his exile is to bridge the gap by using Dust and Energy to get to the City. This would be done by sacrificing the boy, Lyra’s friend.

This is a beautifully written story. His descriptions makes you think you are there—snow flying around a bear fight, the evil drive of the father and the Mother. It is a book well worth reading for these.
But this is also a religious book—right from the beginning when Pullman talks about Pope John Calvin. You know he is speaking of an alternative view of religious matters. Mrs. Coulter is part of the authoritative religious group—the Magesterium.

Both Coulter and Father are oppressive people, representing authority. The authorities rule through terror and coercion, keeping things secret.

This is a book, needing to be read, and read with your eyes wide open.

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