On the recommendation of several people (including Bill), I finally broke down and bought the first book in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series. I’d been avoiding his work for some time, thinking that it was some attempt to cash in on Harry Potter popularity (like Artemis Fowl, which I hated). Luckily I couldn’t be more wrong about Pullman. His books are fantastic. I finished the first one in about a day. Snookums asked me at one point what it was about, and I couldn’t even give him a coherent answer. “Well, there’s this Dust, but I don’t really know what that is… and a girl at Oxford, except in this world people have dæmons, which are physical manifestations of their souls… and somebody’s kidnapping kids… and an alethiometer, which tells the truth… and armoured bears… and witches… and gypsies… and something about the Northern Lights… and, well, it’s complicated!” One thing did bother me about the story, though: why didn’t Lyra use the damn alethiometer more often? If I had a device that would tell me the true answer to any question I asked it, I’d consult the damn thing 100 times a day. Especially if I was involved in a major adventure! She never once thought to ask, “Will we win? What the heck should I do next?” Dumb little kid.
Oh, and weirdness. As near as I can tell, the first book was published in the United States as The Golden Compass, right? Well, in Australia and the U.K. it’s called Northern Lights. I managed to find an explanation for the name change. I figured it would be something like, “Dumb American kids don’t know what the northern lights are”, but it turns out it was just more of a bureaucratic bungle. Anyway, did I mention that the books rock?