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?


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  1. When I was buying one or the other of these from a good independent bookstore, I got in a conversation with a bunch of the booksellers. They were all raving about them, but I heard that kids who loved the first two books often had trouble with the third one. Oddly enough, that was my reaction as well. I breezed through the first two, and got through about half of the last book (Amber Spyglass) before I put it down. I finally finished it a month later.

    I still can’t believe that the Potter-burning crazies haven’t started talking about these books.

  2. I finished the first one in about 24 hours, and I blazed through the second one today in about eight hours. I can definitely see where some of the negative comments on Amazon came from. Lyra goes from a willful main character to someone that has to ask Will every time she consults the alethiometer. I actually found that I didn’t mind too much though. I like Will, and I found his story just as compelling as Lyra’s.

    And hello? You’re so right about the anti-Potter fans. After I finished the second one I said to Snookums, “Well, all these people are gonna wage war against God, and I’m pretty sure that we’re supposed to root against God.” And now that I’ve started the third book, I’m like, “Hello?! Gay angels!” I wonder if it’s just because they’re a bit more “difficult” to read. Crazed religious freaks are more apt to reach for the books with smaller words, I guess.

    Man, I’ve fallen for every single twist in these books so far. ** SPOILER ALERT! ** I didn’t guess who Lyra’s parents were. I totally didn’t see Grumman as Will’s Dad. I completely didn’t see Lyra as Eve. (I’m curious to see where they go with THAT.) And that scientist chick was told to be the “serpent”? To me the third book sounds VERY promising. I hope I don’t find it as disappointing as you did.

    Incidentally, everytime I’ve mentioned something in the books to Snookums, he’s said that it sounds like the anime series “Neon Genesis Evangelion”. It’s even got a gay angel. Do you know anything about the origin of these stories?

  3. I love these books. I’ve read them all twice. I had the same notion as you, that if the anti-Potter fans got their hands on these books, there would be war. I mean, Potter is just magic. This trilogy is practically blasphemy.

    I love the allegory of the stories, the depth of them and the way they are dark without being morbid. Although they are marketed as children’s books (or young adult) I can’t imagine my own kids grasping the concept of the story. Some adults I know can’t grasp the concept.

    I did think the third book wasn’t on par with the other two, but it was still good.

  4. Exactly. I wouldn’t recommend this to any kids younger than high school. Even I spent the first book going, “What the f— is happening??” They’re definitely a couple steps above Harry Potter in complexity. I still like Harry, but I also like something I can argue about and figure out.

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