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The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials
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Some books improve with age--the age of the reader, that is. Such is certainly the case with Philip Pullman's heroic, at times heart-wrenching novel, The Golden Compass, a story ostensibly for children but one perhaps even better appreciated by adults. The protagonist of this complex fantasy is young Lyra Belacqua, a precocious orphan growing up within the precincts of Oxford University. But it quickly becomes clear that Lyra's Oxford is not precisely like our own--nor is her world. For one thing, people there each have a personal daemon, the manifestation of their souls in animal form. For another, hers is a universe in which science, theology, and magic are closely allied:

As for what experimental theology was, Lyra had no more idea than the urchins. She had formed the notion that it was concerned with magic, with the movements of the stars and planets, with tiny particles of matter, but that was guesswork, really. Probably the stars had daemons just as humans did, and experimental theology involved talking to them.
Not that Lyra spends much time worrying about it; what she likes best is "clambering over the College roofs with Roger the kitchen boy who was her particular friend, to spit plum stones on the heads of passing Scholars or to hoot like owls outside a window where a tutorial was going on, or racing through the narrow streets, or stealing apples from the market, or waging war." But Lyra's carefree existence changes forever when she and her daemon, Pantalaimon, first prevent an assassination attempt against her uncle, the powerful Lord Asriel, and then overhear a secret discussion about a mysterious entity known as Dust. Soon she and Pan are swept up in a dangerous game involving disappearing children, a beautiful woman with a golden monkey daemon, a trip to the far north, and a set of allies ranging from "gyptians" to witches to an armor-clad polar bear.

In The Golden Compass, Philip Pullman has written a masterpiece that transcends genre. It is a children's book that will appeal to adults, a fantasy novel that will charm even the most hardened realist. Best of all, the author doesn't speak down to his audience, nor does he pull his punches; there is genuine terror in this book, and heartbreak, betrayal, and loss. There is also love, loyalty, and an abiding morality that infuses the story but never overwhelms it. This is one of those rare novels that one wishes would never end. Fortunately, its sequel, The Subtle Knife, will help put off that inevitability for a while longer. --Alix Wilber

In a landmark epic of fantasy and storytelling, Philip Pullman invites readers into a world as convincing and thoroughly realized as Narnia, Earthsea, or Redwall. Here lives an orphaned ward named Lyra Belacqua, whose carefree life among the scholars at Oxford's Jordan College is shattered by the arrival of two powerful visitors. First, her fearsome uncle, Lord Asriel, appears with evidence of mystery and danger in the far North, including photographs of a mysterious celestial phenomenon called Dust and the dim outline of a city suspended in the Aurora Borealis that he suspects is part of an alternate universe. He leaves Lyra in the care of Mrs. Coulter, an enigmatic scholar and explorer who offers to give Lyra the attention her uncle has long refused her. In this multilayered narrative, however, nothing is as it seems. Lyra sets out for the top of the world in search of her kidnapped playmate, Roger, bearing a rare truth-telling instrument, the compass of the title. All around her children are disappearing—victims of so-called "Gobblers"—and being used as subjects in terrible experiments that separate humans from their daemons, creatures that reflect each person's inner being. And somehow, both Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter are involved.

Customer Reviews:

  • Couldn't Put It Down
    Phillip Pullman is one of the most talented writers I've ever read. His descriptions of the world and the characters he's created are vivid. He's also created one of the best heroines. Lyra is feisty, intelligent, independent and vulnerable. A strong but human female character. ...more info
  • Inspirational
    This is an inspirational story of the weak and oppressed challanging and overcoming evil. It is a story of freedom. This story is a must for children; and for parents who are not afraid to let their children think, dream and grow. Attacks on this series, particularly by those who fall into the category of oppressors, are rejected as contrived and dishonest. ...more info
  • Very good, but do kids really like this book?
    The Golden Compass (aka Northern Lights) is very good book, one of the best I've read in a while. Just because the protaganist, Lyra is a child herself does not, to my mind, make it a children's book. It is a very complex and layered story that I enjoyed, but I have a hard time believing that pre-teens would enjoy it. The premise of daemons was interesting, although I wonder if a society so similar to ours would have developed under those circumstances. The book was not as anti-Catholic as I had heard it might be. In fact one could argue it's not anti-Catholic at all, since the implication is that Calvanism took over the Catholic church (the mention of Pope John Calvin moving the papacy to Geneva). In this alternate history the reformation never happened as the `reformers' took over the Catholic Church. The whole alternate history was well done. Pullman also is very successful at conveying the horror of the experiments being done on children. I look forward to reading the rest of the trilogy...more info
  • Good plot - thematic writing
    Creative plot - good points for the story which is quite interesting.

    Points off for thematic writing - Pullman constantly goes into irrelevant and elaborate descriptions of the surroundings which come across as thesaurus exercises. Typically the details he describe are never of any impact on the plot. In book one this didn't bother me, but over time I found it extremely thematic with these excessive descriptions.

    Other points off for the stupid - only suitable word - writing that Pullman applies to "less educated" individuals. The flawed syntax and spelling is only annoying. It really takes away from the story - no value is added by this half-baked cockney English.

    Total score should be three but the plot is so creative that it gets four stars.

    BTW, pox on the publisher for changing the title - I am painfully aware that many of my fellow Americans are less than enlightened but books are supposed to lift us up, not perpetuate issues....more info
  • Book Review: The Golden Compass
    Have you ever wanted to see the North Pole? Would you be willing to risk your life to travel to the Arctic to save one of your friends? In the book, The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman, the main character, Lyra, travels north in order to try to save her best friend from an evil group called the Gobblers. Lyra is an eleven year old girl who is given a golden compass by her uncle and she uses it to travel north in order to find her friend Roger who was mysteriously kidnapped. Lyra's world seems to be very dark, mysterious and secretive.

    The main characters of the book include Lyra Belacqua, her uncle Lord Asriel, and her best friend Roger Parslow. Other characters include Mrs. Coulter, a young woman who becomes close to Lyra, and Iorek, a polar bear that can talk and fight and protect Lyra. My favorite character is Iorek because he is brave and strong, like a hero.

    This book is a coming-of-age story which is told in the third person style. As I read, Lyra made mistakes and learned how to deal with them on her own. The settings in the book range from Jordan College to the Arctic. The action in the book happened often. It is a good versus evil kind of book.

    Overall, I liked this book but I thought it was confusing and some parts went by too quickly to follow the story. On the other hand, there were parts that went into more detail and helped me understand the book. For example, at the beginning of the book, it really didn't explain what a "daemon" was very well. For the first fifteen pages it was hard to get what was going on in the story. As the story went on, I was able to understand that a daemon reflects someone's true personality. My favorite part is when Lyra met Iorek because it was very exciting and full of action and easy to understand. I would recommend this book to anyone who into adventure books. There are two other books in the series, A Subtle Knife and the Amber Spyglass. I would not read any more books in this series because the books are confusing and the mood is too dark for me.
    ...more info
  • Brilliantly written
    What a very powerful boo,. Very well written. I was not prepared for the cruelty toward children nor for some of the graphic fights, but it was a brilliant book nonetheless. ...more info
  • It's an offence for the atheists
    I've bought this book only because my friend said that she heard it is an atheist's response for Narnia stories. As I am an atheist myself, this was a commendation to me. I'm sorry to say that both my friend and myself were sadly deceived.
    Suffice it to say, I would much sooner buy Narnia as a gift for a child than any part of the Dark Materials.
    The plot starts well, yes, and the author writes well, too - but one wonders, oh, wonders!
    The Golden Compass takes place in a parallel universe - this was done before, and with better results. The said universe seems to be our own world, but with different history and with magic thrown in for good measure. The magic is called "anbarics", but the kids can be easily excused for mistaking the term for "electricity". The geografic terms are partly weirdly different from the ones we use (German Ocean - i.e., the North Sea), and partly confusigngly identical. One wishes Mr Pullamn had followed Lewis's example and created a whole new universe. But that's by the by.
    The story concentrates about the girl Lyra, who is predestined to a great future. With a help of her deamon, many kind people and thanks to stupidity of her enemies, she survives, though is not able to rescue everybody else. Lyra is an orphan (surprise, surprise!), but she has both parents (now, that's trully unusual) and she's out to rescue her friend from some very bud guys, though she appears to have different goals for most of the book (which actually makes me think that the author does know quite a lot about young teens). So far, so good. It's a relatively simple, but readable story for kids, with scary bits - but kids are much less easily scared than the adults.
    The problem is, the story is marketed as an atheist's proclamation. Someone should have explained to Mr Pullman that a tale about predestination cannot, perforce, be considered agnostic - it's pure Calvinism, sir, Calvinism.
    Secondly, the author seems to have an issue with Catholic church - which is very charasteritic of the bad old-fashioned, and mercifully, absolete vievs of the members of Church of England. Mr Pullman is not alone, however - Dawkins's "The God Delusion" had sent me to the same paroxysms of laughter at how much the author shares the bad opinion about the Catholics with any ultra-orthodox Protestant lady depicted by, for example, Agatha Christie.
    Thirdly, why the Bilble paraphrase? The religious readers would just feel offended, the non-religious ones would just skip it - or head for the original.
    Fourthly - yes, I liked the way the Gypsies are depicted in the book, but what the HELL does Mr Pullman have against the Tartars?! These people have enough problems already, and I'd thank the author for not stepping in the stalinists' shoes and bad-mouthing them for nothing. In case Mr Pullman's history books lack the information - the Tartars NEVER scalped anybody. Kill, yes; rape, yes; take for slevery, yes; but scalp - never. These were EFFICIENT soldiers - not wasting time for playing with the corpses.
    All in all, I wholehartdly recommend the works of Pratchett, Rowlings, Milne, even Lewis's Narnia - anything but Dark Materials!...more info
  • Atheist Propaganda
    This atheistic diatribe, along with other so-called fiction books like Harry Potter Boxset Books 1-7 and Rabid: A Novel, will destroy the soul of America if not stopped immediately. I call upon Amazon to stop selling them, for they are teaching people that Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ does not exist or is not relavant to today. This is wrong! Protect your children from these books! ...more info
  • Pleasantly Surprised
    After the negative publicity surronding the release of the movie "The Golden Compass", I was inclined to dismiss it. However, after watching the movie on TV, I wanted to read the books.

    To say "I was impressed" would be an understatement! Captivated from the first few pages, it was evident that I was reading an author to rival the likes of J.R.R. Tolkien (for the depth of the characters) and
    J.K. Rowling (for the creation of an alternative world of persuasive reality).

    "The Golden Compass" is excellent and the three book series exceeds all expectations.
    ...more info
  • The best in the trilogy, but that's not saying much.
    This book was pretty good, with some fairly imaginative parts to it, but I wouldn't consider it a classic by any means. Unfortunately, the other two books in the trilogy are not good at all. I would recommend either reading just this book, or not reading any of them. They only get worse from here....more info
  • Took me forever to read...
    Ok. First of all. This book took me two weeks to read, which is a ridiculously long time for me. I've been known to finish a couple of books in a day.

    The reason it took me so long was that I was lost from the very beginning. There was just way to many characters and questions introduced in the first few chaptes and I couldn't seem to catch up. I'm not sure if this was Pullman's writing style (lots of dialogue, not many descriptions) or my fragmented reading style - but I just couldn't get into the story.

    I wasn't a huge fan of the characters. I liked the setting and thought the premise was original... but I wasn't blown away.

    Yes, I will read it again because I think it will read better the second time.
    Yes, I will read the next book.

    But overall - I probably wouldn't have even finished it if I hadn't of purchased it.

    ...more info
  • Mixed Feelings
    I heard negative buzz about this book, so I immediately bought it. I have enjoyed other controversial books in the past, and I was curious to read what was so disturbing to the religious community. Overall, I enjoyed the book. There are the usual elements of a fantasy book. Of course, you have the child about whom a prophecy was made and her journey to fulfill that prophecy. You have the obligatory magical creatures, in this case, bears that talk and wear armor, daemons that help humans, and witches. There are magical rules to the world in which this book is set, too. In many ways, it is your standard children's fantasy, and it has the general things that offend the fundamentalists. Pullman sets his book apart in a couple ways, too. You cannot be sure of the time period in which it is set, but it isn't confusing. It simply gives the book a unique feel. It also has some interesting messages in it, not the least of which is a distinct dislike for religion. There are others, too, though. If you read the book, pay special attention to the role of the daemon in a person's life. There is a great deal of insight on humanity in Pullman's daemons. I have no complaints about the writing style, either. It is easy to read and will hold your attention whether you are young or old. That is, I suppose, where I have trouble with this book. It is meant for 5-9 grade readers. Perhaps it is written at a 5th to 9th grade reading level, but its contents are certainly mature for that age group. I am not especially concerned about the effect of this book on the faith of children, but I am concerned that it delves into subject matter that might not be appropriate for them. There is some talk about lovers. In fact, the main character is the child of an affair. Castration is also discussed in detail. Beyond that, the children in this book undergo torture at the hands of adults. There are some terrifying moments. I think it could be confusing and disturbing to a child. I am also concerned about the treatment of women in the book. The main character is female, but her main power is deceit. In fact, she gains the nickname Lyra Silvertongue for her ability to lie to and trick others. She scoffs at female Scholars because she doesn't believe women have the ability to study. The main adult female character is possibly the most evil person in the book. The other females are witches. Now, this all may be irony for Pullman, but I am not sure a child is sophisticated enough to see through it. I don't think I am sophisticated enough either because I am not exactly sure what he means by it all. If you are an adult and you want to read this book, I recommend it. It is an interesting read. If you are buying it for your child, though, I suggest reading it yourself first. You can decide for yourself whether your child is mature enough for the subject matter, and you can be prepared for the questions that might follow. ...more info
  • An Amazingly Crafted Fantasy for Children and Adults Alike
    My interest in the His Dark Materials series stemmed from watching the movie adaptation of the first book, The Golden Compass. And while I was biased because I saw the movie before reading the book, the book turned out to be far better than the movie ever was.

    Pullman creates a fantasy world that instantly engages the reader, and keeps them wondering, What will happen (and what CAN happen) in a world like this? The story follows a young girl as she embarks on the adventure of a lifetime through a world full of unique creatures, intricate subplots, and enough mystery to keep the reader wanting more. Some might think that this book is just an extended child's fairy tale, but I disagree. The Golden Compass (along with The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass) delivers enough fantasy to entertain a child and enough philosophical food for thought to entertain an adult, making it an enticing story worthy of both audiences, large and small. While this book can stand on its own (without books 2 and 3), I highly suggest reading the entire trilogy - it's worth it.

    One other item I would like to mention is the story's discussion of Dust, the Authority and religion. While the series does create a very strong distate for religion, this distate stems only so far as the religion defined in the book (the Magisterium). I'm sure many will argue that the His Dark Materials series insults and rebels against Christianity and other modern religions, but they are wrong. This book is a fictional fantasy tale that emphasizes a corrupt religious group solely for the purpose of the main character's difficult quest. Pullman has no intentions of turning readers against religion with his stories. The Golden Compass (along with the other His Dark Materials books) is nothing more than a unique fairy tale crafted up by the amazing and talented mind of Philp Pullman. Any reader who believes the books to be "blasphemous" is merely too insecure with their own religious beliefs to enjoy a good fairy tale. ...more info
  • A Work-Skipper
    Let me start by saying one thing, I am a devout Catholic. I was raised so and I have never questioned my faith.
    That being said. My routine consists strickly of having 1 book to read each week. I wake up at 7, take a shower and read as I eat before I leave to work at 10. This particular week, I had selected The Golden Compass stricly because I had taken my two children to see the movie and was curious about the controversy. It was Monday and I had just sat down to breakfast to read as I ate.
    Needless to say, I called in sick to work that day and didn't go back till Wednesday. I spent the two days almost literally glued to the books. It was a brilliant series and honestly brought me back to when I was young and just read The Hobbit.
    Now, again I would like to emphasize that I am a devout Catholic, I attend chuch with my family every Friday and Sunday. I would also like to emphasize to all Christians out there that are stubbornly critical and repulsed by this series that upon reading it, I did not spontaniously combust or instantly become atheist.
    Rather, I respected the series from a literary perspective and gave it all the due credit it deserved. It was genious. It was a timeless modern classic that I dont doubt will be looked at in the future as we look at The Lord of the Rings or the Chronicles or Narnia now.
    My children are now reading the series. My wife and I have both always agreed that we should not hamper their beliefs but rather let them chose their own path. Of course we explained to them numerous times that the books are stricly fiction and they should not base their beliefs on it. If they had any questions or concerns they could ask us, and if we couldn't answer confidently, we would find someone that could at our church.
    I dont really understand what is troubling so many people. If they had taken the time to read the books they would understand what a dramatic exaggeration many people have taken in taboo'ing the series. Is it the undoubtable similarities with the Magisterium and the Catholic church that bother you? Well, I would hate to break it to you, and as much as it pains me, the Catholic church has been known on a few occasions for their notorious opression. Its a flawed system, without a doubt. Of course I try to overlook these flaws as human errors rather than a confirmation in athiesm.
    So I guess my question comes down to this. Are you so insecure of your children's beliefs and the hold of your religion that you would refuse your kids this enchanting trilogy? Is this series any worse than what your kids see on TV or do at school? Are you so certain that these novels are reeking of evil that you would call Pullman the anti-christ? If so, I can't really supress the inward shame I feel for those who share my beliefs. I hope everyone takes the time to enjoy these books and see for themselves how inticing they are rather than believe all the negative hype that is going around. ...more info
  • A little stiff, but otherwise imaginative
    One thing is for sure: Pullman certainly has a gift for imagination, and that is what makes this book as wonderful as it is: mindblowing imagination that still manages to connect itself with real-world philosophy.

    My heart pounds every time I read this. I'm simply stunned at the creative plot this has and the wild myriad of settings. It's chilling and beautiful all at once. ...more info
  • Feisty heroine won me over
    I am not much of a fantasy person. I was not at all impressed with the first Harry Potter book and haven't read one since. I guess I was intrigued by THE GOLDEN COMPASS because of the alternate universe theme. This idea has some basis in scientific theory as the string theorists predict alternate universes if there are ten dimensions.
    The GOLDEN COMPASS also uses our known world to some degree. At the beginning, young Lyra Belaqua lives on the Oxford campus among scholars. Pullman also barely changes the names of known characters such as gypsies.

    Once I got into the book, I fell in love with Lyra. She's a feisty little girl who roams the rooftops of the Oxford campus with other ragamuffins. She's almost always in trouble, but the scholars overlook her rambunctiousness because they, too, love her. Then one day she hides in a closet and overhears her "uncle" talk about something called "dust." It's not the usual dust. This dust is an elementary particle that affects humans as they mature. Lyra's playmates are also disappearing at an alarming rate, and their disappearance has something to do with this dust business.

    Another interesting element is that in this universe each human has something called a daemon, an animal guide or alter ego. This daemon can assume any animal shape until the person matures. Then the animal guide stabilizes in one shape.

    Oh, yes, we also have talking bears and witches who are allied with Lyra and her friends, but since Pullman starts in a conventional world, we accept them more readily.

    There's also something called the Magisterium and the Oblation Board run by Lyra's mother Mrs. Coulter (Not Anne, though they do have characteristics in common). The Magisterium is a real-life Catholic advisory group. Lyra goes to live with Mrs. Coulter for a while. She's the villainess in the novel. It seems the dust has something to do with original sin, which originates in another universe and Mrs. Coulter forms a devious plan to eliminate it.

    Something the reader should know going in is that THE GOLDEN COMPASS is the first of three novels. It is not stand alone. There is no ending to this one. Plan to also read THE SUBTLE KNIFE and THE AMBER SPYGLASS....more info
  • Well Written Fiction to Expose the Truth
    Philip Pullman has done an excellent job of using a compelling and exciting story to expose the dark truth about an organization that continues murdering and torturing people to this day. Anyone who thinks the hidious actions of the Catholic Church happened only in the middle ages needs to look a little harder. In Central and South America millions of women are held in bondage by the mind control perpetrated by the church, telling them that birth control is a sin, resulting in untold numbers of children being born to women who are already living in poverty. Many of these children die an early death because medical care is not available to them. If this is not murder and torture for these women to see their children suffer, I don't know what is. In addition, for an untold number of years the church swept under the rug the plight of children being molested by priests, who were moved around to keep their incidious actions undisclosed. Is it not torture for a young boy to be raped by a person who he has trusted? Rape robs these children of their dignity and self respect. It was not the church, but the courage of the victims and actions of the courts that exposed what was going on. But what of the children in other countries that do not have the judicial system that the United States has? I applaud Philip Pullman for his resourcefulness....more info
  • Vivid fantasy with religious and mythic elements
    I decided to read The Golden Compass to see what all the controversy was about when the recent film adaptation, starring Nicole Kidman, was released in 2007.

    This richly-imagined tome tells the story of Lyra, a young girl growing up in a world not totally unlike our own. An orphan, she's ensconced at the highly-respected Jordan College, where she's cared for and occasionally taught. In Lyra's world, every human is born with a daemon, a soul-like animal that accompanies them everywhere. Daemons stay with their humans throughout life, protecting them, consoling them, keeping them company.

    As we soon learn, however, things are changing in Lyra's world, and vast, dark powers are afoot. The Magisterium, sort-of a super-powerful religious entity, is at work politically. In addition, local people talk in hushed tones about the Gobblers, who spirit wayward children off. The children are never seen or heard from again.

    When Lyra meets the glamourous Ms. Coulter at a college luncheon, she's enchanted. Her dreams come true when college officials tell her that Ms. Coulter is going to be put in charge of her education. Lyra trips off to London with Coulter, who lavishes her with expensive clothes, gifts, fancy meals, and parties.

    Pretty soon, though, Lyra realizes there is something quietly dangerous about her new guardian. Fearing for her safety, she runs away, putting into motion an ancient prophecy that is only hinted at in this volume. (The complete Pullman trilogy, I assume, will explain it satisfactorily.)

    I really enjoyed this book, and I imagine that I will also eventually read the other two books in the series. I know that the Catholic church got its dander up about the movie, but I didn't see too much to worry about in the book. Pullman does base *some* of his world on our Catholic church, using similar terms, drawing from their history, etc., but what people seem to forget is that The Golden Compass (like the popular DaVinci Code) is just a BOOK. And a fantasy at that. Now, there may be more to gripe about in the remaining two volumes, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

    As for this book, I found it to be a highly-enjoyable, fantastically creative fantasy. This is a book for young adult readers, and it's about 400 pages long. Once you get past page 50 or so, it flies by....more info
  • Excellent book that dares to be politically incorrect
    Had it not been for the controversy, I never would have even known about this novel. When up-tight religious conservatives start to complain about something, it tends to grab my attention. This phenomenon has frequently led me to excellent books, movies, and TV shows, and Philip Pullman's *The Golden Compass* is yet another wonderful addition to that list.

    Pullman is an excellent writer, using minimum prose to maximum effect. He describes the main characters in the same short yet descriptive manner so that you know and understand them intimately after a single paragraph. He can tell of the passage of weeks or months in a single brief sentence that none the less explains everything going on during that passing time. And in the process, he creates a world that is like ours and yet very alien.

    The result is that the entire story can just turn on a dime. Sometimes it seems as though you are slogging through a chapter in which very little is happening, and then a single sentence at the end changes everything and brings the whole story into sharp focus. Only a true master can write like this, and Pullman writes like this all the way through the novel. Even the very last page does this, recasting the entire novel in a new light and leaving the reader on a very major cliff-hanger.

    The themes are amazingly stark, and yet brilliantly interwoven into the story. Make no mistake, this novel is profoundly anti-church, casting it as the nominal villain of the story. Pullman's church is a massive bureaucracy that exists only to stifle freedom and understanding, seeing them as running counter to its own agenda. This, of course, is what has attracted the ire of religious conservatives.

    To the conservatives who complain about that, I ask you this: So what? Let's get serious, folks. In Pullman's native U.K. and my own native U.S., people are allowed to believe that religion is nonsense, and they are allowed to express this belief. If you don't like that, tough. Unlike Pullman's church, yours has not managed to squash our freedom...yet.

    We could talk for a long time about how ridiculous it is that Christians are whining about being persecuted just because their religion has been criticized by a fiction novel. But really, you're better off just reading the book. It is excellently written, it is not afraid to take a politically incorrect stance against a popular philosophical belief, and it raises the ire of the extremist conservatives who imagine they rule religious morality.

    About the only down side I could find for this novel is that the cliff-hanger ending is quite abrupt. It really does leave you hanging right in the middle of the action with many unanswered questions. But the cure for that is simply to go read the sequel.

    To sum up:


    + Amazingly brilliant writing.
    + Stark and well-fleshed-out themes.
    + Annoys arrogant religious conservatives.


    - Very abrupt cliff-hanger ending....more info
  • Disturbing and Clever
    This book has warped my fragile little mind. Heh. Not really. It was much better than I expected. Though I'm not really sure what I expected. I really liked how the concept of Dust and daemons are slowly unfolded through the novel than rather take 2 or 3 paragraphs in the beginning and flat out explain them. All the talk of 'severed children' and explaination of the North, snow and being cold...I couldn't get warm for days! Now that's what I call a good book. Like I said-disturbing and clever....more info
  • Let's Not Confuse the Issue
    Please keep in mind when reading this book, that daemons and demons are two completely different things. It is far more symbolic when one realizes that daemons are actually computer programs that interface with other programs and allow information to be transmitted more clearly, efficiently, and accurately. For example: a printer driver, that tells your printer and computer how to communicate with one another, is an example of a daemon. Look it up on the internet, with the correct spelling, and you'll see what I mean.

    Now, that aside, I wasn't the least concerned about the use of daemons in the sense that really, these companion animals were more like "spirit guides" for everyone, allowing them to communicate with the world around them through another sense. Imagine how much differently we would perceive the world if we sensed it with more than just sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell. Imagine if we had five more senses, what our world would be like. It would be much different than how we perceive it now. Imagine being blind, and experiencing the world WITHOUT one of the senses you already have. Could you even conceive the things that most people see with their eyes and take for granted? The use of daemons in this particular context only shows the author's grasp of at least the theory behind alternate realities, and the use of that often debated, but largely accepted "sixth sense."

    Semantics aside, the author's choice of wording here, I think, is most appropriate....more info
  • Poor writing
    Given the rating, I assume that most people are going to think that it's due to me having some vendetta against Pullman's views. From the outset, I'd like to say that Pullman's depiction of the perversive aspect(s) of religeon was actually one of the book's strengths. However, it is a strength that is overshadowed by numerous shortcomings.

    Speaking broardly, the novel's main drawback is that it's simply impossible to feel engaged with the world or the people in it. It becomes clear to the reader that the world depicted is not ours, that like many parallel universes in fiction, it has similarities and differences, the two often going hand in hand. However, we never get a full sense of the world, only glimpses at it. The nature of the world is portrayed throughout the story.

    Now this could arguably be a strength, that Pullman doesn't go off on a tangent of world building, focussing instead on the story. While reading the novel however, it felt like a weakness. There were many oportunities to further flesh out the world and it felt like Pullman missed them every time. We recieve some info, but only in bits and pieces. Surely it wouldn't be too hard to expand on them a bit?

    The characters are another matter. The issues with them aren't as succinct as the world they inhabit, but they still feel like shadows of what they could be. Lyra is one such example and to be honest, I think that the fact that the story is written through her POV as opposed to a more omniescent style contributes to the world building problem. An eleven-year old can only understand so much, and by the end of the novel, she's changed little. She's still some little girl who's barely developed emotionally. Granted, it's a trilogy, but surely SOME progress could have been made?

    The rest of the characters also have the problem of conforming to stereotypes. Iorek the strong, Asriel the mystic, Coulter the evil witch-lady, etc. There's at times something more deeper to them, such as Asriel's true colors coming through and his discussion as to the nature of man, but it's really just a spark in a pool of shallow character development. And obeying the laws of nature, that fire is extinguished by the volume of water.

    Northern Lights indeed has strengths, as mentioned above. But there's so much overshadowing them that the novel is near unreadable and it's easy to miss them. And since books are primarily about writing, an aspect which fails so spectacularly in this case, I have no choice but to give it one star.

    ...more info
  • Prompt service, excellent book
    The book was delivered on or before the date promised, and it was in very good condition. ...more info
  • Pullma's reach exceeds his imagination
    I saw the film before reading the book, and let me tell you the book was better.
    Although I knew before hand much of the plot, Pullman's prose, style and characters came vividly to life making the read worthwhile. Although "The Golden Compass," has a child as the main character, it has parts that are larger than the age and the understanding of the character in question and that makes an interesting combination.
    The book is a journey, Lyra's journey to the North to be able to see "The Northern Lights." The latter is the British title of the book, I believe that is better than the American one.
    The book has very interesting chracters, like Lord Asriel. Lyra's uncle, proud, fierce and with a purpose in mind. It has also Mrs. Coulter, the character that you love to hate. Roger, Lyra's friend, that stems Lyra's journey when he is captured by the Gobblers, a group that do evil experiments on children.
    Lyra is brave and wild. She also can lie when needed. She will do anything for his lost friend and along the way finds frieds on her own. One of them is the bear, Iorek, a very powerful and loyal armored bear. Another one is Serafina Pekkala, a witch from the North.
    The book has a lot to think about. Religion, Providence, human nature, human choice and freedom, loyalty and love. It has a fantasy element on it, and although I am not a big fan of fantasy I was very pleased how every element in the book got together.
    It is a great read, and after you finish it you will think about Dust, nature of sin and wish to know what is on the other side of "The Northern Lights." ...more info
  • Magically Adventure Tale for Both Children and Adults (A Grade)
    Philip Pullman's Northern Lights is also known as The Golden Compass, which was made into a movie last year. Published in 1995, this is the first novel in Pullman's His Dark Material's trilogy about the journey of a young orphan girl, Lyra Belacqua, and the world she inhabits. This world Pullman has creative is a fantasy and mystical adventure where people have shift changing animals called daemons by their sides. These daemons are a part of the person's soul and their personality.

    Lyra's daemon is named Pantalaimon and they reside at Jordan College, in Oxford, England, which is parallel universe during pre World War II. Lyra has free reign of the college since her Uncle Asriel is quite powerful and a major benefactor to the college. He keeps her there for her own safe keeping as he travels around the world as an explorer. One day Asriel comes for a visit and Lyra stumbles upon a plot to assassinate him. The Master of the college wants to do away with Asriel because of his on-going search for a mysterious particle called Dust that is found near the Aurora Borealis.

    Asriel leaves on his merry way, and Lyra continues as she has always done, playing with childish abandon and causing a ruckus. Lyra sometimes is a bit too curious for her own good. But things begin to change as children in the town go missing. Soon there are rumors that the children are being taken away and being eaten by "The Gobblers". Lyra is safe and sound, but the children she plays with, including her one close friend, Roger have been kidnapped. She decides it is up to her to solve the mystery of The Gobblers and the missing children. Lyra doesn't get that far in her investigation because a beautiful and mysterious woman, Marisa Coulter comes to the college and takes Lyra away as her assistant. The big question is, who is Mrs. Coulter and why is she so interested in Lyra? That mystery is soon solved because Coulter is behind the kidnapping of the children. And not only is she kidnapping the children for a horrible reason, she may be responsible for imprisoning Lyra's uncle and has plans for the Dust that could change the world.

    Northern Lights is a wonderful, fantasy tale that has so many hidden meanings and subtle undertones, mainly dealing with religion and the bible. When I first began to read, I really couldn't see why some people would be so up in arms about this book. But as I continue to read, I could definitely see the philosophical, theological and spiritual aspects that Pullman has written, mainly from John Milton's Paradise Lost. (I found this information from Lyra is the main storyteller and she is a spunky and a tad bit bratty. But what would you expect with no parental guidance? She is also very smart and brave. Her journey is one that is dangerous and scary. The many people and creatures she meets, from talking bears to witches really bring the story alive. Pullman's world building and storytelling is incredible. I didn't want to stop reading because each page would bring me to the final epic battle, and in my eyes this was a battle between good and evil. See, there are those religious undertones I am talking about.

    "Epic" is the main word that comes to mind when describing Northern Lights. Things build up slowly, where Pullman introduces all the characters nicely to the point where the action starts and doesn't let up. Some books are much like the movie going experience and I would definitely say that Northern Lights is one of them. This would be a great book to act out, chapter by chapter, especially with children, who of course are the ones that Pullman has written this tale for.

    I enjoyed my reading experience so much so, that I would definitely be interested in reading the next two books in this trilogy and perhaps one day if I have my own children, I can sit down and we can read Northern Lights and the rest of His Dark Materials trilogy together.

    His Dark Materials Trilogy (His Dark Materials)...more info
  • Golden compared to sequels
    SPOILER FREE: This novel is fascinating and addicting with twists and suprises. The book truly displays the Golden side of Pullman with writing that seems prepared and revised. Once you get further in the series you kinda feel like he lost his way. This is mostly because he cared too much about portraying the religious message later on. The Golden Compass, in my opinion, doesn't have the Evolutionist/Christian tension that the Subtle Knife and Amber Spyglass do. I advise parents not to go with this novel because some parts are quite graphic. For those of you over the age of 15, please give this a shot. It is a great fantasy adventure that can stand by itself. The other books are enjoyable too, but as a Christian I kinda had to ignore some subliminal information. If you can get past those like I did, then you might enjoy the Subtle Knife and the Amber Spyglass...more info
  • Adventure in the far, far north
    Being a resident of Alaska, I loved this book. Plus, the fast-paced action creates a story that you can't put down because you really, really want to know what's next. Read this book if you love fantasy, if you're looking forward to the film and want to read the book first, or if you've heard the controversy but want to learn the facts straight from the source. In addition, the book contains a few gorgeous descriptions of life in the far, far North. I give it a 9 out of 10. ...more info
  • great
    This book is a wonderful piece of modern literature. In light of the recent controversy over the movie adaptation, I suggest reading this book for yourself before forming assuptions about it's content and themes.There are religious references, but it is only a book and should be seen as such. Children and adults alike will enjoy this adventurous, gripping novel....more info
    This book is so awesome. It is the best book I have read in a while. It is action packed and incredibly interesting. Don't listen to the fanatical christian freaks! You'd miss out if you did. ...more info
  • A "kid's book" that an adult can carry with pride
    For all its charms, the fantasy genre can be a difficult one for an adult to enjoy with a clear conscience. Walk around with a classic novel from George R.R. Martin, C.S. Lewis, or Lian Hearn under your arm and you can hear the snickers from other adult readers - what an overgrown child you are! Too bad he can't read Serious Literature!

    Philip Pullman's "The Golden Compass" is a rare "kid's book" that enables the adult fantasy fan to carry it boldly (no hiding it behind a copy of The New York Review of Books). This is serious stuff.

    The story revolves around Lyra, a twelve-year old tomboy who resides at Oxford under the (occasional) tutelage of the Masters. Lyra believes she is orphaned, so her friends are whichever local lads and gals who can keep up with her insatiable desire for adventure. Well, those kids, and her daemon, Pan, a shapeshifting extension of her soul. Every person has a daemon, and before kids reach puberty the daemon can assume any form it wants. At puberty, the daemon chooses a single form that it will have for the rest of time. There is no closer bond for any person than that with your daemon.

    And so one can imagine the horror when the mysterious, unseen Gobblers descend upon England, snatching children and their daemons. Rumors run wild - the kids are slaves toiling in the far North, the kids are goin to be ransomed, the kids are being eaten . . . or worse.

    All Lyra knows is that the Gobblers have some of her friends, and so she has to go save them. And so an adventure is born, one that involves her mysterious, noble uncle, the local gypsies, the sinister and beautiful Mrs. Coulter, and other spectacular creatures. Before the book is over, Lyra will befriend the king of the polar bears, learn the truth about witches, and uncover the darkest chambers of the human soul. All while armed with the titular golden compass, a device that allows Lyra to learn the truth of any question she asks.

    Highly allegorical, "The Golden Compass" is a dark, gorgeous journey of discovery for young Lyra, who is one of the greatest heroines ever to grace the pages of a novel. Pullman writes beautifully, but his writing is always accessible, so despite its darker, more religious themes, this is a wonderful book for the child who wants to branch out beyond J.R.R. Tolkien and Harry Potter.

    This 10th-anniversary edition is a wonderful book, complete with page-saving ribbon and helpful diagrams and notes taken from Lyra's uncle.

    If you have a young reader in the family, or you're a reader yourself, it's a simple matter - get this book. Now....more info
  • Great book, great audio production
    Don't listen to the hype about this being an atheist book -- it actually contains a lot of spiritual insight, as well as wonderful intrigue. This audio production is really an audio play, with a full cast, and it's excellent....more info
  • If you want disobedient children
    If you want your children to believe it is heroic to disobey parents, adults are evil, and demons are their friends, then perhaps you will want this book....more info
  • Listen, people.
    I didn't want to go into the whole "religious" aspect of these books, but after reading all the reviews I can't help myself. The fact is that Pullman's series is really good. It's intriguing, entertaining, and engaging. I wouldn't go so far as to say that it's better than Rowling's Harry Potter series (to which it has been compared), but I found myself becoming attached to the characters, hoping for their victory. Now that that's out of the way, let me say that I am a Christian. Shocking, I know. I read the books almost hesitantly, always expecting to be disgusted and turned off by the religious "bigotry" that so many speak of. Was I eating up all the "anti-Christian" stuff? No. But then again, I wasn't terribly offended. It's Pullman's opinions and beliefs being expressed via finely-written fiction. I can deal with that and I can't bring myself to speak negatively of these books simply because of the religious undertones. I just hate to see people who share my faith unable to grasp that these are works of FICTION and then attack those who actually found the stories entertaining. I guess, in my mind, my faith is strong enough to where I can accept that others have different beliefs than me and not have a heart attack about it. But back to the books. Please don't NOT read them, if you're a Christian, based on the negative reviews of those people who condemn these wonderful books based on their religious undertones. I mean, to say that His Dark Materials is bad based on its religious bias would be to condemn works such as The Chronicles of Narnia, which also have a religious bias. They just take a different viewpoint. ...more info
  • An adventurous story that I wish had been around when I was young
    How to review this book? I think I shall skip getting to much into what the book is about since it has been around for a while, has over 1400 reviews on Amazon, and is now a major (if unsuccessful) film. Usually, I wait to review the trilogy until I have completely all three books and then do a single complete review, but with this book, I feel it stands enough on its own to warrant its own review.

    To start, I thoroughly enjoyed *The Golden Compass* and I look forward to reading the remaining two books in the *His Dark Materials* series. I found Lyra, the main character to be fully realized and fleshed out as well as the prominent characters that surrounded her. And Pullman creation of a parallel earth where humans walk around with their souls (my take anyway on the daemons) on the outside represented by animals is absolutely fascinating.

    But, what of the controversy surrounding this trilogy? Is this series truly anti-god, anti-church? I don't know about the god part, I didn't necessarily find evidence in that in my reading of *The Golden Compass* (perhaps the two following books will reveal more), but I definitely think that this story is anti-church and anti-religion, at least from the standpoint of organized institutions that have replaced free thinking and common sense with dogma for their followers. What I read in these pages was a story that works to instill a sense of self and promotes thinking for yourself and not taking what is force fed you by your church or even your parents as the end all without applying critical thinking to it. Since the primary audience for this series is children, I applaud Pullman for treating his readers with the respect that they deserve. And for the adults who read this series, it never hurts to be reminded that thinking for yourself is why you have a brain (and if you believe in god, then god gave you that brain to think with).


    A Guide to my Rating System:

    1 star = The wood pulp would have been better utilized as toilet paper.
    2 stars = Don't bother, clean your bathroom instead.
    3 stars = Wasn't a waste of time, but it was time wasted.
    4 stars = Good book, but not life altering.
    5 stars = This book changed my world in at least some small way....more info
  • Amazing Read
    After all the recent controversy about the release of the Golden Compass into theaters, I had to read the books and see for myself. I was certaintly not expecting such a gorgeous, emotional, smart and gripping trilogy. I finished the series within a week because I simply could not stop reading. Pullman is eloquent and vivid. His narratives are captivating. Once you are finished, Lyra and her world will resonant with you for a long time. The books are complex and leave much to digest, but I highly recommend them to those who are open-minded and looking for a new love. ...more info
  • Nostalgia and Childhood Memories
    I was heavily into fantasy when I was little, but when I read His Dark Materials (all three) everything else seemed to go away. My happiest memories as a child seem to accompany the times when I was engaged in reading these books. They allowed me to challenge the ordinary and look at the world in new ways. They brought on a multitude of emotions that are set off by merely thinking about this book. I would highly recommend it to any child, and any adult for that matter. I will read it again soon, seeing as I haven't in roughly ten to fifteen years. I would also recommend anything else by Pullman, he clearly has a very unique view of things....more info
  • Golden Compass - classic fantasy
    Aside from Harry Potter, Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series is one of my all-time favorite fantasies. In the first part of the trilogy, we are introduced to the young heroine Lyra and a world in which all humans have a physical soul in animal form called a daemon. Lyra and her daemon, Pan, are content to cause trouble at their home of Jordan College...until children in Oxford and nearby towns start to disappear. Then everything begins to happen at once: Lyra foils an assassination plot, one of her own friends is snatched, the beautiful Mrs. Coulter enters her life - and somehow, everything revolves around the mystic particles known as Dust. As they seek to unravel the mystery, Lyra and Pan are swept along in an adventure that ranges from awe-inspiring to terrifying. ...more info