Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Golden Compass

I was sitting blissfully in a Sunday School class a few weeks ago when several class members started on a terrible tangent. For some reason (it related to the lesson in no way), a few middle-aged women mentioned how evil Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass is (both the book and the movie version) because it promotes an anti-God message. Oh my.

Nothing makes me want to read a book more than having someone tell me not to. First, I don’t like to be told what to do (it’s a bit of a problem). Second, I do not advocate censorship. Third, I particularly despise when people try to censor a book (or movie or television show) without ever reading the book (or watching the movie or television program).

I am not a Philip Pullman fan. I read his Sally Lockhart series as a preteen, and it did not sit well with me. As such, I've had no desire to read any of his other books. However, I had to know for myself what all the fuss is about.

Now that I’ve finished the book, I have to ask: what is all the fuss about?

I did not love the book, and I have no desire to read the rest of the series. However, my apathy towards the book has nothing to do with religion. I can’t speak about the other books in the series (since I haven’t read them), but nothing in The Golden Compass struck me as anti-God.

For a young adult novel, though, I found the pacing of Compass too slow and the book at least 200 pages longer than necessary.

I didn’t feel engaged in the story until halfway through (about 200 pages in), and I had to force myself to read that far because I was simply bored by the fantasy world Pullman creates. I did not care about Lyra, her daemon, or the adults surrounding her.

Fantasy fans may enjoy this book, but I had difficulty embracing a world where all humans have a daemon, or animal, connected to them—apparently a representation of their souls. I do not care for talking animals (though I did have a minor crush on Disney’s Robin Hood as a child). And parallel universes leave me cold.

As such, I can only recommend this book to fantasy lovers and anyone who wants to rebel against the religious right.


Wanna-Be Lit said...

Would you let your kids read it?

Blogger said...

If my kids were fantasy buffs (and clearly do not share my genes), I wouldn't hesitate to let them read it. It is really long, though, so probably not a good fit for young kids.