His Dark Materials

Just finished Northern Lights, the first book in the His Dark Materials trilogy by Phillip Pullman. As we used to say back in the sixties, “Heavy.”

I’ve caught parts of The Golden Compass (the book’s North American title) on cable and wanted to see how the movie compared to the novel. Very well, it turns out. I’m eager to get on to Books 2 and 3.

I enjoyed most of the Harry Potter books –and it’s probably unfair to compare the two– but Pullman challenges readers in a way that Ms. Rowling never did.

Definitely on the short list for the next church bonfire.

UPDATE: Finished the third book today and I’m a little numb. I read somewhere that Pullman wrote the book for “young adults.” I’m not sure what that means… teenagers? Younger? Whatever, I wish I had read the book in my teens, although I’m not sure how much I would have understood. Maybe that’s the point.

I thought it was a terrific story. Life and Death; Sin and Redemption; Good and Evil; Witches and Angles. And a less-than-attractive view of religion in general and the Catholic Church in particular. Easy to see why they weren’t keen on a sequel to The Golden Compass.

If you learned everything you needed to know in Sunday School, you can skip this book but I found the book to be very spiritual and mostly uplifting. A couple of quotes:

“I felt as if something they all passionately believed in depended on me carrying on with something I didn’t.” pg 954

“We’ll be alive again in a thousand blades of grass, and a million leaves, we’ll be falling in the raindrops and blowing in the fresh breeze, we’ll be glittering in the dew under the stars and moon out there in the physical world which is our true home and always was.” pg 854

“If you wanted to divert a mighty river into a different course, and all you had was a single pebble, you could do it as long as you put the pebble in the right place to send the first trickle of water that way instead of this.”

5 thoughts on “His Dark Materials

  1. “And a less-than-attractive view of the religion in general and the Catholic Church in particular.”

    You mean, even less attractive than the current reality of the Catholic Church as an international conspiracy to shield pedophiles? That’s difficult to imagine . . .

  2. Hmm. I’ve just started on book 2. Did you get any of the “nothing means anything” from the first book? Perhaps you’re reading at a deep level than I. I’ll keep my eyes peeled (!)

  3. And since atheists don’t have a pope, they can’t really pontificate either. So, I’ll just leave it at rant. The big finish was just not satisfying story-telling for me. It seemed he was more interested in being sure that we know there’s no God and nothing means anything.

  4. I’ve only read the first of the thee books in the trilogy but haven’t seen anything I’d call “atheistic dogma” yet. I checked the definition of dogma, just to be certain I had it right:

    “A principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true e.g. the Christian dogma of the Trinity”

    I’ll keep a sharp eye for anything offered as “incontrovertibly true” because I’m not sure any such thing exists.

  5. I really enjoyed the first book, and the second book was nearly as good. He pulls everything together in the third book, but I found it very unsatisfying: just a polemic for atheism. Storytelling is abandoned in favor of dogma — atheistic dogma, but dogma nonetheless.

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