Book review: His dark materials (Philip Pullman)

Recently I read all three books from the dark materials trilogy by Philip Pullman. The three books are The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass. I have tried to avoid giving out any spoilers but …

The series of books fall into the realm of fantasy and it involves witches, talking polar bears, angels, daemons etc. The books are well written and revolve around the  coming of age of the main characters, Lyra and Will (who doesnt show up until the second book). The story talks about how Lyra initially goes in search of something called “Dust” and the adventures it takes her on while being chased by the “Magesterium”. Dust is apparently some kind of cosmic particles that are found in every living thing but they affect adults and children in different ways. I will let you read the book to get the difference. The characters travel different worlds trying to understand the concept of dust while a war is being waged on heaven (and the current God). Note that the guys who are attacking heaven are the nice guys :).

The main theme of the book or so I felt was to attack the catholic church. In that sense, I thought the book went a little overboard. I am neither a catholic nor a Christian for that matter but it still felt really weird reading a lot of things written about the church. While some of it might be true, the meaning was lost in the wholesale attack of the church. I finally got a little bugged of the whole thing. If you are too religious, then you might want to rethink the idea of reading the book – you will end up losing your cool.

Other than the attack on the church and their tenets, the book was pretty interesting. The story was not bad and the imagination behind the characters was awesome. The concept of people having a “daemon”, something like a soul living outside the body was interesting. The daemons of the children don’t have any specific form (they can change shapes at will) but the one for the adults is fixed and resembles their character. The character of the talking bear king, Iorek Byrnison, was simply brilliant (On a side note, I love names that are exotic and the name Iorek Byrnison stuck a chord with me :).) The books getter better but darker as you proceed.

The books are like the anti – Narnia in that it attacks the concept of God as told by the various religions. I liked a couple of the Narnia books but I felt this series was much better. It also asks you to put in more thought into the ideas expressed in the book.

I should be honest and let you know that I saw the movie and thought it was mildly interesting – the effects were superb but the story was lacking. I wanted to read the book to see if they have butchered it and in true Hollywood style, they have made it palatable to the American audience. They have also stayed away from the criticism of the church which is unfortunately the main theme.

On the whole, I thought it was a pretty nice series. I would definitely recommend the books to people. The story is nice and the characters are awesome.

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2 Comments on “Book review: His dark materials (Philip Pullman)”

  1. Anand Subramani Says:

    Narnia sucked after the third book in the series. i skipped through the pages like watching a boring movie.

  2. Guppy Says:

    I agree. It got boring after a point. Luckily this was just 3 books. The only thing that might be perceived as negative will be attack on religion but otherwise this was a really cool series.


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