Book Review: the Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

I borrowed the Golden Compass (Young Adult Fantasy 399 pages) by Philip Pullman from the library a few days ago. One of the really surprising things to me was how closely the movie followed the book. In this way, I’d have to say that I much prefer to read the book and then watch the movie. I think I get a lot more out of both that way because then I can treat them as two separate entities.

I enjoyed the book and look forward to reading the rest of the books in the series, which I have already borrowed from the library. I’ve found that the library here has a rather good collection of pretty much everything. The interesting part about the copy of the Golden Compass that I borrowed from this library was the caption on the front cover that reads: “Caution! Some people consider these books dangerous! The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. Knopf, 1995. Objected to because of its perceived anti-Christian viewpoint.”

Wow. Really? I remember there being kind of a stint about this when the movie came out, and I would guess that this is a reason they never did any sequels to the movie, but … I have to wonder, you know? Do people really need to see religion in everything they read? Can’t this just be a story about a girl on a journey to find her friend, Roger, and to deliver the alethiometer to Lord Asriel? Granted, there is a small section where Pullman seems to be quoting the bible (and doesn’t exactly quote it correctly), but other than that, I don’t really see the strong religious pull.

Maybe it’s because I’m not looking for it. Maybe it’s because I like to read stories about characters and have my imagination take me to a variety of different places. Maybe I’m just missing something. What I saw when I read the Golden Compass was a richly imagined world with flying zeppelins, armor wearing polar bears, and cities in the sky. I felt Lyra’s love for Pan and all the humans’ love for their daemons. I felt like Lyra’s motivations to continue on her set task, to go North no matter the cost, as true motivations. So in these ways, I would say the book told a story and told it well.

There were a lot of times in the book where I thought that someone, somewhere could have done a better job of editing. Times where the tense was wrong, or the wrong word was used, but that’s kind of normal with any book.

Overall, I liked the book and I liked the story. I’ve never really been one to delve into politics and religious disputes, so I don’t do the background research or listen to what other people say when they talk about reading. If your religious views are shaken up by the contents of a fantasy story, then in my mind, you probably don’t have very much confidence in your own religious views. But that’s just my opinion.

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About C.A. Jacobs

Just another crazy person, masquerading as a writer.
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