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.

About C.A. Jacobs

Just another crazy person, masquerading as a writer.
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