The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

#35 in my 2007 book challenge was The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. Even if I don’t end up seeing the December film, I like to read books around when the movie comes out because of the increased coverage of the book in the press.

The Golden Compass is a sweeping adventure book, mixing fantasy, science, and religion. All humans have daemons, animal-like creatures that shift shape until their partner hits adolescence. A friend of young orphan Lyra Belacqua’s is kidnapped, and she decides to rescue him. Danger and adventure ensue.

GC has a great pace, and some very big ideas, but the characters don’t achieve three dimensions. Most of the adults are evil, all of the kids are good, and Lyra becomes increasingly unrealistic as a kid over the course of her adventures. She’s far too competent in a crisis, of which there are many. Some of her lack of complexity is explained away as a lack of imagination. This is another example for my catalog of fictional lunkheaded saviors, but it doesn’t make her more believable as a kid. Nonetheless, the story swept me along, the ideas intrigued me, and the story had closure and a compelling cliffhanger for the next book.

I am interested to see what the holistic experience of Pullman’s trilogy will be.

2 Responses to “The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman”

  1. Kate Says:

    I really enjoyed the trilogy, but I also didn’t have problems with the characters as less than one dimensional. This may be because, I think, they achieve that over the course of the three books. Since I can’t remember what’s in what book, I won’t make any specific observations other than I enjoyed them as a whole and found them ultimately satisfying. It also brings up the debate about young adult novels (which I think was mentioned, but not discussed at length other than at Slate, in reference to the latest HP book)–should this book satisfy me as a thirty-something, or should it satisfy a teen-something? I liked it as a thirty-something, but I think my teen self would have been absolutely enthralled by it.

  2. carolyn Says:

    i loved that trilogy. loved it.