Tuesday, October 30, 2007

His Dark Materials Trilogy

The Golden Compass
The Subtle Knife
The Amber Spyglass
Phillip Pullman

I bought a newly released all-in-one edition of this now-classic young adult trilogy. In retrospect, I probably should have put it down between novels; too much of even a wonderful thing can be overwhelming.

There are plenty of other more eloquent and informed critics who have discussed Pullman's take on theology, Christianity and the meaning of religion, so I will not spend too much time in further interpretation, other than to say that I found the ideas posed in these novels thought-provoking and at times challenging. Pullman's portrayal of the Authority (God) as an angel, also fallen, and beyond decrepitude, was powerful. His theory of Dust as the universal sentient force also spoke to me personally.

The characters of Lyra and Will - and Iorek Bynison, Lee Scoresby, Serafina Pekkala, and countless others - were finely drawn, the plot action-filled, and the philosophy overlaiden with enough of a story where the reader is not distracted by it, but rather intrigued. Even though the three-novels-in-one made quite a tome, I could not put this series down until I'd read every last word. I found myself doubling back and reading paragraphs again. The writing could be nearly simplistic at times; I felt like Pullman would occasionally finish a scene quickly so that he could move to the next character line or moment. The plot jumped around a bit in following different characters, but it all fit well in the end. There were echoes of other classic young adult fiction - the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe came to mind, especially with the character of Marisa Coulter. There is even a chapter entitled "Marzipan" - the sweet Turkish delight becomes an emblem of temptation.

Highly readable, thought-provoking, with likeable, strong characters.