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4.6 out of 5 stars
His Dark Materials, Book I: The Golden Compass
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on June 26, 2004
I've been astounded to read some of the reviews on this book, The Golden Compass. I first read it when I was 12 years old, and now, at 16, I have read it many, many more times. Some of the reviews on here are so obviously from the point of view of a very small-minded christain. i am not christian, in fact I believe there really is no true religion. I embrace the world as it is. In accepting no religion, I have been able to remain a very open minded young woman.
The attacks on this book by religious fanactics are so out there, that it is easy to tell that religion has corrupted the minds of many, many people. This book, no matter what the content, is just a book. The beliefs of the author, Phillip Pullman are his own, and none of you religious types writing in reviews that blatently attack his beliefs, can change what he thinks. When you pick up a bhook keep one thing in mind- Read. Don't judge. Open your mind to something you normally would not accept. But don't attack a person's beliefs, for our beliefs and values are all we can really hold on to as a person- that we can call our own.
I believe there shoudl be no censorship. All of you parents who are saying you don't want your children to read this book are not sheltering them from anything. This book holds no information that they are not going to stumble across on the course of their lives. Please keep only one thing in mind and that is- Read. Don't judge. And especially don't allow your judgements and your views take over the minds of others. Let them read and see for themselves. It doesn't matter if you are tryingt to shelter someone from something you find appalling, something you find to be untrue., you can't hold it back from another person. This is censorship, and without books, without a free range of any book, every book, what kind of people would we be?
Buy this book, and buy many others, for as long as you live- words are more powerful than anything. The Golden Compass is a beautiful story, weaved of stuff stronger than magic. Don't judge it for what its not. Open your mind, and just...read.
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on June 10, 2004
Title: The Golden Compass
Author: Philip Pullman
Genre: Science Fiction
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman is very well written and entertaining. This fantasy about Lyra and Pantalaimon, her daemon, is exciting, scary, and adventurous. It would be horrible if this book didn't win any awards. There is a lot of suspence especially after the chapter when Lyra meets a Gobbler, or her mother, for the first time and doesn't know it's her because Lyra was told her parents were dead. The Gobblers, or the General Oblation Board, take the children to the North where they cut them from their daemons. Lyra meets many friends that are witches, bears, ands Gyptions. They fight evil while she learns about her past and what she must do. Lyra gets the golden compass which is really an alethiometer and has to learn how it works. The alethiometer is a truthmeasure that can answer any question you ask it. Lyra uses her friends and the alethiometer to gain knowledge about her parents who both want to get into the city inside the Northern Lights and eliminate original sin. It all starts when she hides in the retiring room where girls aren't supposed to go and she spies on her father. She sees the Master try to poison her father who is also Lord Asriel. In this exciting novel Lyra gets herself into trouble and almost always gets herself out of it.
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on April 20, 2004
Though at first glance The Golden Compass, the first of a trilogy, looks like a book made for younger audiences, Philip Pullman manages to interweave the separate worlds of childhood and adulthood in a breath-defying manner. Set in a world similar to the one we all know, but with drastic differences, the novel follows the journey of a young girl, Lyra, as she finds her way through adolescence, all the while trying to make new discoveries. There are twists and turns and jumps and leaps as she learns the story of her life and learns that things are not always what they seem.
Usually marketed to young adult readers, the novel helps bring forth the idea of growing up and finding one's self. One of the elements of the novel that caught my eye was that everyone had what was known as a daemon, which is a physical appearance of a person's soul. The dae-mons are there as consciences; and for young readers, it allows them to begin learning about the psyche of themselves. We learn that daemons are capable of changing forms until the stage of adolescence is reached and as is seen with Lyra's own daemon, Pantalaimon, the forms change to match its owner's mood and thoughts. This helps young adults and even children learn that for a good portion of their lives, they will be a mixture of emotions and nothing is ever set in stone. Only when a person is finally old enough to realize what they were meant to do does life begin to settle, which can begin to happen at an adolescent phase. And that is just one example of the way in which Pullman uses symbolism to appeal to his audience.
However, The Golden Compass also delves deeper for adults who pick up the book. The intricacies found in the book that deal with politics and the church and the way in which they are all connected in order to make people "happy" are ideas that often times, only adults will be able to understand completely. There is the sense of enjoyment while reading a novel that not only manages to remind us that we all still have a child living within us, but that can also teach us of the workings of the world through debates, discoveries, emotions, and world views. There are subtleties in even the ideas that seem miniscule at first; while the daemons can be seen as mere physical manifestations of the human soul, it can be further examined and the slight fact that daemons are almost always the opposite sex of its owner is something a bit more complex. The thought that daemons could possibly also be an extension of the soul in terms of one's soul mate is a proposal that only an adult would be able to comprehend, furthering along the simplicity of a child's mind while reading the novel.
Although Pullman's trilogy is often compared to the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and J.K. Rowling, the only similarity I can see is the idea of a world that is similar to the one we know but with differences that cannot be overlooked. While all three novel collections use mythology and fantasy as a background, The Golden Compass manages to allow both children and adults to en-joy the words of the novel in diverse ways, depending on what type of perspective the reader has. Whereas J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series is very clear-cut and to-the-point and J.R.R Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings collection is a deeper delving into the convolution of a mystic world, Pullman merges both those styles in a piece of work that is highly unmatched.
Despite age, the genre the novel is placed in, and its target audience, Philip Pullman de-livers a work of fiction that will become a timeless piece in due time. The Golden Compass is a read that no one should miss because whether it is a child-like fairy tale or a mysterious, dark, and winding story that is being sought after, the book delivers just that. It is a riveting tale that once it has been started, the book will never leave your hands for the mere reason that, despite the cliché, it is too good to put down until it has been finished.
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on April 18, 2004
This is my first review of anything, ever, and I'm proud to write it about one of the most astounding fantasy books that I've ever read!
The first thing that caught my attention about this book was the fact that it seemed so fresh. I avoided reading it for a long time, because I was afraid it would be a cheesy, run-of-the-mill fantasy. I couldn't have been further from the truth. To me, the most important thing about a fantasy book is it's ability to make the characters and world feel absolutely real, as if, perhaps, you were the one living in a fantasy world. Pullman's style plants you into his world as firmly as if you had been born in it. He doesn't fawn over his own creations, but gets down to the nitty-gritty, plunging right into the plot. You don't have time to worry about why humans have daemons, and how the heck bears can have armor. Ok, you do wonder, but it's written so beautifully, that you are swept away with it, allowing these mysteries to drift to the back of your mind, knowing that it will all be explained in good time. This, of course, only works if you are a patient person, like I am!
Pullman's realism extends into character development as well. Emotions are placed openly on the table, available for you to gasp in fear along with the heroine as she is anticipating being separated from a cherished companion, or to holler with joy as she escapes another daunting situation. There are much more complex situations as well, leading to feelings of guilt and confusion. The reader will also feel angry or confused, and sometimes hate the author for what he is doing. I think that that is the most important part of the writer/reader relationship: the ability of the writer to transmit difficult emotions to the reader, without withhold anything, for fear of hurting his 'dear characters'.
Of course, this brings up the question of the appropriateness of this book for children. This is the way that I look at it: children deal with difficult emotions and situations. Shielding them from those things will not help them grow up stronger. Letting them experience these through a book, which can then be discussed with thier parents, will help them gain mastery over their feelings, instead of being afraid of them. The heroine of the book, even with some shortcomings such as stubborness and 'roughness', is essentially a good, caring child, and a person willing to help the people she cares about, even if sacrificing her own safety. She can be a good role model.
The second question of appropriateness is the heavy religious/spiritual influence on the story. This is more difficult for me to address. I would say that this is up to the parents of the child. If the parents themselves have some sort of religious preferences, and still want to allow thier child to read the book, they may want to discuss with him or her, how the book is just an example of one persons opinion, and also, since it is fiction, it would tend to stretch things out of proportion. If you feel that you have a strong case against the main themes of the book, then this would be the perfect opportunity to discuss with your child why you disagree with the author's ideas.
Finally, I would like to wrap this up by saying that I am certainly lucky to have the chance to have read such a rich and complex tale, and would recommend it to anyone willing to leave our world, and get a taste of Phillip Pullman's complex universe!
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on March 28, 2004
The Golden Compass is a story abot Lyra, a young girl who lives in a world similar to ours but different in many ways. She is content to live free among of the scholars of Jordon College in Oxford. However, she gets caught up in a journey filled with ice and snow in the frigid Northern reaches of Svalbard. With the golden compass quiding her the way, she meets witches, armoured bears, severed children, the King, and even finds the mystery to a special paricle called Dust. This all leads to it's wonderful climax and the setup for the next two books The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass.
This book was an absolute rollar coaster to read and has many twists and turns. However, what bothers me is not the book itself but what the publishers advertise it for. This is NOT a children's book. The plot can be extremely dark and often very violent. (The battle between Iorek and Iofur made my jaw drop) I'm 15 and I was thinking to myself, "Wow, a 8-10 year old kid couldn't handle this. This is waaaaay above their heads."
I'm behind this book 100%. If you love the books, hold on to your hats because the His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass THE MOVIE will be out in 2005. Buy this book. You won't regret it.
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on March 18, 2004
The point of departure for this truly creative fantasy/parallel worlds trilogy is an inversion of Milton's Paradise Lost. In the latter, Milton presented a poetic account and justification of the divine plan for the Universe. In Pullman's books, the Miltonic version is a distorted view of real events. In the Universe created by Pullman, a powerful angelic force, the Authority, claimed power over the previously created Universe and has been abusing this power for millennia to keep humanity (and other sentient species) in a form of bondage. This bondage ramifies throughout an virtually infinite number of parallel worlds. This trilogy describes a revolt against the Authority and its overthrow. The principle characters are 2 children, one from our world and one from a closely related parallel world with mixed features of the 20th century and Victorian Europe. The initial plot strand concerns efforts to understand a mysterious component of the Universe called Dust or Dark Energy. The following complicated plot is essentially a coming of age story as the two children encounter many exotic features of their and related worlds. The plot incorporates elements of Paradise Lost and the Garden of Eden myth.
The quality of writing in these books is superb. A host of interesting characters and high quality prose. Pullman's imagination is remarkable. He has essentially developed a whole new mythology incorporating elements of modern science, religious allegory, and modern history. Perhaps the only flaw is that he may have packed too much into the final and concluding book of the trilogy, which is an interesting compound of Armageddon, Ragnorak, and the Garden of Eden story.
These books have produced some controversy as some feel that they are anti-religious, even specifically anti-Christian. Pullman has denied this interpretation and suggested that the books are an allegorical attack on all forms of dogmatism and authoritarianism. This disclaimer seems disingenuous. One thing that Pullman very clearly attacks is the idea that there is a separate soul distinct from the body. An important and at times poetically presented component of these books is the idea that humans are an intrinsic, not separate component, of the natural world. Pullman actually presents a pantheistic view of the world with consciousness an immanent and emergent part of the natural world and humans (and other sentients) as particular extensions of this aspect of the natural world. He also allegorically criticizes human attempts to overwhelmingly control the natural world. Whatever he states, these views are a trenchant criticism of any world view resting on the idea of separate and eternal souls.
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on March 17, 2004
The point of departure for this truly creative fantasy/parallel worlds trilogy is an inversion of Milton's Paradise Lost. In the latter, Milton presented a poetic account and justification of the divine plan for the Universe. In Pullman's books, the Miltonic version is a distorted view of real events. In the Universe created by Pullman, a powerful angelic force, the Authority, claimed power over the previously created Universe and has been abusing this power for millennia to keep humanity (and other sentient species) in a form of bondage. This bondage ramifies throughout an virtually infinite number of parallel worlds. This trilogy describes a revolt against the Authority and its overthrow. The principle characters are 2 children, one from our world and one from a closely related parallel world with mixed features of the 20th century and Victorian Europe. The initial plot strand concerns efforts to understand a mysterious component of the Universe called Dust or Dark Energy. The following complicated plot is essentially a coming of age story as the two children encounter many exotic features of their and related worlds. The plot incorporates elements of Paradise Lost and the Garden of Eden myth.
The quality of writing in these books is superb. A host of interesting characters and high quality prose. Pullman's imagination is remarkable. He has essentially developed a whole new mythology incorporating elements of modern science, religious allegory, and modern history. Perhaps the only flaw is that he may have packed too much into the final and concluding book of the trilogy, which is an interesting compound of Armageddon, Ragnorak, and the Garden of Eden story.
These books have produced some controversy as some feel that they are anti-religious, even specifically anti-Christian. Pullman has denied this interpretation and suggested that the books are an allegorical attack on all forms of dogmatism and authoritarianism. This disclaimer seems disingenuous. One thing that Pullman very clearly attacks is the idea that there is a separate soul distinct from the body. An important and at times poetically presented component of these books is the idea that humans are an intrinsic, not separate component, of the natural world. Pullman actually presents a pantheistic view of the world with consciousness an immanent and emergent part of the natural world and humans (and other sentients) as particular extensions of this aspect of the natural world. He also allegorically criticizes human attempts to overwhelmingly control the natural world. Whatever he states, these views are a trenchant criticism of any world view resting on the idea of separate and eternal souls.
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on March 11, 2004
Lyra is an eleven year old girl who seems unaware of the world around her. She lives in a world full of daemons (life companions attached to the very soul of every human), an alethiometer (an instrument used by only the enlightened that can tell no lies and answer any question), witches, gyptians, panserbjornes (armored bears), and of course the infamous Dust (an elementary particle found only in the North that has many people worried). However, Lyra is pleasantly oblivious to this until her eyes are opened when she views pictures from her "Uncle" Asriel trip to the North. She then begins to yearn for the North. She feels almost a duty to go to the North and find out the meaning of Dust.
But, while Lyra is feeling this obligation to the North, the Gobblers (or the Obligation Board to the few who are informed) are stealing children and performing horrible experiments with the child, their daemons, and Dust. The laboratory where they perform these experiments is far to the North as well. Then, one day Lyra's best friend Roger, a kitchen boy from the college where she lives, is taken by the Gobblers.
Lyra then leaves the college where she was previously spending her life, to live with an enchanting woman by the name of Mrs. Coulter. Lyra idolizes Mrs. Coulter and her sophisticated way of life. After all, Mrs. Coulter has even been to the North, where she did important research on Dust! Things seem to be too good to be true, which they are. Lyra soon discovers that Mrs. Coulter is the founding member of the obligation board and was responsible for the loss of her dearest Roger. Lyra then decides to run away from Mrs. Coulter's up-scale apartment and try to make sense of her world.
Lyra is then taken in by a gyptian family, whom she had had a long past with. The gyptians took her on their boat to the North where they planned to find the lost children and rescue them from further harm. However, Mrs. Coulter had everyone on the look out for Lyra, so Lyra couldn't be seen outside of the boat, for fear of being turned back in to Mrs. Coulter. Lyra meets many new and interesting people, animals, and things.
Lyra is lead on a journey to find out what this mysterious Dust is, where her friend Roger has been taken, and to rescue her "Uncle" from the grasp of the panserbjornes. Will Lyra be able to succeed with the help from her alethiometer and her newly found friends? Or, will the world perish from Lyra's failing? Only time can tell.
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on March 8, 2004
Publisher's Weekly calls it "breathtaking." Terry Brooks, author of The Sword of Shannara, says "...This is a book no one should miss." And I agree entirely.
The heroine of The Golden Compass is Lyra, a half-civilized girl who wild in the streets of Oxford. And not just the streets -- she clambers over the rooftops of Jordan College as well. Lyra was raised in Oxford by the Scholars of Jordan College, and while this might make her sound like an inaccessible heroine, she's suprisingly real.
Despite her prestigious home(she lives in a room on the top of Staircase Twelve in the back quad at Jordan), Lyra spends her time playing with her friends in the streets. She's far from perfect -- she forgets things, does not-so-smart things, and, despite her seeming bravery, she's afraid of night-ghasts. She doesn't have to go to school even though she's eleven, but on a few occasions a Scholar would be instructed to catch Lyra and teach her about something. Those lessons usually lasted about a week or so -- until Lyra "forgot" to show up.
And sometimes the Scholar, being human, would forget what he was supposed to teach her, and instead tell her about the subject of his current research. So her knowledge was filled with holes; she knew about elementary particles and atoms, but nothing about the solar system.
However, most of her time was spent in the mire of politics, alliances, and feuds that were everyday life for Oxford children. With the children of Jordan servants and young servants, she waged war on the children of other colleges. Yet all enmities between colleges were forgotten when they attacked the town children, an ancient rivalry.
But even that was forgotten when collegers and townies alike banded together to attack the brickburner's children and the gyptians. In fact, once Lyra and some of her friends captured a gyptian's narrowboat and nearly sailed it to Abingdon.
Lyra also loved to climb the rooftops with her friend, Roger, the kitchen boy. They could get nearly everywhere; in fact, they could get everywhere expect Sheldon Building.
The other place they explored was the cellars of Jordan. Beneath the college buildings was a labyrinth of wine cellars and crypts simply awaiting discovery by two curious children.
Roger was not Lyra's only companion, however. Lyra's world, Lyra's Oxford, Lyra's Jordan, all are not part of this universe. She lives in a parallel universe where people can talk to their dæmons -- or their conscience, as we call that part of ourselves here. So Lyra's other companion was her Pantalaimon, her Pan, her beloved dæmon.
Thus did the life of Lyra Belaqua run, until the Gobblers came.
Children began to disappear. This didn't affect Lyra's life much, except as a source of inspiration for games.
But then one day the Gobblers came to Oxford. Several children disappeared, vanished mysteriously in plain daylight. And it didn't take Lyra long to realize that....
She hadn't seen Roger all day!
Frantic, she began to search all over for him, to no avail. Being surrounded by adults, when she was told to the Master of Jordan College wanted her to be at a dinner party that night, she had no choice but to attend. There she met the beautiful Mrs. Coulter, whose wondrous tales of the North fascinated her.
After the dinner party, the Master told Lyra that she was going to live with none other than the fabulous Mrs. Coulter herself. Lyra was overjoyed.
But the next morning, the Master wanted to speak with her -- at an extremely early hour. He gave her a black velvet pouch with something inside: an alethiometer, an antique golden instrument that resembles a compass, with instructions to keep it secret from Mrs. Coulter and a half-finished sentence about Lord Asriel, her uncle. Lyra complies and keeps it safe, but wonders why the Master is being so secretive.
As Lyra begins her travels to the place that will bring an end to destiny, her story -- the story of a determined girl -- is told in brilliant prose. It begins in Oxford ..... it will end in another universe.
Philip Pullman's lyrically told novel will captivate you, leave you wishing for more and, on the last page, have you asking yourself:
"This en't the end already?"
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on March 2, 2004
Lyra Belacqua, along with her daemon Pantalaimon were content living amongst the scholars of Jordan College. They spent their days playing with Roger and the gyptian children. That all changed when children began missing after Lord Asriel came to town speaking of the north, dust, and of other worlds. Lyra is drawn into the adventure to the north along with the gyptians, armored bears, and witches. With the help of the alethiometer (a truth telling device) she saves the children from a procedure certain to end their lives.
The Golden Compass is an intriguing fantasy book that coninuously reveals information, holding the reader in a state of suspense. Lyra is a character that you can't help but fall in love with. Her free spirit and brave nature are so real you nearly feel the danger and happiness as she feels it.
This story is even harder to believe because neither Lyra's mother nor father cared for her in a parental way; they didn't show Lyra any feeling of love. "You're my father, en't you?" "Yes. So what?" "So you should have told me before, that's what." (p.367)
This is without a doubt the best fantasy/adventure book i have read. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves the thrill of suspense and action. The Golden Compass is an enjoyable and origional book. It is well written and has many layers full of suspense that will keep you guessing. This is a book that sucks you in and leaves you wanting more.
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