Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Golden Compass Books

Because Sophie, my daughter, has been interested in Phillip Pullman's Golden Compass trilogy, I have been reading these books and they are raising some concerns with me. I am in the middle of the third book.

In the first book, we meet a young girl named Lyra, who is growing up in Oxford in a similar, but alternate, universe. Her world is charming in an old fashioned way: there are no computers, no movies and people travel by boat and zeppelin. Everybody is accompanied by a daemon, an animal which is apparently a manifestation of each person's soul and personality and is never far from the individual to whom it is attached. With children, the daemons are constantly shifting, one moment a mouse, then a lion, then a butterfly, etc. For adults, whose souls and personalities are fixed, the daemon is fixed too.

In the first book, Lyra is reunited with the mother she has never known, but soon finds that her mother, a representative of the Church, is an evil women involved in an experiment that involves cutting children away from their daemons, which renders the children zombielike and lifeless. Lyra has been given a golden compass that she is gifted to read. The compass gyrates around between symbols and answers questions for her to give her guidance. Lyra escapes her mother and travels north to the artic regions, to liberate her friend Roger from the remote locale where the daemon removal is taking place. She rescues him with the help of an intelligent armored bear, gypsies and witches and then finds her father, who has discovered a way to blast a hole in space so as to enter another universe. She follows him there. Lyra, the Church, and her father are all in pursuit of a mysterious substance called Dust. The Church equates it with sin and wants to eradicate it.

The books are well-written, with fast-paced, active plots and well-developed characters. They've won awards. Yet as I mentioned above, they make me uneasy. Have other people read them and have opinions? Tomorrow I will talk about book II and some of my unease.

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