Friday, October 26, 2007

His Dark Material

Books: His Dark Materials trilogy (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass)
Author: Philip Pullman
Like/Don't Like: I'm going to have to go with Don't Like, even though it really hurts to do it.

I was disappointed. And nothing is more hurtful to me than a book that disappoints. Especially after it promises so much.

I finished the last book on Tuesday night but it's taken me a while to do this review because I was so torn by it. It was an incredibly enthralling series. From the very beginning it sucks you in and all you can think about are what will happen to Lyra and Will, will they be able to escape from all the danger in their way, will they be able to save all those people they need to, will they be reunited with those they love. And all the while they're having one great adventure after another that seriously made me exhausted at the end. And they're good, brave kids with very pure and unselfish motives, who just want to do the right thing. The awful state of my bedroom is a testament to just how little I've been able to do because I've been so into these books.

But the more the story progressed the more disappointed I became. Not because the story started losing steam, but because through it all there was a very anti-religion undercurrent (and not so under near the end) that I found really distasteful. I once wrote about how much it bothers me when authors put too much of themselves into a story. I'm especially bothered when it's so blatantly their own personal agenda. And certainly even more when it's in a children's book. If I'm reading and the thought comes to me, "Boy, this guy really hates Catholics and God," then he's not disguising himself well enough. I guess it bothered me more on a technical level than anything else. It felt like he was taunting rather than writing and it ended up really muddling the story line. At the moment that everything was suppose to start making sense and questions were suppose to be answered these ideas started coming out in big neon signs and it seemed petty to hold onto them at the cost of the story line.

I don't want to come off sounding righteously indignant about this. I'm not. The guy is a great storyteller and he can and should write whatever he wants. I'm also not saying you shouldn't read this book just because I happen to disagree with it. Although you should certainly read it before you let your kids read it, but you should be doing that anyway. I've read plenty of books that I didn't necessarily agree with but still loved, and plenty of books that professed beliefs other than my own that I found inspirational and beautiful. Isn't that the whole point of reading? And if I read only books that did fit inside my beliefs I would be stuck with Mormon fiction - and that is a miserable option. I just wish he hadn't tried to hit me over the head with it. It kind of broke my heart. I don't think I would have been so disappointed if I hadn't loved it so much in the beginning.


Liz said...

I hate when authors do that with their work. It always seems very manipulative to me.

I know it's very hard to remove yourself from what you're working on, but still, it can be done.

Hannah said...

I felt very much the same about these books. I loved The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife, but the last book seemed...I don't know, out of place. Its been awhile since I read them so its hard for me to remember exactly what I thought. I just remember being really unsatisfied at the end, and really lacking the same feeling I had had for the other books. Kind of like...Ok, but...really? That was the point? Really? Disappointing is the best word for it.

Ms. Liz said...

Amen and Amen. I just finished my second round on these books a few weeks ago and I was hoping I'd be less crestfallen if I came back to them but it was worse not better. Selfish genius is always difficult to watch. :(

Ms. Liz said...
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Amanda said...

I'm so glad you posted about these books because I was getting all sorts of emails from my friends about how it was anti-Christian and we should not read it. I was wondering if it was indeed that obvious and obnoxious. I'm glad you critiqued these. I of course value your opinion and I feel that there are too many good books to waste my time on disappointing ones. Thanks for your review.

themayerfamily said...

I heard that this is being made into a movie. i've gotten several "mormon" reminders not to go and see it. Interesting.