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Philip Pullman's brilliant kids' trilogy

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PeganthyrusPerson was signed in when posted
05:11 PM ET (US)
From an FAQ:

Apparently, Pullman's original name for the series was The Golden Compass Says..., and that was the name under which he sent it off to American publishers. He heard nothing from them for months, and in the interim, decided (with his British publisher's full blessing) to rename the series His Dark Materials. Months later, Random House sent a letter to inform him that they would be thrilled to publish The Golden Compass and, when Pullman explained that the name had changed, insisted that the cover artwork was already slated to publicly appear the following month, and it was too late to change the title.

Intruigingly multilayered stuff for something sold as YA. When's the last time you could go into a bookstore and buy something for kids that admits to being partially based on Milton?

As to /m20 - well, I could barely tolerate Tolkien and Rowlings' tweeness. Trying to read dreary Tolkienesque fantasy made me generally loathe the genre until I found authors like Lord Dunsanay or Tim Powers or Michael Swanwick.

And there's a third Borribles book?!? And an omnibus reprinting?!? OMG SQUEE FLaIL EEEEEEE MUSTBUYMUSTBUY!!!!!
GtHSPerson was signed in when posted
11:18 AM ET (US)
Well I liked all three, including The Amber Spyglass, although he perhaps lays it on a bit thick in parts, it's hardly didactic, and it's probably the one I enjoyed the most.

Good call on The Borribles too; I enjoyed those as a teenager and nearly shat myself when I found out they'd finally been republished as an omnibus last year.
flashboyPerson was signed in when posted
06:42 PM ET (US)
Eek! I'd completely forgotten about the Swallows and Amazons books. I absolutely loved them as a kid - maybe that's why I felt at home with Aubrey and Maturin... certainly softened me up for characters talking about bilge and knots and stuff.. (cheers eli)

Sorry. Seem to have strayed off topic. As a remedy, allow me to say that I'm surprised so many people were disappointed with The Amber Spyglass - yeah, the style is a little different, more languid than the first two, but I'd never have thought it was enough to make people lose interest. And TAS makes sense of the philosophy of the whole series - for me, it couldn't be complete without it.

Prompted by all this, I went back and read the ending again this evening - and bugger me if I didn't start crying again. It's getting embarrassing... [grunts, spits, starts talking about football and car mechanics]
MeriadocPerson was signed in when posted
06:40 PM ET (US)
Some of us, who loved The Hobbit and Harry Potter, did not care even for the first, let alone the controversial third, of the Pullman series.

I had two problems with it: first, the politics and society of the alternate world seemed less complex and more simplistic than the primary world, and thus lacked credibility; second, the daemons were really, really annoying. Not as annoying as Jar-Jar Binks, perhaps, but even more inescapable.

Your take may differ, but if I hadn't read this book I'd have been quite eager to try it after reading this post, and man would I ever have been annoyed afterwards.
Seth MorabitoPerson was signed in when posted
05:52 PM ET (US)
I'm also a bit confused about the name change. The set I have are titled "The Golden Compass", "The Subtle Knife", and "The Amber Spyglass". This is the first I've heard of "The Northern Lights". Is that the original UK title? And if so, why this mad compulsion to rename books when they're brought to the United States? I'm smart enough to know what a "Philosopher's Stone" is, I should damn well be smart enough to know what "The Northern Lights" are.

I enjoyed the first book, I loved the second book, and then I was left cold by the third book. I simply stopped reading it right in the middle, I completely lost interest. I felt like the plot dissolved and took odd directions I wasn't enjoying. I'll be very interested to know if you feel the same way after reading all three.
Nic WolffPerson was signed in when posted
05:09 PM ET (US)
I was at least as disappointed in the third book as was Glenn Fleishman; whole new plotlines amount to very little, characters who seemed central are written off casually, and the terrific heart-rending sacrifice in the last chapter is prefigured or required by absolutely nothing previous.

Read the first one, and stop - the second one is only good enough to make you want the story resolved, and the third one just bungles the job.
Eli the BeardedPerson was signed in when posted
04:47 PM ET (US)
flashboy (/m2) brings up the O'Brien Aubrey-Maturin books. Let
me repeat my recommendation for the Authur Ransome Swallows and
series, for children's boating.


I'll also say the audio version of HDM read by Pullman is
well done, to get back on topic.
Chris LovellPerson was signed in when posted
02:11 PM ET (US)
I loved these books and devoured them in one sitting each, in a kind of reading binge.

The third book ("Amber Spyglass") is a bit preachy and heavy on theology, but it's essentially Pullman's rewrite of Milton's "Paradise Lost" -- a very strange thing to be doing in a book originally marketed to the 10-14 year-old crowd.
Stefan JonesPerson was signed in when posted
12:42 PM ET (US)
"I plan on devouring them."

They're Atkins compatible then?
RianaPerson was signed in when posted
12:00 PM ET (US)
I read the trilogy a couple years ago and had a similarly enraptured response - particularly to the first book. I like children's books that honor the old fairytale tradition of having a very dark side, and Pullman delivers that (without the campiness of the wonderful Lemony Snicket). The most fun part of the books for me was figuring out the terminology and deducing how the history of Lyra's world evolved so that people say "Skraeling" instead of "Indian," "chocolatl" instead of "chocolate," etc. Nifty stuff.
robnitPerson was signed in when posted
11:47 AM ET (US)
I read the His Dark Materials trilogy and enjoyed all three, though I do agree with much of the commentary here. I also cried at the end. :) Interestingly, the first book I have is called "The Golden Compass" and I bought it in Texas a couple of years ago. Not sure when/where it got the name change - must check that out.

I was reminded of books I read when I was much younger and enjoyed immensely, the series by Madeline L'Engle - The Murry family novels including "A Wrinkle in Time." I'm going to have to go back and read those again.
Deleted by author 08-13-2003 11:53 AM
wavingpalmsPerson was signed in when posted
10:42 AM ET (US)
don't know where else to post this-

but LOOOOOVE the 'fair and balanced' heading! ^_~ a pox on Fox!
Glenn FleishmanPerson was signed in when posted
10:16 AM ET (US)
I read all three. The first is transcendently beautiful and original. The second veers into obscure theology and becomes slightly dull. The third loses its edge entirely and becomes practically a parody of itself; its internal consistency disappears along with the charm.

I've never read a series in which I was so sorry to not have stopped at the end of book one.
jim e-tPerson was signed in when posted
10:08 AM ET (US)
I love Northern Lights, like Subtle Knife a lot, and quite like Amber Spyglass.

And believe me, Drum, there's plenty of Dust in the Pitt Rivers - my girlfriend works there...
DrumPerson was signed in when posted
09:44 AM ET (US)
Glad to see someone else discovering the delights of Philip Pullman.

I read the trilogy about six months ago. It has an extra edge for me because I live in Oxford. I have to say that the local details are spot on. The line of hornbeam trees in the second book does, in fact, exist and I find myself looking along them trying to find the gap to the other world when I am waiting in my car at the Banmbury Road roundabout.

The description of the Pitt-Rivers museum is pretty good too and the artifacts he describes are all there (can't see the 'dust' myself, but maybe I'm just too old).

I told my boss about these books when I discovered them (knowing he likes this sort of thing too) and it turns out that he knows Philip Pullman rather well, having been at college with him, and is often round there for drinks.

I asked him to pass on my compliments to the author next time he goes.
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