His Dark Materials

I read fiction to escape from reality. So if I plunge in and don’t surface till the book is over and even then stay in a haze where my reality looks fuzzy, totally winner book! The genre that does this most successfully for me (and I suspect several others) is Fantasy.

I first met this genre (thanks to Blahla!) when he left a David Eddings lying around for me to pick up. I started Pawn of Prophecy and a week later I surfaced from Demon Lord of Karanda saying how many more has this man written? I did get a little tired of his nauseously happy endings but a new way of getting a high had been found. We graduated to Robert Jordan. (unfortunately man popped it without finishing series and blahla, that notorious penny pincher,  actually called on STD to give me the bad news. Did learn a lesson from that… Never start a series that hasn’t been finished) . There have been bad moments – I know the Blah has detoured on the way to read Gruk the Ice Breaker  and other such crap – Terry Goodkind and his savagery were there and there was the ruined George RR’s Game of Thrones (Have you got to the Red Wedding where they cut off Rob’s head?) and the quickly abandoned Jude Fisher. But we have our happy moments when we discover new authors who give us nice new worlds to run away into.

 Take Jim Butcher for instance. Very nice find, thanks to blahla. Consider Jonathan Stround – can’t now recall if I found him or he did but his trilogy is THE best i’ve ever read. C.J.Cherryh – Goddess. Terry Pratchett and Tom Holt- True Love. I’m not mentioning M. Tolkien because I keep getting distracted by his poetry and never finish reading his books.

   However, this post is not quite a litany of all the fantasy authors and what I think of them. Its about Phillip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’. This series had been around for 10 years before I got round to reading it. For the whole of an hour this book sat on the shelf gazing at me while I had tea at the Cha Bar. Finally I had to go claim it and take it home. Started Northern Lights that evening and then the week became a loss. I hated going to work because I couldn’t finish, hated busy days because I couldn’t stop to buy the other two books. The book lurched along till I managed to find a satisfactory night to stay awake and finish it.

The first book introduces our heroine Lyra Belacqua who lives in an Oxford in another world. This one bears some similarity to Victorian England and the most interesting thing is that folks here have ‘deamons’ that are extensions of themselves. Novel has a great cast of characters – a father who is off doing strange scientific experiments, armored bears,witches, gyptians  who have the sight, adventurers in hot air balloons, evil seductive mother, tribes that drill holes through people’s skulls and a faction ridden church. It has kidnappings, evil plot that somehow involves particle physics, prophecy and our heroine who curses her way through it all. It ends at precisely the point where Lyra has fulfilled part of the prophecy  by betraying her friend and helped her father blast his way into another world.

Book two (The Subtle Knife) introduces our hero Will, a fatherless young boy from our own world  who thanks to taking care of a mother who has gone round the bend, is wise beyond his years. Story begins with mysterious people on his tail and how he kills one and then escapes into another world where he and lyra meet. Their adventures there (and in our own) as they try to acquire the subtle knife and lyras’ altheiometer while the rest of the cast prepares for the great battle form the greater part of the book. Its here that we find out that the series is supposed to be about hte battle between evil (which is really not so evil ) and good (or God!) who really is. Book two is taut and great and when it ends I was bloody glad it was a Saturday and I had book three right next to me, else I would have run around like headless chicken trying to find it.

 And then KLPD happened. The Amber Spyglass is a fully letdown denoument for a story that began so well. Our heroine is assigned the role of Eve, our hero the role of Adam, our former nun scientist that of the serpent. God (who is supposed to be fought) has already abdicated in favour of Metatron. God disintegrates from old age (really!) and no one notices his death. The Metatron dies a little more dramatically and then the whole Adam, Eve, Serpent story doesn’t involve sex. Instead it is drawn parallel to a ‘first crush’ and crushed then and there. When I finished book I was ready to throw it across the room. Ugh!

In hindsight though – it is a gentle introduction to atheism and the many worlds concept for little kiddies. I wish my grand-dad had thought to buy me this one instead of Tom Jones the summer I was ten. I’m willing to pay it forward though – any ten year olds out there with equally wierd grandfathers – I can rescue you. Come over and borrow. Great Series!  


One response to “His Dark Materials

  1. Thanks for giving me a new list of reading material. I love fantasy and sci-fi. Have you read Julie Czernada and her “Species Imperitive” series. It is excellent but more strict sci-fi than fantasy.

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