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The Golden Compass

The first book in Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" fantasy novel trilogy.

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Possibly My #1 Favorite Book.

  • Jun 16, 2010
Rating:
+5

I first read this book at age 12, and I continue to read it and its sequels (The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass) every few years.  I do this because every time I read them, I pick up on new and ever-more-complicated thematic issues through my changing worldview.

The Golden Compass sets the stage for the course of the whole trilogy, but it could stand alone as well.  It introduces themes of power and oppression, and abuse of religious doctrine and authority.  However, it never feels preachy or one-dimensional, but vastly complex and open to interpretation.

I admire Philip Pullman's skill in creating a fantastically detailed and completely imaginable alternate reality; as well as his ability to marry a page-turning adventure with a clear philosophical point of view. His use of motifs reinforces the importance of symbolism in the plot of the book - an alternate name for the Golden Compass is "symbol reader".  The characters are layered and realistic, with motivations that are not always clear.  While there is a distinct good/evil struggle, it doesn't feel too simplistic.  

Anyone that is planning on reading this book should definitely have its companions on hand, because you won't want to leave the lushly detailed world Pullman has constructed.  Also, I am a huge fan of the audio versions of these books.  They are produced in a reader's theatre style, with very talented voice actors and well-thought out background music and sounds that enhance but do not intrude.


 

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More The Golden Compass (Northern L... reviews
review by . March 28, 2010
It is difficult to find enough superlatives to describe Philip Pullman's masterwork fantasy "The Golden Compass". Heart stopping adventure pitting good against insidious evil and weak against strong, a cast of magnificently crafted characters, compelling dialogue, a child's sense of awestruck wonder and insatiable curiosity, the heart wrenching sadness of unexpected death, a healthy serving of ultra-modern science and cosmology cleverly juxtaposed against a soupçon of old-fashioned …
Quick Tip by . February 23, 2011
It's a great adventure story in a parallel universe where people's spirits (or souls, but that becomes problematic) exist as animals outside the body. Read it as an adventure tale and it will hold the attention. If you want to read it and the series because of its take on religion, then you are likely going to be disappointed. The book also contains the single ... meanest ... act ... of ... all ... time.
Quick Tip by . January 17, 2011
Heart stopping adventure pitting good against insidious evil and weak against strong, a cast of magnificently crafted characters, compelling dialogue and a child's sense of awestruck wonder and insatiable curiosity, Unfairly characterized as being anti-Christian (in my opinion), this is a book that should be in the classics section of libraries for many, many years to come.
review by . July 04, 2010
      I picked up this book by browsing through the library and randomly choosing a book that I thought looked interesting, yet knew nothing about.  I had never even heard about the author Phillip Pullman.  This book took me on a literal ride and really made me think and even conduct some research after reading!  The author takes you through a thrilling magical adventure, from polar bears who can talk to a parrallel world city in the sky.  He develops the …
Quick Tip by . July 13, 2010
A great fantasy book. It is a good read and moves quickly.
Quick Tip by . July 05, 2010
This book is fantastic. It was great when I was younger, and it's still great now. It's a wonderfully exciting story.
Quick Tip by . June 25, 2010
Masterpiece literature. The concepts and dimensions of this book reach far beyond young adult reading. I am an adult and I am still drawn to the concepts of this book. Once you get past the Demon (daemon) aspect of this book you will love it. If you are willing to put aside old concepts of what a demon is, you will be more inclined to enjoy the book..since the official definition does not apply here.
Quick Tip by . June 24, 2010
One of the longest and most intriguing books from my youth. Couldn't put it down, powered through the trilogy within the space of a few months.
Quick Tip by . June 22, 2010
Great characters and a truly intriguing world. The (anti)religious polemic seemed heavy-handed and unfortunate.
Quick Tip by . June 18, 2010
This book has a clever premise, and the plot is fabulously fleshed out!
About the reviewer
Shannon Thorson ()
Ranked #1171
That is that and this is this, tell me what you saw I'll tell you what you missed - Modest Mouse
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About this book

Wiki

 Accompanied by her daemon, Lyra Belacqua sets out to prevent her best friend and other kidnapped children from becoming the subject of gruesome experiments in the Far North.
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Details

Author: Philip Pullman
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers, Del Rey
Date Published: April 16, 1996
Format: Originally published as: Northern lights. Prequel: Once upon a time in the North. Sequel: The subtle knife.
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