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Review "The Golden Compass" by Philip Pullman (podcast)

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Review "The Golden Compass" by Philip Pullman (podcast)

Postby ryanseanoreilly » Mon Dec 19, 2016 9:42 pm

A tale told by a crackling, comforting fire while the bitter northern winds gust dangerously against the window panes outside.

This book starts a bit slowly at first, but then kicks up into high-adventure and keeps this pace to the end. Pullman’s writing is very good and he manages to capture a perfect voice for the main character of Lyra as she negotiates this strange world populated by anthropomorphic soul-animals, witches, ghasts, and armored bears.

In reading this book, I felt reminiscent of the that sweet, nostalgic tone achieved by C.S. Lewis in “The Narnia Chronicles.” Perhaps this is simply due to the omniscient point of view in which the narrators guide one along in these comparable fantasy works. There is something comforting when you feel as if a story is being told you by a dear old friend while at the same time you’re being truly immersed in the narrative. That is a subtle art in which the author must carefully balance the use of the narrative voice so as not to feel intrusive or too expositional. I think there is something in the human psyche that responds to this mode of storytelling that harkens back to our ancient oral traditions.

The work is not particularly a “Christian” one, even though I am mentioning The Narnia Chronicles which are more overtly Christian in their telling. Pullman does draw on the dogma, practices, history and teachings of the Christian Religion to create his fantasy world and also to better illustrate what is happening and drive the plot along. However, unlike The Narnia Chronicles, the institutional nature of religion plays a much bigger and more nefarious role in The Golden Compass. That being said, this particular tale is not overly caught up with this theme. During some portions the religious aspect is missing altogether—though I admit that it does make up an important part of the book. So in essence, I am saying that however critical this book might be toward the institutional aspect of religion—it is not solely concerned with that point.

The world created by Pullman feels rather unique, even though it is a secondary world not unlike our own (in many ways). He devises a magical system utilizing a special dust-like substance; and souls that live outside the body in animal forms called daemons. This feels very authentic and manages to be quite delightful. Probably the strongest and most developed part of the book is the relationship Lyra has with her own daemon.

Other elements of the story come flying in as Lyra (the protagonist), takes up her quest to deliver a magical item to a far off and dangerous land. She meets interesting, fun and compelling characters all along the way. My only gripe is that at times, these non-player-character-types seem to drop on and off screen as needed. So too, does the adventure seem to proceed along one step at a time. The feel of this story is that as the protagonist progresses, the author foreshadows the next event, a challenge is overcome and the protagonist advances to the next level. A bit mechanical—not exactly contrived, but somewhat stilted. The writing is really great and the plot has a lot of fun and interesting elements that leave you anxious to see things through. There is just something a bit….in the background…missing... Perhaps it was the dropping away of secondary characters without a lot of follow through on their individual subplots? But, maybe that would have just slowed things down? I’m not sure.

All in all, I have no real problems with this book. It’s very well written, a great read and I’d definitely recommend it and am curious to read more. Mainly though, the author has a great voice for his story telling and that is what really pulls you in.

Podcast: If you enjoy my review (or this topic) this book and the movie based on it were further discussed/debated in a lively discussion on my podcast: "No Deodorant In Outer Space". The podcast is available on iTunes, Tune-In Radio, Stitcher, Google Play Music, YouTube or our website (http://www.nodeodorant.com).

Episode Link: https://nodeodorantinouterspace.wordpress.com/2016/12/19/review-the-golden-compass-philip-pullman/
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Re: Review "The Golden Compass" by Philip Pullman (podcast)

Postby Ariel » Tue Jan 10, 2017 10:23 am

Read this quite some time ago and really enjoyed it!
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Re: Review "The Golden Compass" by Philip Pullman (podcast)

Postby ryanseanoreilly » Wed Jan 11, 2017 8:38 pm

Did you read the rest of the books ? Does it all end satisfactorily?
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Re: Review "The Golden Compass" by Philip Pullman (podcast)

Postby Ariel » Mon Jan 16, 2017 11:54 am

Sadly, I don't get to read as much as I used to. I prefer a printed book to reading anything online, but time is limited. I have baskets and shelves full of books, many waiting to be read. Right now I have a book from a friend who Authored a book and I must finish that one. I did see the movie though and enjoyed that. Hope you are well! :)
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Re: Review "The Golden Compass" by Philip Pullman (podcast)

Postby ryanseanoreilly » Mon Jan 16, 2017 7:26 pm

Ha! I know the feeling. My to-be-read pile has grown too high. Too many good books to check out and not enough time to read! (I also prefer the feel of a "physical" book, but the ebooks are convenient--if nothing else).
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Re: Review "The Golden Compass" by Philip Pullman (podcast)

Postby WisconsinSFfan » Tue Feb 07, 2017 6:56 pm

The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass are also both very good. I read the series as they first came out and re-read it recently. I definitely have a different interpretation 20 years later. There's a thickness to the prose and the story that's very satisfying. I'm not sure the way it wraps up would work for everybody, but it works for me.

Nice review, ryanseanoreilly.
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Re: Review "The Golden Compass" by Philip Pullman (podcast)

Postby ryanseanoreilly » Tue Feb 07, 2017 8:48 pm

Cool. That's good to know!

Thanks for your thoughts.
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Re: Review "The Golden Compass" by Philip Pullman (podcast)

Postby johntaller » Sun Jul 30, 2017 1:14 am

HI
Read this quite some time ago and really enjoyed it!

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Edited by Bmat... Sorry, only established members may post off topic links.
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Re: Review "The Golden Compass" by Philip Pullman (podcast)

Postby Ariel » Thu Aug 10, 2017 9:54 am

johntaller wrote:HI
Read this quite some time ago and really enjoyed it!


Yes, an interesting story! Welcome to S,V. John!
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Re: Review "The Golden Compass" by Philip Pullman (podcast)

Postby Max » Tue Aug 22, 2017 12:30 am

I read the books, because Emma Watson promoted them. They weren't too bad - but they weren't, "good," per say. I think dust has a relation to death, but I could be completely wrong about that. Didn't appreciate, "The Magisterium," neither.
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