Thursday, March 10, 2011

"His Dark Materials" Review

سلام لكم في هذا اليوم

So out of inordinate and perhaps insufferable curiosity I read the "His Dark Materials" trilogy, by Philip Pullman.

And...despite its admittedly anti-Christian message, I actually enjoyed it. I know, I know. I'm a bad person. But it is ridiculously hard to find good, solid, well-written YA fantasy. Do you know how difficult that is? The fantasy genre came to a sudden screeching halt after Lord of the Rings. LOTR was written, and people decided they shouldn't come up with anything new. So Philip Pullman's trilogy at least has a new storyline.

So, for those of you who know nothing about His Dark Materials, let me tell you the bare-bones of the plot: Lyra is a twelve year old girl living in Oxford, England - a strange sort of England, where people have dæmons, creatures that are literally the outward expression of their inner souls. These dæmons take the form of animals, and are usually the opposite sex to their human. Anyway. Lyra discovers a secret about kidnappers called "Gobblers." They're kidnapping children and trying to sever their dæmons, hence making them impervious to Dust, or Shadows, or sraf, or Original Sin. Yeah. There's a lot more to it than that, but it could take a whole book to tell you. And it did.

In The Subtle Knife, we meet Will, the wielder of a knife that can cut portals between worlds - Lyra's world, his world, another world, all the worlds. Later we discover the knife has to be destroyed or bad things will happen. In The Amber Spyglass, the real bad guy dies, and Will and Lyra fall in love. Then have to split up, because their dæmons can't survive outside their own world for very long. Remind my little sister never to read these. She'd hate them for the ending only.

Anywho. Yes, these books are very anti-Christian. God ('the Authority') is portrayed as a bad guy - in fact, in Philip Pullman's universe(s), he's not a God at all, he's simply an angel who fooled every one else. But paradoxically, the Authority isn't even the real bad guy. In The Amber Spyglass, he's portrayed as a decrepit old man who can't hardly move, and dissolves the moment he steps out onto the ground. The real bad guy in His Dark Materials is Megatron/Enoch/the High Regent, a despot who wants to control all the worlds and kill any mortal who stands in his way. He's killed in The Amber Spyglass. In most places, however, it almost seems more anti-organized religion. Anti-Catholic Church in many places, actually. At the end, God is "dead," and Lyra and Will free all the dead people from the netherworld that was their home, and they become part of everything.

Word of warning, however - if you're not secure in your faith, if you're not ready to be challenged, don't read it. Because that's what these books will do, and I think that's what they're intended to do: completely rock your world and make you doubt. That's okay. It challenges us (or at least, it did me) to seriously evaluate "Why do I believe what I believe?" I think that's a good thing.

So, to sum up:

The pros are
  1. Original storyline
  2. Superb storytelling and detail
  3. Dynamic characters
The cons are
  1. Anti-God, more than anything
  2. Rather confusing in places, it must be admitted
Yeah. So.


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