Three more books down, I am stupidly proud of myself today. I have never thought of reading as an accomplishment before, but checking the books off of a list gives me a weird since of purpose for my reading. I am not just reading, I am doing self guided learning.
His Dark Materials Trilogy- by Phillip Pullman
The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass
Where did I get the book and how many pages?
I ordered this book online through Amazon. (I know, boycott Amazon for using negotiation tactics that hurt authors. I’m firmly in the middle on all of this, and Amazon is so easy.) I thought I remembered ordering a book set, but ended up with a 933 page monstrosity with all three books in one. It is convenient to have them all together, unless you actually want to carry it somewhere.
Have I read this before?
No. I thought I had heard nothing about this series and then I realized there was a movie based on the first book. I haven’t seen it, but I’m pretty sure I own it.
What did I already know?
Absolutely nothing. Ok, I knew there was a movie, and I assumed there was a compass, knife and spyglass, but that was it.
What do I think now?
I liked it.
During the reading I learned this had once been banned for religious reasons. I have to admit, I am against banning anything on religious reasons, just as a matter of principle. Someone else’s beliefs shouldn’t dictate my actions, or my reading. I could see where there may have been some religious ire going on; the church of this book was definitely a bad guy, and I could see parallels to large religious organizations. Author confirmation of the intentional tribute does not help anything. However, it is a work of fiction. Yes, fiction can effect our view on the world, but I don’t think it would do the large scale damage to religious institutions that some people may believe it could do. Churches have been going strong for so long, I think they have a little more staying power than that.
If a person is not offended by the anti-church statements of the book, there is a lot to like. There is travel between worlds, there is love, there is loss, there is companionship, there is family, there is hatred, there is fear, and there is fighting for what you believe. There is so much going on, so much about all these different worlds to tell, and so many small details included. A story like this could be easy to mess up, but when it is done well, it is amazing.
Books like this both make me want to write fantasy and make me terrified that I could not ever do it. I’ve worked with outlines to help me keep track of timelines and information; this would likely be an entire wall in my house covered with people, events, and colored strings connecting them all. It would look less like storyboard, and more like a serial killer tracking wall used to catch the killer by an old school cop with an obsession. Of course, if it works as well as this does it would be worth it.
I was a little disappointed by a few things towards the end. Keeping spoilers to a minimum, I liked the way the final battles went on, but there was a bit of a relationship thing that I felt was very abruptly begun and not completely comfortable considering the age of the characters. It wasn’t bad, just not exactly as I expected. Eh. It happens.
Should you read this book before you die?
There is a part of me that wants to always agree with the list, but I’m not sure I can. I think this was a great work of fantasy, and I am glad I read it. Reading fantasy is a great way to learn about writing in general. For non-writers, I think reading fantasy is a great escape from reality, that somehow manages to teach about humanity at the same time. Magic is such a representation of human desires; if you could do anything, what would you do, how would it change things, and of course, should you do it?
All of that said should you read this specific fantasy? If you can handle fiction with religious fantasy, this is a great example of the genre. If you are going to spend the entire time complaining about the religious undertones, don’t bother. There is plenty of great fantasy out there, including other books on this list. Yes you should read a great fantasy novel (or set of novels) but it should be one you can appreciate, not one that will offend you. Don’t waste it.
I’m already onto the next book, cruising through Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. This will be followed by The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Happy Reading Everyone!