Tuesday, November 22, 2011
His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
I recently re-read this amazing fantasy trilogy that consists of The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass. Actually, I listened to them all as audiobooks narrated by the author and with a cast of actors playing all the characters' roles. I have listened to many audiobooks in my years as a school librarian and these are the absolute best (second place are the Harry Potter books which also are a great listening experience). It would be impossible to summarize the plot of this trilogy in a blog entry so I will just explain why I like these books so much. First of all, I love Pullman's invention of daemons, which are the physical embodiment of the soul. In Lyra's world, all humans have a daemon and it is in the form of an animal. You can talk to your daemon and cuddle up to it, but it's highly taboo to touch another person's daemon. Also, it's excruciatingly painful to be very far apart from your daemon. I love the relationships that the characters have with their daemons, and the fact that later in the series we find out that people from our world actually also have daemons. Secondly, I love the complexity of these books. Pullman has strong views about the church and what it has done to humanity that some people find objectionable, but I would argue that he has done a brilliant job of weaving his ideas into a marvelously complex fantasy world. I am in awe of the intellect that was able to create this epic story that entertains, delights, and even enrages some people. Thirdly, the characters Pullman creates are incredibly real. I would know Will Perry or Marissa Coulter or Mary Malone if I saw them on the street. In the end, a book is only as good as its characters and Pullman truly knows how to create living breathing characters, even when they are witches, armored bears, or Texan aeronauts.