(Mom, you may want to skip this post until you’ve read all three books.)

So here is my slap-dash review of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials books. In brief, I loved them, I thought they were great. (The Golden Compass is the best of the series, I think.) Altogether a satisfactory reading experience, all highly recommended.

I read these books specifically because they’ve been banned from my daughter’s school library for being “anti-religious.” I am considering writing a letter to the school in the books’ defense, in part because I don’t agree with banning books, and in part because the charges against the book are, I believe, way overblown.

That’s partly because the “rebellion against god” storyline is, in my opinion, the weakest and least interesting part of the book; every time the scene switched to Lord Asriel’s fortress I was immediately bored. Maybe it was because I was bored, but parts of it didn’t even make sense to me – storylines were dropped or wrapped up too abruptly, and the end was a huge anticlimax. Further, Lord Asriel himself was such an unsympathetic character that I kept forgetting that the rebellion was meant to be a good thing; when characters I liked, such as Lee Scoresby or the armored bears, announced their intention to go join Lord Asriel, my first response was, “Wait, why would you want to do that?”

Similarly, the one character in the book who openly says, “Christianity is a mistake and a lie,” feels a profound sadness about that statement; her previous belief in God had given her a sense of connectedness and belonging with the universe which she now lacked. So you certainly don’t walk away from the book feeling that atheism is a fabulous thing.

Most importantly, the major message of the book, as played out by the two central characters, Lyra and Will, is essentially that being “good” matters. The two children make their way through a terribly difficult journey and essentially “save the world” (or worlds, in fact) because they are kind, and noble, and courageous, and intelligent, and loyal, and willing to make tough choices and unthinkable sacrifices. They are fighting against not any specific god or religion, but against forces of oppression which are striving to hinder human beings from achieving peace both within themselves and with the universe as a whole.

I love these books; I will have no problem handing them to Mallory and Phoebe to read once I think they’re old enough to appreciate them.

(I don't plan to see the movie, however; I heard it was pretty awful. Also, it goes without saying, I don't think these books would appeal to everyone so, just as I don't think they should be banned, I certainly don't expect everyone to go out and read them just because I like them. I just think that those who DO wish to read them should have that choice.)


aimee said...

An excellent point. :)