Ireland was fantastic! I realize I have become semi-addicted to blogging, however, when it felt slightly strange not to connect with everyone of a morning! Didn't last too long - so much to see and do.
As I mentioned in my last post, I read to the Giri in the car. This is a longstanding tradition in my family as my mother would read to all of us on cross-country trips (actually she read to us every night at home too, so guess where my book addiction stems from?!) I suppose it made sense to transfer the story to the car, and it just never occurred to me as a child that one might not be able to read while moving. It wasn't until I was a teenager that I realized such a thing as car sickness existed. The giri suffers from motion sickness, but all things work out - he drives, I read.
In recent years we've wended our way through (among others) Susan Cooper's THE DARK IS RISING
, John Wyndham's THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS
, Michelle Magorian's GOODNIGHT MISTER TOM
, Alexander McCall Smith's THE NO. 1 LADIES' DETECTIVE AGENCY
series (we've read the first four together), J.K. Rowling's HARRY POTTER
series (again, the first four), R.K. Narayan's SWAMI AND FRIENDS
, John Buchan's THE THIRTY-NINE STEPS
, and Tolkien's LORD OF THE RINGS
trilogy (actually, the latter was read not only in the car but on transatlantic flights to and from Sydney - don't worry, we had five seats to ourselves, we're not THAT annoying - and finally made it into bedtime reading at home, because it was so exciting!).
Most recently we've completed the Philip Pullman HIS DARK MATERIALS
trilogy, and Ann over at Patternings
asks what I thought, so here goes. I recommend them, with reservations. Firstly, they are not (in my opinion) children's books, which is how they were originally packaged - teen yes, adult yes, but not children. Pullman writes well and convincingly of worlds alongside worlds - the multiverses so much under discussion in the world of physics these days. In the real world some scientists argue for the existence of multiverses with fractional differences. Could the big bang have been caused by some of these worlds crashing together accidentally? Very interesting concepts, and which most of us spend very little time thinking about. What Pullman has done is take this concept of multiverses as a given and convincingly described and explored them. What if just through this gap there is another world, almost exactly the same as yours - similar streets and names and people, even graffitti, but it is not the same...
The first in the trilogy, NORTHERN LIGHTS
(published in the USA with the title THE GOLDEN COMPASS
; I'm never sure why they do this changing titles thing), is a triumph. Exciting, well-written, with a fantastic young female protagonist. Lyra is both vulnerable and hard as nails. In her world every person has a visible daemon (pronounced "demon") in animal form. They are deeply personal and cannot be seperated from the human to whom they belong (being essentially souls). Lyra uncovers a dastardly plot to sever children from their demons to produce...what? I won't spoil the plot for you, but suffice to say this book has a real corker of a cliff-hanger ending. If I'd read the books as they were written, I'd have been huffing and puffing until the next in the series came out, instead I just went roaring out to the shops!
The second in the trilogy, THE SUBTLE KNIFE
, really develops the multiverse concept. Will, who lives in a parallel Oxford to Lyra's Oxford (like our world - no visible daemons), flees in panic and accidentally makes his way through a rip between worlds, where he meets Lyra. My favourite character, a vast armourplated bear king, features in this book too, along with witches, angels, God, and all manner of strange and entirely believable creatures. I liked this book, especially the concepts explored which held the warp and weave of the story together.
Unfortunately, I do feel Pullman goes off the rails a bit by the last book, THE AMBER SPYGLASS
. It feels a little bit like being repeatedly thumped over the head by a heavy Bible - except that it is not the Bible, but Pullman, attempting to argue what a waste of time Christianity is. I have no problem at all with him challenging religion, religious practice and blind faith, but what emerges is a stereotypical bashing, rather simplified in argument. I would have loved a nuanced attack! Instead, where the other two books in the series were driven by the story (and what a wonderful story!), the third falls somewhat flat because the story takes a backseat to Pullman trying to MAKE.BASH.HIS.BASH.POINT.BASH. Such a shame.
Despite my criticisms, do read these if you haven't already. A word of caution - you must read them in the correct order for the story to make sense. NORTHERN LIGHTS/THE GOLDEN COMPASS is wonderful. And even in the last book, the world/s which Pullman creates are fantastic and consistently believable - worth reading for that alone. And you never know, you may adore all three titles, the great thing about reading being how different all our tastes are. For those of you who have already read these, what were your reactions?
Labels: Children's fiction, general fiction