Mark Jones's Reviews > The Golden Compass

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
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's review
May 13, 14

Read from May 22 to 26, 2012 — I own a copy, read count: 1

I don't really know how to react to this book... I felt nothing but apathy towards the characters throughout the majority of its pages - too many of them spoke so alike that it was quite a surprise to encounter a character with a more-varied vocabulary, and most are just bland and instantly forgettable. Not even the lead character, Lyra, seems that solid. Admittedly, this book IS written for a young adult/children's audience, but unlike, say, a Harry Potter title, I almost feel as though the book has been deliberately simplified to suit its audience. Now, the book dramatically improves after the first ~140 pages, with the introduction of the polar bear - we finally have a character that adds something interesting to the story - but then, this supposed 'deep, protective love' between Lyra and Iorek just seems wafer-thin and facile. Sorry, but that kind of shit doesn't just crop up overnight; to talk of that deep a devotion and connection (with Lyra even suddenly referring to him as "dear" at one point, bizarrely) you need more than 100 pages to develop it. Of course, this IS a child who's speaking, but still... it just doesn't feel very genuine.

Another improvement was the Bolvangar child prison-break part, which I enjoyed, and the climax with the polar bear regicide, and Lyra's chat with daddy. Yes, daddy. Now, this scene kind of redeemed the book, to an extent, because it added the depth which I felt was sorely missing elsewhere. Now, the author's decision to have Asriel as the only truly 'adult-like' character could be a literary device, and his ending exposition makes sense with consideration of the child's limited knowledge - but I think it makes the rest of the book seem hollow and bland in comparison... Could Farder Coram not have been given somewhat more 'mature' dialogue perhaps?

Okay, overall, I read this book quickly, but that's mostly because of the promise that the other two titles expand and deepen the story, but this book must stand alone as a piece of fiction, for it has been published as a separate volume to the rest of the story - and must thus be judged accordingly. You could declare the Lord of the Rings to be a single continual tale, just as you could declare the 14-title Wheel of Time series to be a continuous story, yet each is comprised of separate books, each of which can stand alone - to a degree - as a work of fiction. So, as a book, well, this is pretty crap, really. It didn't absorb me, but parts of it were enjoyable. I didn't care about most of the characters, yet somehow, I found the climax to be exciting and enjoyable. Does it contain some interesting and original concepts? Yes, but I do not agree with the praise thrown at it, and would I whip this from my bookshelf and proudly thrust it at a friend in recommendation? Nope.

Another thing that surprises me is this boycotting of the book by religious nutjobs... I mean, how bloody over-sensitive are these idiots? There is literally nothing in there that I could consider to be particularly offensive, except the re-writing of the bible... If you want offence, get a copy of the God Delusion, and let Dawkins spit in your face from (and especially with) paragraph one...

I hope that the other two titles will give me a massive U-turn in opinion, I've been told that the story improves...

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