Wild Things: YA Grown-Up discussion

Fantasy/Sci-Fi > His Dark Materials Trilogy

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message 1: by Allison (new)

Allison (inconceivably) I am just reading this trilogy by Philip Pullman for the first time right now! Loved The Golden Compass, I am just starting the second, The Subtle Knife, today.

What does everyone else think of them?

message 2: by Becky (new)

Becky (beckyofthe19and9) I really loved The Golden Compass (or Northern Lights as it's originally called in Britain), and loved The Subtle Knife, but I think that The Amber Spyglass moved a wee bit too slowly for my liking.

That said, they are all genius books. I enjoyed them when I read them, but think that they actually grow better on further reading and reflection.

message 3: by Jackie (last edited Apr 28, 2009 12:53PM) (new)

Jackie (thenightowl) These are probably my top fav books for YA. I agree they are genius books. Very creative in the way serious subject matter is presented. I also really loved Lyra's character and the idea of daemons. It left me wondering what mine would look like.

message 4: by Allison (new)

Allison (inconceivably) Jackie wrote: "These are probably my top fav books for YA. I agree they are genius books. Very creative in the way serious subject matter is presented. I also really loved Lyra's character and the idea of daemons..."

I know, I want a daemon!

well...perhaps just a chore boy...

message 5: by Becky (new)

Becky (beckyofthe19and9) Yes... Pantalaimon was my favorite character, with Will being second and then Lyra, even though she was the "main" character.

I won't give anything away, just I felt like my heart was ripped out when they made their decision at the river crossing. I bawled like a baby. Allison, if those pages are still dripping, I apologize in advance.

message 6: by Allison (new)

Allison (inconceivably) Becky wrote: "Yes... Pantalaimon was my favorite character, with Will being second and then Lyra, even though she was the "main" character.

I won't give anything away, just I felt like my heart was ripped ou..."

oh yes, Becky sent me her wonderful Dark Materials omnibus in return for my Gemma Doyle trilogy. Do we know how to trade or what?

*ignoring river crossing remark*

message 7: by Kristen (new)

Kristen Harvey | 1046 comments These books are the reason I started reading YA fantasy like crazy... not much more to say on that topic. If you haven't read them, you should.

message 8: by April (new)

April (booksandwine) | 312 comments Allison wrote: "Jackie wrote: "These are probably my top fav books for YA. I agree they are genius books. Very creative in the way serious subject matter is presented. I also really loved Lyra's character and the ..."

Me toooooooo. Daemons all around!

message 9: by Becky (new)

Becky (beckyofthe19and9) I wish I had a daemon. I think mine would be a cat. Loves: sleep, play, boxes, dark corners and quiet. ;)

message 10: by Becky (new)

Becky (beckyofthe19and9) Fiona wrote: "Yeah, I'd love a deamon. I'd probably have a germ."

You would not... You'd be something cute and innocent that has really sharp teeth but doesn't use them.

message 11: by Becky (new)

Becky (beckyofthe19and9) Fiona wrote: "A toothy canary? "

Umm.. I don't know... I was thinking of bunnies. They have sharp teeth but are so docile!

message 12: by Allison (new)

Allison (inconceivably) Fiona wrote: "Have you seen Monty Python and The Holy Grail?"


message 13: by Becky (new)

Becky (beckyofthe19and9) Fiona wrote: "Have you seen Monty Python and The Holy Grail?"

Yes... A long time ago... Why? Is there a sabre-toothed bunny in it? LOL

message 14: by Becky (new)

Becky (beckyofthe19and9) Fiona wrote: "Yes."


message 15: by April (new)

April (booksandwine) | 312 comments The killer bunny scene is most excellent! My favorite scene though is a tie between the knights who say Ni! and the peasants in the field. I quote that movie all the time. "Help help I'm being repressed" "What are you going to do? Bleed on me?"


message 16: by Becky (new)

Becky (beckyofthe19and9) I'll have to watch that again then. I don't remember that part but I do remember the "Knights who say Ni" and the coconut making their horse-trotting noises.

message 17: by Catamorandi (new)

Catamorandi (wwwgoodreadscomprofilerandi) I guess I'll have to put these books on my TBR list also. They sound fascinating.

message 18: by Kristen (new)

Kristen Harvey | 1046 comments They are spectacular fantasy adventures that literally take you worlds beyond. *sighs* Love them. If you like audiobooks, I hear they have full casts of voices for all the books as well.

message 19: by Kristen (new)

Kristen Harvey | 1046 comments You mean the movie? It was pretty good...

message 20: by Becky (new)

Becky (beckyofthe19and9) Oh, you know, I was just thinking about The Golden Compass the other day. In an odd connection, I was listening to Lisey's Story by Stephen King, and there is a part where Lisey is advised not too look too long at the aurora borealis because it was implied that there are other worlds in it, almost close enough to touch. That just reminded me of this.

message 21: by Kristen (new)

Kristen Harvey | 1046 comments I think that would be better than the movie. Most definitely.

message 22: by Kate (last edited Apr 28, 2009 10:29PM) (new)

Kate (kathrynlouwca) | 120 comments I got through half of the first book and then I got swamped with school work and I had to quit. I really liked them, though. I will have to try them again!

message 23: by Becky (new)

Becky (beckyofthe19and9) I pronounced 'daemon' as demon as I was reading. I thought of it in the same was as Aegean (E-gean) and Aesop (E-sop).

I don't know why, but I thought the adding of the "A" back into the word lent it a sort of historical value, like we have all had daemons (or souls, if you prefer) since time began. In our world, however (the one that Will apparently comes from), our church has simplified the word and made it a bad thing.

This wasn't alluded to in the books at all, but just what I thought as I was reading it.

message 24: by Eden (new)

Eden (tsalagi_writer) | 265 comments I've read The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife and thought both were amazing. Right now I am reading The Amber Spyglass and so far the book is just as great as the other two.

message 25: by [deleted user] (new)

I just finished this series and loved them! That last one wasn't as good, but still very interesting. For the last 2 books, I listened to the audiobooks because of my little "eye issue". That audiobooks were fantastic! All the different voices helped me get into the characters a little more! :) They were awesome.

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) I just reread The Golden Compass the other week. Still a fantastic, five-star read.

message 27: by Laura (new)

Laura I quite enjoyed the books - thought the movie they did of The Golden Compass was awful.

I actually did a paper for a graduate literature class about the treatment of female characters in YA lit and had a whole section on Lyra. =)

message 28: by Lydia (new)

Lydia (loverofinformation) | 596 comments I'm in the middle of The Golden Compass, for the challenge, and I must admit I'm having a bit of trouble staying involved. The foreshadowing is really heavy and is probably making me impatient. Also, I'm not quite sure I like Lyra.

message 29: by Malcolm (new)

Malcolm Walker (malcolmwalker) Ah, the movie. Well that's what happens when you extract the spine from something, it tends to fall in a heap on the floor. Pullman's whole point is that he's taken Milton's Paradise Lost, reshuffled the deck and pointed out the Church - and by the church I mean a kind of theoretical all encompassing body - as being responsible for a great deal of wickedness in the world. Pullman makes no bones about it: he's an atheist. I think the powers that be in Hollywood decided it was all to politically controversial and just went for the dumbed down version. Their loss; we've still got the books and I don't think Pullman's going to sanction any follow ups.

message 30: by Lydia (new)

Lydia (loverofinformation) | 596 comments Malcolm, really? That is what this book is about? I can see part of what you way, but not all of it. Does Pullman state he is an atheist?

I don't believe we need to believe in any particular religious beliefs to appreciate the world, but it is apparent to me we need to investiage various religious doctrines to appreciate certain historical aspects of life.

When I finished the Golden Compass, I was simply reading a story (maybe it's the English major in me) and started to appreciate the plotting, storyline, conplexities and the protagonist -- who I really did not like when I started the story. I also really disliked the descriptive style. But now, I really want to read the rest of the trilogy.

message 31: by Malcolm (new)

Malcolm Walker (malcolmwalker) I agree with BunWat, they do stand as a series without necessarily delving too deeply into the whole nature of authorial intent, after all the reader does interpret the work. I was really responding to the film of the book and film industry itself, particularly Hollywood, which tends towards conservative views and standpoints when it comes to audiences, especially in America I think.

message 32: by Malcolm (new)

Malcolm Walker (malcolmwalker) Indeed! I think that Pullman, for all his avowed atheism, has a very strong handle on the metaphysical traditions (otherwise why use Milton as your starting point?) and on a particular kind of humanist spirituality that seems a little akin to Buddhism to my mind. The very fact that the children in the story are having their souls severed from their bodies and that in Lyra's world the soul is represented by a daemon seems to me to reek of a metaphysics. You won't find me disagreeing on this one. You've made some very good points.

message 33: by Lydia (new)

Lydia (loverofinformation) | 596 comments Bun Wat and Malcolm, I don't think the book (I'll be taking up the rest of the series eventually) represents an atheistic philosophy, but I must admit the concept as the church as the purveyor of evil/wickedness is particularly intriguing. In my eyes, this book is pointing its finger at "the church as an institution" rather than the particular theologies and philosophies it purports to endear and proselytize.

message 34: by Carol (new)

Carol Littlejohn (carol50) | 12 comments I've only read the first book in the series, but my son read all of them. (He's in his twenties.) He told me the plot and I gasped, "But I thought he was an atheist! This sounds more Buddhist to me." He said, "I know. I thought so, too." So I agree with BunWat and Malcolm that his books are metaphysical in their themes. That doesn't sound atheistic to me. He obviously believes in a soul.

message 35: by Lydia (new)

Lydia (loverofinformation) | 596 comments Question: Would this book have worked without the focus on children?

message 36: by Heather (last edited Oct 11, 2009 10:46AM) (new)

Heather Bree (blackdotbug) Lydia wrote: "Question: Would this book have worked without the focus on children?"

I think part of the central point of the book is the interpretation of "growing up." I think the church hooks on to the concept of "sin" and in its controlling and dogmatic way tries to eradicate the dangers of sin by severing the soul away before it becomes self-aware. They make a huge deal of perfecting the process before the daemon has a chance to settle into one form. That, to me, represents self knowledge in exactly the same way eating the fruit did in the garden of eden. So I think the age is crucial the way this story is told.

message 37: by Malcolm (new)

Malcolm Walker (malcolmwalker) A comment for Lydia and Carol: Hi, we're on really tricky ground here; on the the one hand you have the author, on the other the text. Pullman has clearly stated that he wrote 'Materials' as a response to C S Lewis's Narnia series and the fairly obvious Christian symbolism in those books. So yes, Pullman is attacking the church as institution in the books but then you also have his comments about Christianity and the belief in Christianity. Which brings me to my second point and to Carol's comment about his 'obvious' belief in souls. This is where it gets tricky given my previous comments about Pullman's comments on Lewis. You see you can't always trust - like many other people - an author to tell the truth as they see it, either in their books or in conversation. We make things up. Which might mean - and I'm not saying this is the case - that Pullman doesn't believe in the concept of the soul but rather that he had to write it in for the books to make any sense and to have the required drama. One would like to believe in authors but they're (including myself) just as fallible and contrary as any reader.

message 38: by Carol (new)

Carol Littlejohn (carol50) | 12 comments Thanks, Malcolm. Your point is well taken, Maybe Pullman doesn't believe in the concept of the soul. Just because it appears to be in his text doesn't mean that Pullman is necessarily advocating a soul. Thanks for the insight!

message 39: by Malcolm (new)

Malcolm Walker (malcolmwalker) Yes, Heather's point is a good one. I think you're right about the innocence/ignorance dichotomy. And on that point, if we take the daemons, which are animals, as the soul then you could start arguing that some animals are regarded as more sexual than others or that animalistic tendencies are construed by most religions or social conditioning to be in need of careful monitoring and restraint. I suppose the ultimate in restraint is to remove the animal. Maybe that's the symbolism that Pullman's pointing at?

message 40: by Lydia (new)

Lydia (loverofinformation) | 596 comments Bun Wat, I think you are mistaken that the Oblation Board only took children who would not be missed. After all, it was the taking of the gyptian children which resulted in the search party.

For me the key was the board took children who they felt belonged to the segment of society that was not valuable -- kitchen children, gyptians (can we say gypsies?). This creates an interesting dichotomy since Mrs. Coulter is Lyra's mother -- she set up her own daughter in a position to entice these children who belong to a "lesser" segment of society.

Now that I know Pullman was an acknowledged atheist, I certainly understand why my daughters had such a hard time with the series. They read it at a time when they were very involved with organized religion.

message 41: by Lydia (new)

Lydia (loverofinformation) | 596 comments I can't help but wonder if I should have paid more attention to the various forms the children's daemons take -- if there was something there.

Oh, one more point -- having lived in Alaska and traveled the northern region extensively, I am truly impressed by Pullman's knowledge. He really describes the atmosphere extremely well.

message 42: by Lydia (new)

Lydia (loverofinformation) | 596 comments Gotcha, BunWat! I thought this was a particularly interesting aspect of the culture which Pullman creates.

message 43: by Malcolm (new)

Malcolm Walker (malcolmwalker) The animal angle only occurred to me when I was writing it. This is what is so useful and enlightening about these kinds of discussions. Bun Wat, have you read any Jack London?

message 44: by Becky (new)

Becky (beckyofthe19and9) I remember really wishing for a daemon myself when I read these books.

I think mine would probably be a cat.

This conversation is very interesting... I think one day I may have to re-read the series again, as this is making me remember it in a different light.

message 45: by Malcolm (new)

Malcolm Walker (malcolmwalker) Yes, me too, but so long ago it feels like the deeps of time. A great nature writer though.

message 46: by Heather (new)

Heather Bree (blackdotbug) Something's been bugging me about this animal/souls thing with the daemons. One of the things that kids w/ daemons seem to do in this book is test the boundaries of their connection. The daemon runs off and you have to see how far away you can get before the pull becomes too much to bear. And then there's the witches, who can travel far far away from their daemons without those kinds of consequences. What does that say about the connection we have to our souls and our desire to test how far away from it we can move?

message 47: by David (last edited Oct 14, 2009 04:28PM) (new)

David (primemover) I loved these books. The first time I re-read them, I sat in stunned silence for several minutes. I re-read them about once a year, and find new things in them each time.

I think that the message about the apple being a metaphor for growing up interesting, but not particularly relevant to our Oxford. ;)

However, I agree with the message about the church suppressing things that are good and happy.

message 48: by Lydia (new)

Lydia (loverofinformation) | 596 comments Heather wrote: "Something's been bugging me about this animal/souls thing with the daemons. One of the things that kids w/ daemons seem to do in this book is test the boundaries of their connection. The daemon run..."

Heather, I felt a kind of conflict when Lyra's daemon flew over the sea and boat after they had been confined and then when the connection was being tested in front of the bear, the distance seemed to be so much closer. Maybe I was reading imprecisely again or something.

I would definitely be a witch and be able to have my daemon continue to change throughout my life. :>)

message 49: by Becky (new)

Becky (beckyofthe19and9) Lydia, I think you're right - I remember thinking something similar. It did seem to be worded in such a way that Pan had more leeway on the ship than he did whenever they would test it. I seem to recall it being something like 10 feet when they were testing, but it definitely had to be more than that for him to fly with the ship, or even swim next to it.

Although, maybe "testing" created its own kind of barrier. Knowing that it will hurt to be separated by a certain distance would inhibit me, and would make me want to lessen the separation - but maybe when they were on the ship, they weren't thinking about the fact that it would hurt, and were just having fun and new experiences, and in doing so, realized (but maybe not consciously) that their boundaries weren't as limited as they thought because they weren't waiting for the pain?

Just a thought. :)

message 50: by Malcolm (new)

Malcolm Walker (malcolmwalker) This business of distance is interesting in that traditional shamanic cultures don't see it as being a problem for the soul to travel great distances. I think this might simply be a writer's ploy. If Pullman's daemons could travel any distance they could be used to spy and could gather information, which would, I believe, have changed the whole shape of his character interactions. I had a similar problem in The Stone Crown with mobile phones ... don't laugh, I know they have absolutely no soulful qualities - but when you want characters, teenagers, not to be able to conveniently convey important info in a world where they're never without these devices they can be a right royal pain in the arse ... that's the phones not the teenagers ... although they're often not far behind.

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