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So I finished Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass last night.

... Yeah.

[BE WARNED, THERE ARE SPOILERS.]


I'm feeling pretty underwhelmed. I was going to go to bed when I started the third part of the book but then realized I had less than 100 pages left to go and thought I'd just as soon get it over with. But I didn't keep reading because I couldn't put it down... I kept reading because I wanted it to be done.

That isn't to say I didn't like it. I was just kind of bored with it by the time it was finished. I wanted to know how it ended, but not enough to cherish it and ponder it while drifting in to sleep, savoring the suspense until morning.

The plot was interesting enough, though it was fairly formulaic and really easy to predict. There wasn't really anything profound or unique about Lyra's character, and she plodded through the story dragging the reader on a leash. There was no subtle foreshadowing. Every time a new plot point was introduced I felt I was being beaten about the head and shoulders with a cinder-block with the words "HINT! THIS WILL BE IMPORTANT LATER! HINT!" engraved in it.

I really had problems connecting with the characters. I feel like Lyra is a superfluous character in this tale instead of the main protagonist, and I don't really care enough to take the time and try to get to know her. She's almost painfully one-dimensional. The emotion in her character is almost nonexistent. In fact, in the end when she's holding Roger's body I found her lack of emotion to be appalling. Her closest childhood friend was just slain before her by her own father and she's left to hold his corpse... Lyra should have lost her shit. Instead she watches as her evil parents make out awkwardly, she drops the stiff formerly known as Roger, and then walks into the next adventure. No mourning, no trauma, just moving ever onward.

I also had a problem with some of the language. I couldn't read Lyra as being British. Whenever I read her dialogue I always got southern belle. Yeah, I don't know either.

I get that this may have been the whole "fate" thing, but it kind of bugs me that Lyra just magically knows how to use the alethiometer. She didn't really have to study it or tinker with it or fret over it like Harry had to with his golden egg. She just needed to use it and BAM! Suddenly she could. There was no triumph in riddling it out. Out of the blue she could read the darn thing, and... well... la de flippin' dah.

Faith tells me that some of the other things about this book that irritate me will be explained in the second, but I don't know if I want to read it at this point. I hate that we busted out Genesis in the last 20 pages. It's not like Genesis is a complicated piece of text that should probably be examined phrase by phrase instead of just glazed over or anything. It felt like Pullman had a crisis when he was writing the last section of the book and decided he didn't want to be Catholic anymore, damnit! And he was going to prove it to the world! SO THERE! Yeah. That's what it felt like.

I also hate some of the grammar in this book. I know you don't care, but I had to say it.

I really hate that I couldn't picture the setting when reading this book. It's so hard for me to dive in when I can't get my bearings. There were so few descriptions. It was like Eragon all over again. I didn't know Lyra was blonde until 200 pages in. I still don't know how old she is. Somewhere around 11 years old, apparently. There are cars, but we fly via zepplin. We use gas, and there's London, but there are also Arctic deserts where people cut holes in their skulls for no readily apparent reason. I just don't know.

I really hate that we have a group of people named "gyptians" who aren't Egyptian, but I'm somehow expected to not make that correlation even though we have Oxford, London, and a handful of other recognizable places in Pullman's world. There's a freaking aeronaut from Texas. If this is supposed to be a fantasy world, and not our real earth then get creative, Pullman! Don't have names like "Benjamin" and "John" when you're talking about the exotic river people who are most emphatically not from the Nile, thank you very much.


What did you think?


I think the film will be much better than the book. I think a shortened plot will suit this story well. I think that the visual medium will help capture the imagination better, because I had such a hard time getting a handle on the world and the senses. Plus, the idea of seeing ginormous CGI polar bears wearing armor and kicking the crap out of each other is pretty exciting, if you ask me.

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Comments

( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
virtuistic
Aug. 29th, 2007 03:10 am (UTC)
Totally.

The bear battle was my favorite part. I wanna see that on the big screen.


... and I always want to see Daniel Craig.

stereosymbiosis
Aug. 29th, 2007 03:12 am (UTC)
I agree completely. I'm just looking forward to seeing Nicole Kidman, lol.
virtuistic
Aug. 29th, 2007 03:26 am (UTC)
I do love me some Nicole Kidman, and I haven't really seen her in anything recently so that'll be nice.
zerohundred
Aug. 29th, 2007 03:29 am (UTC)
I remember that the first book did have me intrigued, but then again, I was probably fourteen or fifteen. I don't even remember half of what you're talking about now (lol as far as plot goes), but at this point in my life, I agree that the flaws you presented are things that generally bug me. So. I wonder what I would think if I read it again. Not that I particularly want to, especially after this, lol.
virtuistic
Aug. 29th, 2007 03:41 am (UTC)
Hah, I really wouldn't recommend it. I mean... it wasn't excruciatingly painful but it wasn't a rip-roaringly good time either. I think the movie will be dazzling, though. I hope it will be.

Perhaps I'm too used to my passionate affair with the Harry Potter books. Any book that doesn't instill that same fire in me gets judged against all those standards.
greyduck
Aug. 29th, 2007 04:21 am (UTC)
You won't catch me knocking somebody for having standards. I admit that I've been somewhat curious about the book given the impending movie (which looks eyecandyriffic), but apparently I should give it a pass. The items you mention, especially the one-dimensional nature of the so-called heroine and the "just gets it" alethiometer thing, would combine to instill a deep loathing in me for the work. And that'd be a shame, given the impending eyecandy.

I can forgive a number of flaws for a book that delivers some kind of solid entertainment experience (*cough*Eddings*cough*), but if the characterization ain't there then I ain't goin'.

I'm wholly "meh" on Harry Potter. What I judge new books against is the original Riftwar series by Raymond E Feist. The first book, Magician, is thick with the sort of fantasy-setting cliche material that makes me wince in any number of other genre titles, but Feist treats the setting with what I can best describe as an appropriate level of dignity and the right dose of humor, and after a while you just settle in for a ripping good yarn.

But anyway. It sounds like I should just watch, not read, Golden Compass. Fair enough, it's not like I have a lot of spare time lately...
boho
Aug. 29th, 2007 04:10 am (UTC)
Is this Northern Lights? If it is then from what I remember (I was 10/11 when I last read it) it was my favourite from the series, though I've still never actually finished The Amber Spyglass despite getting it the day it came out. I actually found it fabulous, but then again I was still a wee one. I really should dig it out for a reread. :\
(Deleted comment)
virtuistic
Sep. 5th, 2007 03:03 am (UTC)
AMEN.
_fitterhappier
Aug. 29th, 2007 05:57 am (UTC)
It's actually one of my favorite books, to be honest. I haven't read it in a while, though, but up until a year or two ago I've read the series two or three times a year since I was nine, and I only remember them getting better and better. The thing that I loved about them so much was that every time I read them - from when I was nine to sixteen - I would get something new out of the books, I would understand something a little bit more, I would see the big picture a little more completely. I've been meaning to read them all again. I do find it interesting that you weren't all that enthralled with them, though, because most of the people I know who've read them feel the same way as I do, and I always found them so totally engaging. But maybe eventually there's a point where you just stop feeling like any of it's relevant, I guess, and there isn't much left to understand, and I stopped reading them when I still felt I had more things I wanted to know. If that makes sense. Or maybe the only reason I still like the books is purely sentimental. But really, I do honestly doubt that - they're intended to be much more than children's books, definitely, especially with the whole religion aspect of it, so it's not like it was just some silly kid's book I still read for nostalgia's sake.
And there's my very long two cents.
notashamed
Aug. 29th, 2007 02:29 pm (UTC)
The Extremely Unorganized Opinions of ..... Me
I think it's great. It's been about 2 years since I've read Golden Compass, but I just finished The Amber Spyglass (last of the series) about a month ago. Personally, I FLEW through Compass and then plodded through book two. If you didn't like book 1, I'd say don't finish the series. You won't make it.

I actually liked the mix of real world and fantasy world stuff. For some reason that makes it seem more possible to me.

and HI. WITCHES. YOU DIDN'T MENTION THE WITCHES. THEY PWN ALL.

In conclusion, I am really excited for the movie even though I can't stand Kidman and Craig just doesn't turn my crank. Yeah, that's right I said it.
virtuistic
Sep. 5th, 2007 02:57 am (UTC)
Re: The Extremely Unorganized Opinions of ..... Me
Okay... to be honest, if I had known you don't like Kidman before now, it would have had a serious damper on our friendship.

To be honest, after this I probably won't read the others. I'm just not interested, and I think there are too many fiction faux-pas.
(Deleted comment)
virtuistic
Sep. 5th, 2007 02:52 am (UTC)
Oh my GOD.

See, this is why I hate it when some men write leading ladies. What the cock is that crap? Falling in love at 11?

I've come to the conclusion that Pullman can't write female. His leading lady is a shallow character... and a tomboy. GUH.
mattador
Aug. 29th, 2007 03:50 pm (UTC)
Well, the "gyptians" are "gypsies," but apart from that I mostly agree with you.

I do like this book, but my own unpopular opinion is that it's by far the best of the three. The other two make a lot more sense, but the conclusion they reach is... dissatisfying.
virtuistic
Sep. 5th, 2007 02:39 am (UTC)
Haha, that really makes me want to finish the series.





... PSYCHE!
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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