Okay, so it’s a little dated (the first book in the trilogy appeared in 1995 by DelRey with the third appearing in mass market October, 2001) but I just read it this year and I’m very excited about it. The three books include: “The Golden Compass”; “The Subtle Knife”; and “The Amber Spyglass”.

For those of you wishing an alternative – for whatever reason – to the insanely popular “Harry Potter” fantasies (to which Philip Pullman’s trilogy has been compared), Pullman’s tale offers a bracing change. Here’s why: even though it has very obvious fantasy elements such as magic and witches and talking bears, it doesn’t fit the traditional mold of a fantasy because it draws upon scientific knowledge and theory, which pushes it into SF. However, like other good fantasy, Pullman’s tale is also strongly interwoven in myth. Milton’s “Paradise Lost” forms the basis of Pullman’s overarching theme, woven by a rich fabric of setting and characters, each journeying toward their own sense of purpose and final destiny on this world. This is a book of great scope, unfolding, aptly, through the eyes of a child. Jordon College in Oxford is not an ordinary place for a girl; but then Lyra Belacqua is no ordinary girl, she can hear the hushed messages of truth uttered to her by the strange particles that animate her golden compass. Abandoned to the care of old scholars who know nothing about children, the little scamp runs wild through the streets of the university town, seeking adventure and not quite recognizing her yearning for “home” and love. She finds it – or it finds her – in the most unlikely place when she blunders into a vortex of danger, love, betrayal and intrigue.

And it all begins with dust. Again, not just ordinary dust, but “magical” dust. Dust that provides a gateway to thousands of other worlds. . . . As our intrepid heroine journeys through a rich tapestry of worlds, she meets and recruits the services of an amazing variety of strange creatures in her quest to uncover more of the mystery of dust and the shattering truth of its role in her own destiny. Lyra journeys first to the far reaches of the north, where strange experiments are being conducted and where she meets the formidable armored bears. As she continues on to a mysterious tropical land, Lyra meets Wil, a young boy looking for his lost father, and together they flee the soul-eating Spectors who stalk the streets. Neither is aware that their destinies lie on a collision course with the otherworldly struggle of good and evil and that their innocence will only be one of the casualties. Pullman spins imaginative and metaphorical worlds both familiar yet unfamiliar – giving us a strange but titillating sense of déjà vu. This is surely what phasing into another universe may well feel like. Pullman pulls off (pardon the pun) what few fantasy writers are capable of doing: he marries arcane SF with the lyrical elements of fantasy – the epic adventure of good vs. evil. He does this by using scientific facts and logical premises and weaves his heroic tale around them. For instance, the idea of parallel universes is not only old but very much in vogue with physicists these days. Check out the May 2003 issue of Scientific American for a good summary on this topic. While Pullman borrows His Dark Materials title from Milton, he also takes the concept of dark matter from real science. Dark matter is some form of matter theorized to exist that cannot be observed by radio, infrared, optical, ultraviolet, x-ray or gamma-ray telescopes and is theorized to be MACHOS, WIMPS, or GAS (see http://chandra.harvard.edu/xray_astro/dark_matter3.html for more info on this incredible particle). I suppose I was spell-bound by Pullman’s imaginative worlds, his sensuous descriptions and his creatively bold use of scientific concepts but it was his complex and passionate characters who captured and still live in my heart. His main character, Lyra, has learned to spin the tallest tales to get by yet she possesses the most sincere and brave heart, and her interactions with her daemen (an alter-ego, part of her soul embodied in an animal bonded with her) are touching and humorous. It is her paradoxical combination of traits that makes her both charming and sweet: she is brave yet vulnerable; enveigling yet genuine; innocent yet crafty; naïve yet wise. She personifies the child in all of us, the child who must grow up and lose something to gain something else. So we laugh with her and we cry for her. The ending of the third book, which is bitter-sweet but provides excellent closure, leaves the reader – as all good fiction should – fulfilled yet drained, and wondering about both our own personal destinies and how we fit in with the larger questions of our universe. This is a must read for those seeking compelling adventure that does not compromise intelligence for action, character and setting for pace, heart for thrill, depth for speed; and imagination for story.

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Review of His Dark Materials, Trilogy by Philip Pullman - Știință, ficțiune, fantastic și benzi desenate - Imagikon: 5.0 out of 5 based on 1 reviews.