Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Golden Compass

I didn't know anything about this book before I saw previews for the movie. It was being compared to The Chronicles of Narnia, but other than that I didn't really show an interest in it. A few weeks later, on one of my long commutes, I picked up a random newspaper to read on the bus and there was an interesting article. Its basic statement was that Christians were up in arms about the movie because the author of the book is an atheist and the movie's plot revolved around the idea of killing God. Add to that that movie's target audience is children and young teens.

I have to admit that this perked my interest. I am definitely not an atheist, but the idea of someone who writes a fantasy book that is seemingly very anti-church intrigued me. What was more interesting though is that I later found out the producers of the movie actually played down the anti-religious sentiments in the screen adaptation. I guess they were afraid of what an overtly anti-religious movie's effect would be on viewers. In just seemed contra to what one would thing Hollywood's position is. I'm not an authority on the subject, but I wanted to read the book and understand what people were saying about it for myself.

All in all, the book is quite good. The action moves fast and keeps you reading to find out what happens next, and a whole lot happens. The protagonist is Lyra, a young girl with a destiny. The setting is Earth, but there are subtle differences such as each person having a dæmon which is a personal pet of some sort that acts a conscience and friend. One of the major plot points revolves around how people are connected to these dæmons. The girl is reckless, spirited, and intelligent, almost to the point of disbelief. She is able to resolve situations that were it not a fantasy book, I would think they were impossible for a small girl. I also thought that some parts of the book the reader is given to little knowledge to understand what is going on. Even when the characters are answering some of the mysteries in the book, I still found myself not quite getting it. This may be intentional as there are two more books in the series; so much is probably left to be explained.

I'll probably watch the movie now to see what differences there are from the book and how they've portrayed some of the underlying concepts. It will be interesting to see how far the sequels go and if the movies continue to down play the anti-religious views or if they begin to embrace them.

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