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Golden Compass: 1 Paperback – 22 May 2001
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--The Washington Post Book World "Pullman is quite possibly a genius...using the lineaments of fantasy to tell the truth about the universal experience of growing up." --Newsweek Masterful storytelling [...] with a cast of instantly beguiling characters. --The Dallas Morning News "The most magnificent fantasy series since Lord of the Rings." --The Oregonian
"Pullman has created the last great fantasy masterpiece of the twentieth century. An astounding achievement." --The Cincinnati Enquirer
Once in a lifetime a children's author emerges who is so extraordinary that the imagination of generations is altered. Lewis Carroll, E. Nesbit, C.S. Lewis, and Tolkien were all of this cast. So, too, is Philip Pullman, whose Dark Materials trilogy will be devoured by anyone between eight and eighty. The most ambitious work since The Lord of the Rings, it is as intellectually thrilling as it is magnificently written. -- New Statesman Thrillingly paced and exotic [...] breathtaking. -- Columbus Dispatch "[...] a rare few have minds capacious enough to engage in vast cosmos-making, imagining realms and inventing universes. I am thinking of Dante and Milton and Blake. We may now add Philip Pullman."
--Parents Choice (online) The Golden Compass is one of the best fantasy/adventure stories that I have read in years. This is a book no one should miss. --Terry Brooks, author of The Sword of Shannara As always, Pullman is a master at combining impeccable characterizations and seamless plotting, maintaining a crackling pace to create scene upon scene of almost unbearable tension. This glittering gem will leave readers of all ages eagerly awaiting the next installment of Lyra's adventures.
--Publishers Weekly, Starred Review "This first fantastic installment of the His Dark Materials trilogy propels readers along with horror and high adventure, a shattering tale that begins with a promise and delivers an entire universe." - Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review This first fantastic installment propels readers along with horror and high adventure [...] A shattering tale that begins with a promise and delivers an entire universe. --Kirkus Reviews, Starred "The characters of Lord Asriel, Mrs. Coutler, and Iorek Byrnison and the cold and beautiful Northern setting are captivating; the constantly twisting plot and escalating suspense are riveting; and Lyra and Pantalaimon are among the gutsiest and wiliest of adventurers. Touching, exciting, and mysterious by turns, this is a splendid work." --The Horn Book Magazine, Starred "Glorious. And what an ending -- simply operatic." --School Library Journal, Top 100 Children's Novels (#28) This is a captivating fantasy, filled with excitement, suspense, and unusual characters. --School Library Journal A totally involving, intricately plotted fantasy that will leave readers clamoring for the sequels.
--Booklist, Starred review "Glorious. . . . The Golden Compass is one of those lyrical suspensions like Alice in Wonderland and The Lord of the Rings that crosses all age lines and intertwines mythologies and legends with seamless beauty." --BookPage
From the Back Cover
- Publisher : Yearling Books; 1st edition (22 May 2001)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 448 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0440418321
- ISBN-13 : 978-0440418320
- Reading age : 10 - 17 years
- Dimensions : 13.18 x 2.54 x 19.53 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 173,729 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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I couldn’t remember the Golden Compass film well, but I did suspect I’d start with the impression I’d be reading a book only for children. I was wrong on this, finding Northern Lights to be intellectually satisfying for adults, with some of the most beautiful in depth descriptions I’ve ever read (see below). I did eventually get the impression I was reading a story authored by a teacher. There are scientific elements, inventions reminiscent of the steampunk genre, and religious influences in the form of institutions and verse. There were strong themes of the promise of mental discovery and the threatening yoke of conformity. Where beliefs are a good thing, it’s in the presence of magical fantasy and wonder.
Premise of the story
Lyra is a child living in the prestigious Jordan College, though many of her habits are less than prestigious. She’s adventurous, and naughty, with a keen sense of curiosity that can get her into trouble. When all the children are going missing, the Gobblers are blamed and Lyra is determined to go north. In fact, whatever the reason, Lyra seems determined to go north.
Some of the passages of Lyra interacting with the bears were the most fascinating and engaging in the story. I did wonder how she was able to trick some of them as easily as she did when they were known for not being tricked. Did I miss something?
‘Looking up at the stone pinnacles of the chapel, the pearl-green cupola of the Sheldon Building, the white painted Lantern of the Library.’
‘Men and women are moved by tides much fiercer than you can imagine, and they sweep us all into the current.’
‘The bleakest barest most inhospitable godforsaken dead-end of nowhere.’
‘Then, with a roar and a blur of snow both bears moved at the same moment. Like two great masses of rock balanced on adjoining peaks and shaken loose by an earthquake, that bound down the mountainsides gathering speed, leaping over crevasses and knocking trees into splinters, until they crash into each other so hard that both are smashed to powder and flying chips of stone: that was how the two bears came together.’
It’s as wonderful as Harry Potter and as bewitching as Terry Pratchett, covering misfortune, tragedy, outrage, and heroism. I’d certainly feel enriched continuing with the series.
I was super impressed by the magical feeling of turning of every page, and my estimation of Philip Pullman’s writing is high. I’m confident his other books are also stellar reads!
This book is readable -- the plot is relatively pacey and, at some level I was interested to see how it turned out so I can see why others find it a good read, but for me it was completely unbelievable, and it only operated on a superficial level raising no deeper questions at all.
The author creates a semi imaginary world which just didn't hang together to me. I'll not spoil the plot by giving many further details but I suspect Mr Pullman is not a scientist so that when he uses scientific concepts such as the Aurora, or Dust it simply doesn't work. Then he mixes this pseudo-science up with pseudo religion and pseudo mythology and seem to have come up with a simple tale of a young child out to save the universe (so the same as Star Wars then!?)
One example to illustrate the lack of credibility -- Lyra and the gyptians (a few hundred people in total I believe) decide to travel to the North in a (large) boat which they charter to cross the German Ocean. They are able to do this despite the close attention of the people who are trying to catch them -- people who are super-clever, who know that the gyptians have Lyra, who know exactly where they gyptians are (in the fens) and who know exactly where they are headed. And to cap it all the gyptians are apparently uneducated canal-boat people...
My 19 year old daughter has read it an thoroughly enjoyed it so I checked the ending of the trilogy with her and was able to confirm that it wasn't going to get any better so I gave up about 200 pages in.
My daughter said Harry Potter was much better.
I myself have really enjoyed the following Imaginary/Sci Fi works which I would recommend ahead of this one: -
Foundation Trilogy by Asimov
Fahrenheit 451 by Badbury
Dune by Herbert
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Dick
Lord of the Rings by Tolkein
What did I like:
It has been a looooong time since I’ve read a book where the MC is so young, so I did find Lyra quite testing and petulant at times. I had to remind myself that I’m used to young adult or adult adult MC’s so I simply can’t hold her to the same expectation. That being said, the representation of Lyra as a character is wonderful and after a number of “she’s only a child” internal prompts & deep breaths through the first quarter to half of the book I did start to bond with the tenacious little girl and root for her. By the end of the book it was quite refreshing having the innocence of a little girl as the MC with her single minded driven attitude.
I really enjoyed the Gyptian community in this book and it was during these chapters I felt there was genuine relationship building, especially between Lyra and some of the Gyptian’s themselves. At the beginning of the book Lyra seems very disassociated with the adults in her environment with little to no true relationships with any of them but whilst she is with the Gyptian’s she builds some solid bonds with the likes of Ma Costa, John Faa and Farder Coram. I felt this was also a sound representation of community, with camaraderie, warmth and spirit.
I am an animal lover, so of course I have a soft spot for Iorek Byrnison.
The plot itself is genuinely well written and a treat to the imagination. From reading, it became quite clear why readers from so many age ranges loves this book, there is something for everyone. From all the books I’ve read so far this year this one has the most beautifully described detail that you could close your eyes and experience it in your inner eye. The level of world building and description that has gone into this book is what I think makes this novel so engaging to all ages, I’ve found with more “adult-y” books you can sometimes miss out on that detail which for me is where the magic happens. I want to immerse myself in the story.
Every part of the story flows beautifully into the next, everything had purpose. No dull, dragged out sections. I found everything progressed at a really good rate with a decent amount of action/drama. Every character we meet is diverse in characteristics and adds a little something to the story. The end definitely leads on to the next book, if I was old enough to have read this in 1995, I’d have been gutted to have to wait the 2 years before the next book comes out.
Philip Pullman is such a highly acclaimed writer, there isn’t much I can add that hasn’t already been said. His way of writing is quite unique and not a style I’ve seen replicated or similar anywhere else yet. The second and third book are patiently waiting in my wishlist to be purchased, next to Ruby in the Smoke (I borrowed it from the Library when I first read it) which I’d love to reread.
What I wasn’t so keen on:
This was an enjoyable read for me, so there wasn’t anything I really disliked. As I mentioned I had to remind myself child MC’s don’t behave like older MC’s. With my challenge for 2020 to read a more diverse range of books I will hopefully come to meet many different MC’s and not trip up on something so basic as this again.
Iorek and Lyra had a tight relationship from when they met, like there’s a connection. It was obvious what Lyra’s thoughts and feelings were towards Iorek but I’d have loved to find out his feelings towards her. Were his actions inspired by duty or genuine affection?
I’d have liked a bit more explanation in the last sections of the book as to what’s going on and why, but with end of the book the way it was maybe I’ll find out in the second book.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 7 March 2020