One of my colleagues has just loaned/given me Northern Lights, the first in the Philip Pullman series. It was made into the movie the Golden Compass with Nicole Kidman. I think there were aspirations it would be like the Harry Potter Franchise – fantasy novel turned huge breadwinner movie series.
It’s probably just as well I’ve been given the first book as I haven’t properly watched the movie – the large golden monkey freaked me out, like a massive yellow baboon and I find those things scary. (Actually, I have a low concentration span for fantasy movies although I quite enjoy the books, I find movies tend not to live up to what is occurring in my head.)
I’ve already read the second book and am more than halfway through the third. In which they keep referring to adventures from the first book which is both annoying and confusing as I haven’t read it. This would probably be more annoying and confusing if I was someone who liked chronology. Fortunately I’ve learned to treat books in the same manner as television series. That sometimes you miss an episode or five within a story arc but you have to be completely thick to not grasp the overall picture. So I just read backwards while reading forwards at the same time. (I also tend to skip around within a standalone book if I get bored and read the bits I missed later when I’m more awake.)
I told my colleague it’s probably best we don’t give the trilogy to her friend, who, very late in life (like I’m one to talk, reading Pullman now), has started the Harry Potter series. He’s also deeply religious and even more than the Narnia series I think he will find these books somewhat disturbing. They definitely call into question the concept of a greater universal God and an eternal afterlife in which you are still you, although the concept of your soul free in a Buddist sense is underlying.
Similar to the Alvin Maker series (for many ideas are really reinvented ones), they query whether man is really able to distinguish between good and evil -whether, in fact, we get distracted by what appears to be power and shiny white light like magpies searching earthly treasures. The concept is that blind faith in shiny creatures who talk with silvered tongue leads to zealot crime and murder under the guise of religion and salvation.
Personally I do not think reading literature such as this should serve as an argument for or against religion. If your beliefs are in fact strong enough, they should withstand and indeed welcome your reassessment of them.
I do find the fact that books such as these do downplay the need to try live a good life towards others. The lead characters tend to feel they need to maximise how their lives will touch other people but there is the idea that it is this life that matters and you should really be enjoying it here, today, if you are not a special hero character. And I think the world could do with more people paying it all forward. But then again, aren’t we all special in our own eyes?
All in all however, I have enjoyed the last of the trilogy as it did bring about some new twists and ideas within a somewhat jaded fantasy genre where a lot of people do just reinvent what happened before. It’s gone better than book number two did which dragged a bit when I first picked it up (I did better the second time round). It’ll be interesting to see how book one goes.