Book Club: His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman


GUYS! I am currently re-reading the His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman, and it is SO GOOD! So good. Have you read it before? You should read it now, regardless.

HERE'S WHY YOU NEED TO READ IT NOW: They are making a TV series about it and you HAVE to read the whole trilogy first so that you know it all.

Here are some things you need to know about this trilogy:

1) There was a movie made out of the first book (The Golden Compass) and it is by far the worst book-to-movie adaptation I have ever seen in my life. Do not bother unless you want to experience a lot of anger. If you have seen the movie but have not read the books, all I can say is that you were horribly deceived.

2) It is a retelling of Paradise Lost.

3) Part of Philip Pullman's motivation for writing it was because he noticed that in the Narnia books, the girls got kicked out of the story once they came of age. He wanted to write a series where girls and women continue to adventure through their lives.

4) If you are a science-minded person, it is possible that the way he talks about science will be annoying. It's a fantasy universe with magic-like tools and he uses vague notions of quantum physics to explain them. As far as I know, he's not wrong to do so, but it's maybe become a bit of a frustrating cliché since every pseudo-spiritual-scientist-type started using quantum physics like mystical candy. Remember that he wrote the books in the 80s, before all that.

5) The books have been burned (so to speak - I don't think there have been literal burnings, although who am I kidding? Probably someone has.) for being anti-Christian. The first time I read them I staunchly defended them against that claim pretty strongly, but this time around, I'm actually not so sure. There is a lot of anti-religious sentiment in there. If you are a believer in any religion, you should still read them.

6) The heroes of His Dark Materials are largely explorers and scientists. That's pretty cool, if you ask me.

7) The books do not offer much in the way of explanation of the world or circumstances. You jump in and go, figuring out everything along the way. It's kind of exhilarating.

8) Honestly, despite potentially being anti-religious, in some ways I think this series could be used as a wisdom myth or scripture on its own. If they were, here are some of the quotes that I would use as key verses:

“Seems to me-" Lee said, feeling for the words, "seems to me the place you fight cruelty is where you find it, and the place you give help is where you see it needed....”

“That’s what you are. Argue with anything else, but don’t argue with your own nature.”

“You have to work. Did you think you could snap your fingers, and have it as a gift? What is worth having is worth working for.”

And, to round things off, a nice quote from Pullman to stand on its own:

“If you want to write anything that works, you have to go with the grain of your talent, not against it. If your talent is inert and sullen in the face of business or politics...but takes fire at the thought of ghosts and vampires and witches and demons then feed the flames, feed the flames.”


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