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Topic: His Dark Materials?

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Subject: His Dark Materials?
Date Posted: 11/8/2007 4:05 PM ET
Member Since: 9/25/2007
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I've heard the stirrings of controversey about His Dark Materials. I've not yet read the trilogy but I've been wanting to, even before I knew there was a movie coming out.

For anyone who has read it, a) are they worth reading and b) is there anything controversey-worth about them?

Thanks!

Date Posted: 11/8/2007 5:22 PM ET
Member Since: 2/7/2007
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Umm, well, I can see where they would cause controversy. I read the 1st and last one. (Yep, I skipped the middle one, it was unavailable.) The first one was ok, but I HATED the last one. I think I am one of the few who did, though.

Heather B.

Date Posted: 11/8/2007 6:22 PM ET
Member Since: 1/17/2007
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Last Edited on: 1/17/09 6:35 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 11/8/2007 10:15 PM ET
Member Since: 10/29/2007
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I know a guy who said they were awesome.

How's that for a vague review. Secondhand, even.



Last Edited on: 11/8/07 10:21 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 11/9/2007 8:36 AM ET
Member Since: 1/31/2006
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I've been telling people not to bother reading this series since it was first published.  I read the first book and tried to read the second and I really disliked them.  I compare the series to looking at a painting by Dali or Bosch; I understand that there is some artistic significance in there, but it isn't an enjoyable experience.  (BTW-I think Greg's review was pretty much dead-on.)

Date Posted: 11/9/2007 9:20 AM ET
Member Since: 9/25/2007
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Thank you all! And not that I'm unappreciative of the rest of your responses, but I'm especially thankful for Greg's well thought-out response. I'll still probably read them, but I won't make any extra effort to get them.

Oh, and Meghan, your Erasmus quote is one of my favorites, too.

Date Posted: 11/9/2007 2:40 PM ET
Member Since: 5/2/2007
Posts: 57
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I absolutely loved the series.  Strangely enough the girl that gave me the set is Christian and she adores it too.  I will cherish the series for years to come, I found it wonderful.

Date Posted: 11/9/2007 3:23 PM ET
Member Since: 11/8/2006
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Ever see the Matrix movie trilogy?  The first was great, the second enjoyable, and the third kinda like, wow this is getting a bit long, much more bizarre, and more difficult to fully get.  His Dark Materials rather evolves like that.  I liked THE GOLDEN COMPASS and will see the movie without a problem.

Date Posted: 11/9/2007 3:50 PM ET
Member Since: 4/20/2006
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I've been wondering about this series too.  I could care less about the controversy, although that has certainly sparked my curiosity.  The movie preview just doesn't look that interesting to me, so I don't know that I would care about the books.  Guess there's only one surefire way to find out.....

Date Posted: 11/9/2007 10:08 PM ET
Member Since: 1/18/2007
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I read the first one but I just didn't like it, so never bothered with the others.

I won't go and see it at the movies, although the screen play will probably be completely different to the book.

Date Posted: 11/10/2007 11:50 PM ET
Member Since: 9/26/2005
Posts: 4,490
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Let me tell you, I worked in a middle school that went to hearing over this series.   We had a dad of a kid in the building at that time say that  he had heard from someone else that this book had anti-Christian writing so should be banned from the school library.  Had he read it?  No.  Had his kid read it? No.    Does our librarian read every book in our library? YES. 

 

Anyway, I felt like I needed to read it to show my support...here's what I found.  The book is probably OK, but it's definitely written at a very high level for kids.  It's not all anti-religion and I don't think that was the point of the book(s) either.  It wasn't my cup of tea, but I bet some folks probably really like it.

Date Posted: 11/11/2007 9:13 AM ET
Member Since: 5/19/2007
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I loved this series, and remember thinking, after finishing "The Golden Compass"....."What's all this fuss about Harry Potter?" 

As to the controversy:  I like Greg's take on it all.  It's not just about "Let's kill God" or whatever the email says that is currently circulating feverishly around the country.  It reflects a huge disappointment with organized religion, which I personally share.  Pullman's web site has some interesting interviews archived, if you want to read his words.

I've also heard he was influenced by Milton's "Paradise Lost", but I've managed to avoid reading that throughout my educational career, so I can't comment on that aspect.

 

Date Posted: 11/12/2007 8:52 PM ET
Member Since: 1/4/2007
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Philip Pullman is my favorite living author. The His Dark Materials trilogy is excellent. it is definitely for a mature readership and i can see how some religiously conservative people might be offended with the idea of God ("The Authority) as just being the first angel  to come into existence and proclaim himself as the Creator. The main point of my post is to second Vicky's suggestion to check out pullman's website. it has many fascinating essays on writing, education, art, literature, storytelling, envinronmentalism, etc.

http://www.philip-pullman.com/

Also, if you're not interested in fantasy, Pullman also wrote some great YA Historical Fiction that are modeled after Victorian penny dreadful novels (The TIn Princess, and the Sally Lockhart trilogy) as well as more modern stories like The Broken Bridge and The White Mercedes.

Date Posted: 11/12/2007 9:57 PM ET
Member Since: 8/12/2005
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I just started reading The Golden Compass yesterday, and I'm about a third of the way through. I will admit I was prompted to read it by the "Golden Compass - Anti-God?" thread on the boards, although the trilogy has been on Mount TBR for some time.

I'm enjoying the book so far as an intriguing, exciting adventure story. We'll see what happens once I reach books 2 and 3.

Date Posted: 11/13/2007 9:00 AM ET
Member Since: 9/25/2007
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I think I'll have to put at least The Golden Compass on my Christmas list, but now my main motivation for that is the possibility of being influenced by Paradise Lost. Milton is my superhero. :D

I, too, think that the Harry Potter "scandal" was ridiculous, and I too share this generation's disappointment with organized religion. Doesn't mean I'm not a part of it, but I've been disappointed.

The incident with the school having to go to a hearing because someone said that he heard something bad about it DEFINITELY brings to mind the absurdity of the Harry Potter scandal. I haven't actually seen the anti-God email; I've just heard that there was controversey, not what that controversey was.

I'm also inclined to think that any new fantasy book, unless written by Christians, will be condemned--especially if it begins gaining popularity. But maybe that's part of my disillusionment.

I'm very much enjoying reading everyone's replies!

Date Posted: 11/13/2007 10:08 AM ET
Member Since: 8/4/2007
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I don't think that this is the same thing as the silly controversy about Harry Potter books (which was absurd).  I recently read an article on the Urban Legends reference site about Phillip Pullman's Golden Compass.  (For anyone not familiar with this website, they research the Urban Legends and are pretty trustworthy as far as getting the facts straight.)

Evidently, Phillip Pullman is a professed atheist and this children's series intentionally has strong anti-religious themes in it.  There are no direct references to Christianity but broad hints.  The impression I get is that he thinks all religion is evil and would like to wipe any religious thought out of kids heads.

I would not voice an opinion since I have not read the books, but when the author himself says this is what his books are about...

http://snopes.com/politics/religion/compass.asp

(...you're not paranoid if they really are out to get you...)



Last Edited on: 11/13/07 10:15 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 11/13/2007 12:30 PM ET
Member Since: 8/12/2005
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Pullman has the right to write anti-religous books, just as parents have the right not to buy them for their children or to take them to see the film. What bothers me is the hysterical tone of many of those writing against the movie, i.e. This is an athiest Hollywood conspiracy to get parents to take their kids to the movie and then cluelessly buy the books, so their children become mindless, God-hating drones.

Was "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" a conspiracy by Disney Pictures to get athiest parents to take their children to the movie and buy them the books, in an attempt to turn them into Christians?

I roll my eyes at the notion that "The Golden Compass" movie was watered down in an attempt to ensnare children in athiesm (rather than to make the movie more palatable to a wider audience in order to make more money.)

I knew long before the movie was announced the books had some anti-religious themes, even though I had not yet read them. That fact could be easily discovered with a little Googling.

After seeing the trailer, the movie does not strike me as an all-ages film anyway. It looks too scary and intense for youngsters.

Date Posted: 11/13/2007 1:04 PM ET
Member Since: 9/25/2007
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As much as a fantasy author's uncreative and unoriginal view of "any organized religion" may be, I think I have to go with Felicia on this one... Hollywood doesn't make movies to bait books--they make movies to make money. Very interesting, though. Thanks for the link, Diane--it certainly is good to hear the author's words on a book.

Date Posted: 11/13/2007 4:21 PM ET
Member Since: 1/17/2007
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The key to this and all similar controversies is the fundamental error people make in conflating the term "religion" with the term "God", and in equating either with "The Church" -- note the capitals. It's a knee-jerk reaction but it misses the point. "God" is whatever God is. Religion is an attempt to experience whatever God is. But whatever god you believe in, that god may have created Man, but that god did not create The Church. Man made The Church, all Churches. So by definition The Church stands between Man and God. This is either a good thing: you find your faith fits with the tenets and structure of a given Church -- or a bad thing: you find your faith speaks differently to you. (Of course, even The Churches can't get along with one another: what more do you need to face the fact that Man created them?) Anyone may have a quarrel with "The Church" without having a quarrel with "God" or "religion" -- and by definition, that quarrel is with Man.

Personally, I suspect that whatever God is, God is experienced individually by individuals, each in some measure, large or small, unique. How many of Man's problems are rooted in an insistence that there must be rules by Man governing the experience of God -- exclamation point/question mark...

Last Edited on: 11/13/07 4:34 PM ET - Total times edited: 1

Date Posted: 11/13/2007 4:50 PM ET
Member Since: 8/4/2007
Posts: 162
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Hmmm...seeing the replies to my post, I think I want to clarify my position on this. 

First, I do not necessary share the opinions expressed in the original post quoted on Snopes.com.  I don't think the Golden Compass movie is a plot to draw kids and mold them into "mindless, God-hating drones."   I agree that movie producer's agenda is to make money and, hopefully, create a worthwhile movie.  I really don't even take issue with the movie.    But just because the movie isn't part of some grand conspiracy doesn't mean that the author of the original book wasn't trying to influence his reader's way of thinking.  That is what authors do and Phillip Pullman admitted it himself.  It is only natural and there is nothing wrong with that. 

Noone is saying to burn or ban Pullman's books (or at least no sane person is saying that or should say that).  However there is nothing wrong with telling people what to expect before they buy the books, whether it is for themselves or for their kids to read.  People have a right to try to instill their own beliefs in their children while they are young.  And if the books are anti-religious in tone, is there some reason we shouldn't say so?   It seems like there is a double standard with freedom of speech and religion.  

Personally, it really irritates me when I sense an author is trying to push his own opinion on me in a fiction book, whatever that opinion might be.  It takes me right out of the story.  I am a Christian, yet I generally don't have a problem with reading material that is opposing in views.  But if a book has an agenda, I prefer to know that going in.  I hate feeling like an author is trying to shove their opinions down my throat or sneak them in there.   And if I had young kids, I would like to know that the book my child is reading is trying to influence them.  Then as a parent I could decide what to do with that knowlege, how to best respond. 

 Lastly, everyone is free to express their own opinion, but that doesn't mean I have to listen to someone trashing my religion.  Everyone is free to express their own opinion, but I think it is just tacky to attack anyone's religion.  Sharing your own beliefs is a good thing, but attacking someone elses' belief says more about the person making the attack than it does anything else.



Last Edited on: 11/13/07 5:06 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 11/13/2007 5:39 PM ET
Member Since: 8/12/2005
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Diane, just to clarify, I was saying in general what I thought of the emails chronicled by Snopes, not responding to you personally. If the emails were going around saying, "Be careful, this may look like a fun fantasy movie, but it's based on controversial material parents may not want their children exposed to," then I'd have no problem with it. Of course there's nothing wrong with people knowing what to expect before they see the movie or read the books. I just find the knee-jerk reaction of "athiests are out to target our children" laughable.

I can't comment on the whole trilogy yet as I'm only about halfway through the first book. I hope to have read all three books by the end of the week. So far, I think The Golden Compass is worth reading because it has been an intricately plotted, imaginative fantasy-adventure story. The Magisterium in the book bears some resemblance to the medieval Catholic Church, with different administrative bodies in place of a Pope. There have been passing references to saints, priests, confession and so on. One of the agencies of the Magisterium has been kidnapping children to use in unspecified experiments on Dust, a mysterious, microscopic particle. That's all I know so far. I don't feel the author is trying to push any beliefs on me, but I have heard books 2 and 3 become much more heavy handed. I'll comment more when I've read the whole trilogy.



Last Edited on: 11/13/07 6:01 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 11/14/2007 12:28 AM ET
Member Since: 9/26/2005
Posts: 4,490
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To clarify....our school went to hearing over this series LONG before the rousing email controversy and movie deal.  It's been about a year and a half since we had the hearing and that was actually about six months after the complaint had been filed.

BTW, our district won....the books are still on the shelves for individuals to choose or not choose. 

Date Posted: 11/14/2007 10:04 AM ET
Member Since: 9/25/2007
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Yay, I'm glad the district won!

Diane, I was responding as Felicia was, to the Snopes article. My apologies--I should've specified. I too am a Christian, and while I recognize that there is a double standard concerning, as you put it, the freedom of speech and religion, I'm frustrated when Christians try to "fix" it by applying an equally double standard. (The most immediate example that comes to mind is the outcry over the opening Congressional prayer being performed by a Hindu.)

That is what I was responding to in the Snopes article, not to you. I fully agree with pretty much everything you said.

I may just have to read the books to find out, but I wonder--is the author's bent against the church any different than Hollywood's usual pokes at religion? You know, having the overzealous homicidal priest or a similarly priggish and unhelpful religious figure? (They're in everything from The Corpse Bride to the infamous Da Vinci Code) If not, why has this particular book drawn all this antagonism?