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From: Matthew Freestone <matthew@axiomatic.org.uk>
Subject: (urth) more Phillip Pullman
Date: Wed, 18 Apr 2001 21:49:53 +0100

Just to take up a few points raised:

>>His Dark Materials, and comprises three volumes:
>>_The Golden Compass_; _The Subtle Knife_; and
>>_The Amber Spyglass_.
The UK edition of The Golden Compass is entitled Northern Lights (or at
least the one I have is so entitled). The Golden Compass fits better
with the series though.
Pullman has written novels before HDM too - though I have to say I've
not read them.

(from William Ansley)
>In _The Amber Spyglass_ the whole works just blows up in your face. The 
>plot clanks; endless needless complications and characters are introduced. 
I would say that's a bit strong. Certainly the last book is not so well
controlled as the earlier ones, but I don't think all the new
complications and characters are needless by any means. I found most of
the book very satisfying - the war against heaven, the sequence in the
land of the dead. I'll give you the sections about the creatures on
wheels though - didn't do much for me.

>The characters, at least some of them, including major ones, start acting 
>unlike themselves. 
I'm wondering who you are thinking of - if it's Mrs Coulter then I have
to disagree - but I won't go any further down that route in case that's
not who you're thinking of.

>And Pullman evidently regards the success of the first 
>two volumes in the series to be a license to turns parts of the third book 
>into a virulent anti-Catholic screed (thinly disguised but unmistakable). I 
>consider myself agnostic, but this aspect of the book made me 
>uncomfortable. A certain anti-church bias is evident in the first two books 
>as well, but nothing like what comes out in the third.
Here I've got to disagree strongly - the anti-religious bias is explicit
and obvious from the start. The first book largely concerns a branch of
the church running a torture centre for children let's not forget. You
can like or dislike this, but it's not fair to Pullman to say he used
his success as a platform for his views - they were in the work from the
very start.

>In short, I might recommend this series on the merits of the first two 
>volumes, but only to someone who is not likely to be offended by a very 
>anti-Christian message. (This seems to be a real bugaboo for Pullman. He 
>apparently gave an interview some time ago in which he attacked C. S. Lewis 
>and the Narnia books, which garnered him much ill will from their fans.)
Probably the Interzone interview with Elizabeth Counihan in IZ 161
Quoting briefly, "I don't like his (Lewis's) fiction and especially
detest his children's fiction. I think his Christian apologetics are
dishonest. (...) He has some very sensible ... things to say about
writing fiction and writing for children in particular, but his work is
dedicated to propaganda in the service of a form of religion I find
poisonous and damaging."

You could reasonably argue that HDM is propaganda in the service of the
form of religion (essentially humanism) that Pullman finds wholesome and
rewarding. But it's also a good story, with interesting characters. I've
read most of the Harry Potter books and enjoyed them, but HDM is a work
on a much more ambitious level, which succeeds more than it fails imho.

It's also supposed to be based on the structure of Paradise Lost. I
haven't read that, so I can't really comment. Anyone?

(typical - my first post for over a year, and probably my longest ever,
and it's not even about Gene Wolfe!) 
Matt Freestone - matthew@axiomatic.org.uk    
www.axiomatic.org.uk  SF: www.concatenation.org  work: www.mercator.com

*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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