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. Books > Reviews


Golden Compass/Subtle Knife/The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials)

New Age Harry Potter

The "His Dark Materials" trilogy is written like the unsuccessful love-child of the Celestine Prophecy and the Harry Potter books. I just read that the author is an atheist, but that seems odd since the core of this story is New Age hokum. While the Catholic Church is a den of the most horrid iniquity and the Christian God turns out to be a senile Alzheimer's patient (though power-mad and wicked before senility arrived), even the "physicist" finds honesty and guidance in the I Ching. Witches, angels, herbal remedies, divination, auras... you get the idea. One of the main characters (Lyra), even has a portable wigi board-like device called the altheiometer that she consults throughout the books to find the "truth."

In this Age of Aquarius, the World of the Dead (literally the underworld) sections are the most painful reading. When Will and Lyra find the solution to the misery of these poor dead souls, it's so silly and uninspired I couldn't imagine what the author was thinking.

By the third book, the characters have become cardboard cutouts that can change their essential natures as quickly as the "dust" wind can blow them. And the ending-oh, the ending! Abandon hope all ye who exit here...

I can't say that this trilogy is a complete waste of time. The first two books were mostly fun (although sometimes preachy) and I generally liked both Will and Lyra. By the beginning of the third book, however, I had to start skimming to keep myself awake.

Be aware that for "young adult" fiction, this book is particularly gruesome with graphic torture, murder, dismemberment, and (essentially) cannibalism.

Dan Rahmel
Author: "Nuts and Bolts Filmmaking"