Friday, August 10, 2007

golden compass

The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman
The first book in the His Dark Materials series was published in 1995 and a movie version will be released in theatres in early December.

Lyra Belacqua lives at Jordan College in Oxford among the learned scholars but with very few playmates of her own. Luckily she has her demon, Pantalaimon, who accompanies her everywhere, changing shapes to resemble different animal. Lyra can't remember her parents, who both died in an airship accident. Her closest human friend is Roger the kitchen boy, and they make mischief and fight with the other children in town.
Lyra's uncle Asriel visits the college, and would have been poisoned is Lyra had not been spying on the professors in their private rooms. He asks her to eavesdrop on another meeting where she learns about dust, the strange mystical particles that fall from the sky, and of her uncle's travels in the far north. Around the same time in Oxford, children are disappearing, rumored to be taken by Gobblers. Lyra is frantic when her friend Roger is missing and she determines to travel with Pan to the north to find Roger and the other children. Before she can set off, a charming woman named Mrs. Coulter arrives at the college and takes Lyra on as her assistant. On the morning Lyra leaves, the Master of the college gives her a small golden compass in secret, an Alethiometer. He tells her that the device will tell the truth, but she must learn how to read it.
Uncertain of who to trust, Lyra faces adventure and danger, but she continues to search for Roger and travel north as she discovers more truths about herself, her family and the Gobblers.

This is a wonderful novel and I am looking forward to the movie. The one thing that alwasy disappoints me in series is when the story just seems to stop at the end, when I can tell that much more is going to happen. Phillip Pullman does a great job of hooking the reader and making us care about his characters, particularly Lyra and Pan. The book has many themes -- family, coming of age, physics, philosophy, religion, friendship, adventure - and would be highly discussable. Although the series is marketed to teenagers, adults would certainly enjoy the story as well, and some parts are quite descriptive and mature for younger readers.

I listened to the excellent full cast unabridged audiobook recording from Listening Library, and I highly recommend it. Having the action and characters brought to life through voices and sound effects made the story much more dramatic and suspenseful.

Watch the movie trailer from New Line Cinema. (This is the same company who created the Lord of the Rings films.) Read all three books in the His Dark Materials series: The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass.

I checked it out and listened. 10.5 hours.


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