Monday, September 03, 2007

Okay, I like The Golden Compass

I have a fair bit of the old fantasy and occasional sci-fi vein in me, stretching back to the days when Dungeons & Dragons came in a box with a thin blue rule book, and including books like Lloyd Alexander's series and the Michael Moorcock Elric novels, and of course Tolkien. But this is not a part of me that I like to acknowledge too often any more because I like to think that I have grown up or something, whatever that means. In fact, when I read Jonathan Strange & Dr. Norrell last year, I felt embarrassed to talk about it some times. I need to loosen up more.

However, so many folks have talked up the Phillip Pullman His Dark Materials series that I've always been curious, and in a hammock at the lake this weekend, I gave the first volume, The Golden Compass, a try. I have to say: it is a ripping good yarn. It has some of the problems that most books in this genre have, but it's hard to notice them as I get pulled along by the adventure of it all. I love the "daemons" and the "armored bears" and the intrigue. It's a great change of pace.

There's a movie trailer online for the film version that's coming out this fall, and though it has some big names and some money behind it, it looks, like everything has to look now, I suppose, like something trying to ride the Harry Potter coat tails. I sure hope it's better than that, though.

Who knows. Maybe I'd like Harry Potter. Maybe I should just get it all over with at once--turn on some Phish and read the HP books straight through.

16 comments:

LetsGoThrow said...

Wow.

Mindstroller said...

Dont be ashamed. There is some great writing to be found in the Fantasy genre. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is one example of great writing in fantasy, and Pullman's trilogy is incredible IMO. Finish off the rest of the trilogy, its worth your time. You might also wanna try some Terry Pratchett, but his writing is an entirely different direction. Its funny though. Glad to see you like some good fantasy

Mr. Hill said...

I expected you to take this the hardest, Throw. I know, I know.

sarahjane said...

I can't believe you wrote Phish and Harry Potter in the same sentence. Shame! I've been threatening at work to start reading "The Dark Materials," after suffering book reader's depression following the HP series. The coworkers have given me many mixed reviews on it. I'm still debating. For now I've got a few good ones to attend to, but we'll see after that.

Mr. Hill said...

I also have that Lee Gutkind ready to give you now, so add that to the pile.

nathan_fisher said...

Just as long as you don't read Eragon.

Nathan said...

Hey Mr. Hill, I'm sorry, but I must recommend the Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan. I have been really enjoying that fantasy series.

Mr. Hill said...

Okay, I'll draw the line at Eragon. In fact, I will take this moment to announce that I can accept no more recommendations for other fantasy/ sci-fi novels. I have met my quota.

sarahjane said...

Ha, you've met your quota! Yes! I'm excited for the Gutkind. I'm not sure if I was glad/disgusted to see that book on sale at Urban Outfitters. I just read the Best American Crime Reporting for this year--really good, if you're into that sort of thing. It's available for rent. Camping was canceled. See you Friday!

Mr. Hill said...

Urban Outfitters? I had no idea they sold books. I think some mix of glad/disgusted is an appropriate response to most things.

I'm sad/glad that camping got canceled so you can come Friday.

Calypso said...

HIS DARK MATERIALS ROCKS!!! Read the rest of them!! Ahhhh! Okay so I'm a bit biased because I am easily sucked into fantasy novels. But I'm really excited for the movie, and I hope they do a good job with it.

Hi, by the way! How's the new school year coming along?

Mr. Hill said...

School year's good, going quickly already, I think. I bought the other two paperbacks in the HDM trilogy, so I'll probably fit those in by Christmas, I'm thinking. Closure, you know.

Dheevena said...

Whoa. Why not Eragon? It's not that bad. Now I know you said that you aren't accepting anymore recommendations Mr. Hill, but fantasy novels are awesome and there's no such thing as a quota to reading, especially not as a lit. teacher. :D So read Eragon because its pretty good, but if you still haven't read Harry Potter, then wow. Just wow. It's not one for great language or anything (in fact Rowling kind of sucks to put it lightly) but if you can make it to the end then the plot is good. If you ABSOLUTELY can't get into those (I know HDM is one of those that's harder to live up to!) try the Abhorsen trilogy or one of Dan Brown's books like The Da Vinci Code or Angels and Demons, if you haven't already.

P.S. If you have any recommendations for me let me know!!

Mr. Hill said...

Okay, D, your enthusiasm has helped convince me to at least read the first HP book. I almost feel like it is a professional responsibility. I'll put it on the short list.

Hermagoras said...

Hi,

Just chanced on your blog.

I'm an English professor, and I'll say this: Sentence for sentence, the Pullman trilogy is one of the finest works of fantasy I've ever read.

On the larger scale, it stacks up well as serious literary fiction. The trilogy title (His Dark Materials) is taken from Milton, and the larger plot fits the conventions of epic -- there's even a voyage to the land of the dead. Each book is titled for a particular object that plays a central role, and each of these three objects is extraordinarily inventive. It's a real feat of the imagination.

Finally, the breadth, boldness, and maturity of theme makes it (I'm speaking of the whole trilogy as a single narrative) a children's book only in the narrowest and most impoverished sense. There are few books of fantasy that reach the sublime, but this is one of them.

Mr. Hill said...

Thank you for leaving the reply--I just noticed it. I think they mentioned the Milton parallels in a New Yorker article a couple of years ago, but I'd forgotten and am not familiar enough with him to have noticed on my own. Thanks for explaining that. I'm enjoying book two right now.