Did you ever read the Narnia books and think to yourself, "Gee, these would have been really great fantasy-adventure books if they didn't try to shove the Jesus down readers' throats like this"? Well, then His Dark Materials Trilogy (featuring The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass) was made for your heathen self.
I'm going to be honest with you; if you're easily offended by people taking another look at your religion (other than what you've been spoon fed by a man with a white collar every weekend), you are too much of a pussy to read this fantastic series. If whenever anybody says "gesundheit" instead of "God bless you" you shit your pants out of anger and impotent frustration, you are too much of a freak to read Philip Pullman's terrific tale of young Lyra Belacqua (aka Lyra Silvertongue) and her dæmon Pantalaimon as they search for soul-stealing GOBblers, fly with witches, fight alongside armored bears and gay angels, and as Lyra becomes an adult with the love of her life (Will Parry), who then attempts to team up with Lord Asriel to kill God... er, I mean, to kill The Authority. See, you probably just had a religiously-themed seizure and crapped your trousers just reading that, didn't you.
Sorry. Enough bitching about something that may not even be a concern to you. On to the review!
His Dark Materials starts out with the first book, as many series do. The Golden Compass (or Northern Lights as it's known everywhere else in the world) is all about young Lyra (a 12 year-old orphan being raised by a bunch of brainiac scholars at Jordan College in Oxford) and her phantasmagorical feats in a strange, parallel world reminiscent of our own. The key difference between our two worlds being that everybody in Lyra's world is born with their soul on the outside of their bodies (in the form of their personal dæmon — a shapeshifting being that shares a lifeforce with its human counterpart). Anyway, Lyra and Pantalaimon (her dæmon) quickly get entangled in a globe trotting adventure featuring the cold and calculating
bitch General Oblation Board leader, Mrs. Coulter, the dashing, yet cold and calculating heretical rogue, Lord Asriel, some talking armored bears, an aeronaut with a Southern twang, an almost ageless witch, and the followers of a certain religion spread throughout multiple universes. But, in order to balance things out (maybe even pushing things a bit too much in her own favor), Lyra is soon teamed up with a young lad from our own world named Will Parry. Will, despite only being 12 himself, is more of a man than most adults I've met throughout my entire life. Truly. You, yes you, reading this right now, 12 year-old Will has bigger balls and a sharper brain than you do. Balls like cantaloupes. Now deal with it.
So, everything starts out at Jordan College (we've already established that) with Lyra Belacqua (even more established). From there, Lyra and Pan are pulled into a plot to study Dust (an almost mystical particle that the Church believes is related to Original Sin), and soon meet many friends as they try to evade the General Oblation Board (an arm of the Church dedicated to fully understanding and experimenting with Dust), and the Board's insane experiments that butcher the utter shit out of children's souls in order to try and destroy the Dust once and for all. Many people and things die, quite a few are left worse than dead, and many betrayals cause others to wish death upon them for being total prats and conniving arseholes. Then we're led into book two.
The Subtle Knife takes a sharp (PUN!) turn from the reality we've known up to the end of book one. In the beginning of book two we are introduced to young Will Parry and his delusional mother who thinks she's a five star admiral in the Royal Navy and that she just discovered cheese for the first time in history (or something just as wacky). Events take place in our world, and Will must find a way to evade a group of assholic secret agents (one of whom he even manages to kill in a desperate escape from his house), and find help for his mother while he hunts down his long missing explorer father. Soon (thank God, I mean, thank The Authority!) Will finds an open window into another world, and after crawling through it he meets up with Lyra and joins her quest (not that Will's exploits by himself in his own world were boring, but at this point I was simply praying that we'd get back to my main bitch Lyra as soon as possible).
More betrayals, lots of soul-eating, and revelations the size of the Big Bang then occur, and Lyra and Will simply do their best to not only ride the trouble out, but cut (another knifey pun!) to the heart of the matter with the help of the titular, hand-held device, and its ability to slice through reality. Pretty deep shit, huh?
Then we enter book three, The Amber Spyglass. This is when stuff gets really, really unorthodox and blasphemous (for fundies). Lyra and Will continue on their quest to either stop or help Lord Asriel and find Will's father, Mrs. Coulter starts to act a whole lot less like an icy whore and actually grows a heart, the afterlife is dissected (and fucked up for eternity), The Authority's minions (angels and mankind) answer Lord Asriel's call for all-out war, and throw everything at their disposal at him, the voice of The Authority is tempted by a woman and killed by two mortals, and we spend a lot of time with a bunch of mentally retarded talking elephant creatures who roll around on wheels. I wish that last part were made up, but alas it is true. Those Snufalupagus-like Mulefa were pretty dumb, but fairly necessary in understanding the true nature of the Dust (well, we understand Dust with their help and that of a human woman who was once a nun, but who forsook the cloth for a man [hussy!]). Oh yeah, and The Authority gets killed.
Despite all this anti-church talk, His Dark Materials is an adventure book beyond all else. Keep an open mind about it — that goes for churchies and atheists. Churchies, it's just a book; don't get your metaphysical panties in a bunch. And who knows, it might actually get you to think about your religion from a different angle (which can only be healthy, as blind faith is never a good thing). Athies, don't be such dicks and constantly bad mouth something you don't like or understand. Me personally, I'm not anti-religion: I'm anti-everything if it's taken too far. Philip Pullman's trilogy here is a great read, and it pisses me off that some people won't read it because it doesn't claim that a big lion created the world and then let sacrificed his own life for some dumb kids, and then came back to life to lead us back to the path of eternal salvation. In Pullman's books, the town that's almost a paradise is overridden by soul-sucking Spectres. My point being this: It's just a goddamn book! It's not going to change anybody's mind about God, Jesus, the Devil, or anything... It's simply entertainment. Just like how the average reader reads the Narnia books and says to himself, "Gee, that was a pretty good story, now to do the laundry;" that's how you should read these books (though His Dark Materials are a lot darker, and quite a bit deeper than the 3-hour tops Narnia tales).
Honestly, THIS is what conservative Christian nutjobs are getting all tizzy about nowadays? Fantasy books? Ha!
I guess it isn't enough if their storybook isn't the number one selling tome of all time. No. Apparently EVERYBODY in the WORLD must think like them, and praise the same God as them.
Well, here's a little secret for all of you: There isn't just one God. There are at least 25 that I've met throughout my sexy, long life. And there are at least 500 Devils like me. I know, kind of disturbing, but that's how it is.
Some of the other religions out there are worshipping some of those other, non-Christian Gods, and doing it right. While others *cough* Hinduism *cough* are just worshipping air. And some of them who THINK they're worshipping a God are actually praising a Devil. It's confusing. Don't think about it too long.
This Pullman guy though, I like what he did here. I like how he tried to show a different side to both religion and the afterlife that nobody really wanted to see, but needed to hear. Think about it, what if you thought Heaven was nothing but tons and tons of virgins waiting for you and your cock to come on up and satisfy them for all eternity, while 80s rock bands played nothing but awesome love ballads all day long, and Mellow Mushroom delivered to your door and charged you only $.25 a pizza... Then, when you did die and you found yourself at the pearly gates you found out that Heaven and Hell were identical — being very laid back, with nothing ever happening, for ALL eternity — except for Heaven being on top of a big hill and Hell sitting in a valley below it... You'd be pretty pissed. Not that that IS what both Heaven and Hell are like (I don't want to ruin the surprise for you), that was just an example of how to expect the unexpected.
Not that Ah still roam around grade schools and middle schools lookin' for a lil' boy action anymore, but Ah gotta say, that Will Parry was one manly child! Ah would bone his 12 year-old ass like a great white shark suckin' down a seal. Ah would make him call me his momma while spankin' him and tellin' him that this was his "naughty medicine." Then I would suck on the stubs of his fingers while teachin' him how to use his special knife to slip inbetween MY reality... Over and over again... Oh Will, y'all such a manly boy. Just about 5 times as manly as ol' Cooter Wilkins, I'll tell you! Damn you, Cooter!... Drinkin' all my hooch, and then tryin' to sneak into my cooch... No, Tammi don' play that. Give me a carin', tough, burly preteen any day.