27 December 2007


At my request, my mother-in-law got me a copy of Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass as a birthday present.

(Yes, dear readers, even with my best attempts to ignore it, my 33rd birthday has come, and mercifully, gone.)

I read the book quickly, in just a few hours. I must say, I'm utterly mystified. First, over the hype about this being a great book. Terry Brooks is quoted on the back of the paperback as saying, "The Golden Compass is one of the best fantasy/adventure stories that I have read. This is a book no one should miss." With all due respect, I disagree.

Which is not to say that I didn't enjoy it; it was all right. I hate to say this, though...I've honestly read better stories that were written as fanfic. And I don't venture into the fanfic world except under duress.

Next, I'm confused by the fanatics and crisis-mongers who have been screaming about how this book is all about the death of Christianity. Really? 'Cause I just don't see it. He writes about how a super-powerful Catholic Church is a dangerous thing....it ought to come as absolutely no surprise to regular readers that I happen to agree. A Church having power over every facet of society.....hmmmm....isn't that why we believe so strongly in the separation of Church and State? Balanced governance and all that? The founding fathers were deeply religious, deeply Christian religious, folks who nonetheless did not want even their church to have that much power.

To me, it seems more as if Pullman is warning about a return to things like the Spanish Inquisition, or the Salem Witch Trials. Nothing in my upbringing or background suggests to me that we ought to be terrified of what the Church is going to do next, that we should be locking up our children so they aren't snatched by the Church in the dark of night.

Fearing a higher power, and fearing her/his incarnation on earth just aren't the same thing. I know many sects of Christianity teach that we should be god-fearing peoples. Sure, fine, I understand that, even whilst disagreeing with it. (I'll spare you all the feminist rant about how fearing god is just another way the patriarchal society we live in attempts to keep us all obedient to a particular set of...um. Right.) But we ought not fear the place where we worship. Or the leaders of those places. Their power should not be so that we fear to speak against them, or feel that we need to tread lightly around them.

Another idea that he touches on that tugged at my heartstrings more than anything else in the entire story was the fact that children were disappearing, and these children were, in the eyes of those in power, disposable. Poor children, from poverty-stricken homes. Working class kids, Gypsies, homeless children. Take them for your experiments, no-one will notice. They don't matter. Ouch.

I would have not ever picked up this book if it hadn't been for the hysterical e-mails I got on the subject. I would have stuck with the vampire trilogy I've been immersed in for a couple of months {Stephanie Meyers, Twilight, New Moon, and Eclipse, all very captivating} or picked up a few other things that are on my more serious list of things to read, like The Kite Runner, or even Eat, Pray, Love, something one of my atheist sisters read and found interesting.

Now if you truly want to lose yourself in another fantasy world, check out Charles deLint, or Melanie Rawn, or Anne McCaffrey, or Tolkien......


silver said...

Love when I read something that sounds like my voice. I must remember to blog more.

Have you read George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series?

Lucy Arin said...

yes, I have.

(Hi, BTW, and thanks for your comment!)

I liked the Song of Ice and Fire until (spoiler alert!) he killed off Rob Stark, and Brianne (sp?)Maid of Tarth. Then I was really irritated. Well written, though. I haven't finished the final one in the series yet...I think it is A Feast for Crows.