Monday, August 15, 2016

The Golden Compass

I recently re-read the first installment of Philip Pullman's marvelous fantasy trilogy, mostly while I was shivering next to the campfire in Yosemite. It was almost as good as I remember it. Still, it really is fiction for young folks, not old cynics like me, and I perceived a few shortcomings that I might have missed the first time, when the breathless plot carried me right along. In particular, the narrative rushes toward the end, when a reader might prefer that Pullman take his time and reveal more about some of the main characters—not their back stories, but their character. And things are sometimes a little too easy for Lyra: her clever plans work out better than one could reasonably expect. This reflects the tension in the story between destiny and agency. My taste leans toward more agency, but I acknowledge that others may differ. One thing we can probably all agree on is that together, this girl and her daemon make a hero for all time.

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