Monday, January 14, 2008

His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman

Biography : Philip Pullman was born in 1946 in Norwich, England. All along his childhood, he travelled a lot in Australia and Zimbabwe. Today, he teaches at Oxford's University. Most of his works are intended for a young public, but he also writes for adults, and he adapts theatrally famous literary works. He won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award with his series His Dark Materials.

exhaustive bibliography :

* Sally Lockhart Series :
The Ruby in the Smoke (1985); The Shadow in the North (1986); The Tiger in the Well (1991); The Tin Princess (1994)

* His Dark Materials Series :
Northern Lights / American title : The Golden Compass (1995); The Subtle Knife (1997); The Amber Spyglass (2000); Lyra's Oxford (2003)

* The Broken Bridge (1990); The Butterfly Tattoo (1992); The Haunted Storm (1972); Galatea (1978)

* Illustrated children's books : Aladdin and the Enchanted Lamp (1995); Clockwork, or All Wound Up (1996); Count Karlstein (1991); I was a Rat! (1999)

* Other children's books : The Scarecrow and His Servant (2005); Thunderbolt's Waxwork (1994)

* Plays : Frankenstein (1990); Sherlock Holmes and the Limehouse Horror (1992)

Want to know more about Philip Pullman? Here


His Dark Materials - Northern Lights / The Golden Compass

Genre : Science Fiction - Young Adults

American publisher : Laurel Leaf : 7,50$

English publisher : Scholastic : 6,99£

Synopsis : Lyra Ballacqua enjoys a peaceful existence with her daemon, Pantalaimon, in Oxford's Jordan College. There she lives among scholars and play with the Jordan boys against the Gyptians. Until one day she discovers the existence of Dust and Roger, her best mate, disappears with lots of other children. She 's sent to live with Mrs Coulter, but before leaving,the Master of Jordan College gives her an alethiometer, an instrument which tells you the truth. For Lyra begins an adventure, the greatest adventure. After escaping Mrs Coulter, she decides to go North with the Gyptians to save all the children abducted by the Gobblers who lead terrible experiments. There Lyra will save Roger, with the help of her new friends, Serafina Pekkala the witch, and Iorek Byrnisson the armored bear and the Gyptians, led by John Faa and Farder Coram. But she'll also find ennemies, her own parents : Mrs Coulter, a horrible woman and Lord Asriel who chases Dust and discover a path to other worlds...

His Dark Materials - The Subtle Knife

Genre : Science Fiction - Young Adults

American publisher : Laurel Leaf : 7,50$

English publisher : Scholastic : 6,99£

Synopsis : Will wants to protect his mother, but after killing a man, he has to run away and he discovers a strange window over the grass. Going through, he discovers another world where he meets Lyra and Pantalaimon who have cross the bridge built by Lord Asriel. But in this world, the Specters eat the soul of grown-ups. Only the one who possesses the Subtle Knife can be protected. After a fight where he loses two fingers, Will becomes the new bearer of the Knife which enables him to open windows on other worlds. Together they will unknowingly walk toward their destiny, making new allies as well as more ennemies on the way...

His Dark Materials - The Amber Spyglass

Genre : Science Fiction - Young Adults

American publisher : Laurel Leaf :7,50$

English publisher : Scholastic : 6,99£

Synopsis : Lyra and Will decide to go and help Roger. For that they have to go to the world of the dead. They go their own way without realising taht they are at the center of the greatest war of all time. In another world, Mary Malone a scientist from Will's world who tries to help Lyra, makes the acquaintance of a new intelligent people, the Mulefa. And thanks to them, she builds an amber spyglass which enables her to see Dust. And what she discovers is very alarming, because Dust is running away. She has to find a solution to this problem. Will Lyra, Will and Mary play the role they were born for?

An extract : "Will could hardly watch. Lyra was doing the cruelest thing she had ever done, hating herself, hating the deed, suffering for Pan and with Pan and because of Pn; trying to put him down on the cold path, disengaging his cat claws from her clothes, weeping, weeping. Will closed his ears : the sound was too unhappy to bear. Time after time she pushed her daemon away, and still he cried and tried to cling.
She could turn back.
She could say no, this is a bad idea, we mustn't do it.
She could be true to the heart-deep, life-deep bond linking her to Pantalaimon, she could put that first, she could push the rest out of her mind-
But she couldn't.
'Pan, no one's done this before', she whispered shiveringly, 'but Will says we're coming back and i swear, pan, i love you, I swear i'm coming back-I will-take care, my dear-you'll be safe-we will come back, and if i have to spend every minute of my life finding you again, I will, I won't stop, I won't rest, I won't-oh, pan-dear Pan-I've got to, I've got to...'
And she pushed him away, so that he crouched bitter ans cold and frightened on the muddy ground.
What animal he was now, Will could hardly tell. he seemed to be so young, a cub, a puppy, something helpless and beaten, a creature so sunk in misery that it was more misery than creature. His eyes never left Lyra's face, and Will could see her making herself not look away, not avoid the guilt, and he admired her honesty and her courage at the same time as he was wrenched with the shock of their parting. there weree so many vivid currents of felling between them that the very air felt electric to him.
And Pantalaimon didn't ask why, because he knew; and he didn't ask whether Lyra loved Roger more than him, because he knew the true answer to that, too. And he knew that if he spoke, she wouldn't be able to resist; so the daemon held himself quiet so as not to distress the human who was abandoning him, and now they were both pretending that it wouldn't hurt, it wouldn't be long before they were together again, it was all for the best. But Will knew that the little girl was tearing her heart out of her breast."

What I think : His Dark Materials is an excellent book, but not for too young children. Here is an adventure story, with heroes who can travel through different worlds and go out always safely from dangerous fights. But there is in this series an important theological reflection, about the eventual existence of God and Destiny. The origin of the original sin. And naturally the conscience of Humanity.

Moreover, I find Pullman's skill extraodinary to manage to lead his story with different elements, complex or almost insignificant, all linked together, but their true meaning appears only as the end approach.

There are also some things which I just loved, like the idea of the daemon. I'd really like to have an external daemon like Lyra has. But ours is inside us and we can't see them unfortunately. There is the Mulefa who I'd like to meet too.

But, because there is a 'but', I was a little disappointed by the outcome. Indeed, I had the impression that he was in a hurry to finish it all, and after arousing so many questions, theological and philosophical, we don't really see where he intended to lead us in the end. From the beginning he talks about Dust, but finally we have no answer about where it comes from and if the problem is really resolved. And a few points which appear not really significant for the central intrigue are let in suspense.

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