Watkins ... provides a readable and fun way into the theological and philosophical questions, while showing integrity towards the stories themselves. -- David Wilkinson, author of The Power of the Force: The Spirituality of the 'Star Wars' Films
Watkins has provided some excellent analysis that will be insightful to new readers and long-time fans alike. -- Bridge To The Stars (His Dark Materials fansite)
an assessment that is smart and wisely restrained ... solid, substantially sourced, and well-written analysis -- Publishers Weekly, 15 March 2006
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
From the preface:
His Dark Materials is one of the most engaging stories Ive ever read it instantly drew me into its magical world and I quickly came to love its cast of vividly drawn characters. I found the gripping plot almost unrelenting in its demand that I keep on reading. The power and scope are quite simply breathtaking, and it seemed inevitable to me that His Dark Materials would become a huge influence in popular culture. But with such depth in the issues with which it grapples, and with such a range of sources from which Pullman drew inspiration, it was also clear that it would not simply become a bestseller but would also stimulate endless discussion. And it combines so many of the subjects I love literature, physics, philosophy and theology that I could not sit back and let other people contribute to the growing discourse without pitching in myself. There are already two very helpful books on Philip Pullman and His Dark Materials by Nicholas Tucker and Claire Squires [others have been published since Dark Matter: A Thinking Fan's Guide to Philip Pullman was published] but I am coming at Pullmans work from a distinctively different perspective from them. I am unashamedly a fan, but I also take issue with Pullman on the question of his attack on God and Christianity.
In the chapters that follow I want to help you to understand and appreciate Pullmans work more fully, and also to analyse his underlying ideas and worldview. I do not assume or expect that you share my own Christian perspectives, but I do believe that its helpful for all fans of Pullmans work Christian or otherwise to understand a Christian perspective on it. That does not mean there is an obviously Christian angle right through this book, nor that it is consistently negative. And I am not presenting this book as the definitive way in which to read Pullmans work so I dont expect you to agree with everything. As Pullman himself says:
The last thing I want to say is you've got it wrong. Because then you enter a kind of fundamentalist mode where you're saying you've got to understand it this way, not that way . . . that's dreadful. People are at perfect liberty to find in my story whatever they want to find and I wouldn't dream of saying to someone they've got it wrong. I'm just very flattered and happy that lots of people are reading my books.
In Part One I, I look at some of the background to Philips writing: the things that have shaped Pullman himself; his career as a storyteller, including a brief look at his other work; and the major influences not just on His Dark Materials but on his wider thinking. In Part Two, I look in more detail at the narrative world of Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass, and Lyras Oxford, to try and tease out some of the key strands of the story. In Part Three I look at some of the big themes and issues that play a prominent part in the story: dæmons and the whole business of growing up; the nature of Dust and its connection with original sin, the Fall and consciousness; truth and integrity; and finally the Church, God and the republic of heaven. Theres also an appendix on two aspects of the science which Pullman weaves into the story my background as a physicist couldnt let that opportunity pass by.