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Dark Matter: A Thinking Fan's Guide to Philip Pullman (Thinking Fan's Guides) [Paperback]

Tony Watkins
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

22 Sep 2004 Thinking Fan's Guides
Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy is rightly acclaimed as a modern classic. Pullman creates alternative worlds that fascinate and delight, and has built up a loyal army of readers. He has been described as the 'most significant', but also the 'most dangerous' author in Britain. Who is Philip Pullman, and why have his books provoked such a wide variety of strong opinions?

Tony Watkins explains what makes His Dark Materials such a magnificent work of fiction. He explores the influences that shaped Pullman's writing and the major themes of the trilogy, including daemons, Dust and Pullman's perspective on God.

This UK edition includes an index.

Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Damaris Publishing (22 Sep 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1904753035
  • ISBN-13: 978-1904753032
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 13 x 0.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,302,248 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Tony Watkins is a speaker, writer and editor, working mainly with Damaris, which he joined as it launched its pilot phase in 1996. Tony's main responsibility is as Managing Editor of Culturewatch.org, but he writes for a wide range of online and print contexts. He has a busy programme as a speaker in the UK and elsewhere. In January 2010 he became Adjunct University College Lecturer at Gimlekollen School of Journalism and Communications in Norway. Tony also discusses new film and DVD releases twice weekly on UCB UK radio.

Tony is married to Jane, and they have three boys. They live in Southampton, UK, and are members of Above Bar Church. Jane works part-time for the church as the Children's Co-ordinator, and Tony is involved in preaching and leading a home group.

Product Description


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 I’ve 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 Pullman’s 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 Pullman’s 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 it’s helpful for all fans of Pullman’s 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 Pullman’s work so I don’t 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 Philip’s 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 Lyra’s 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. There’s also an appendix on two aspects of the science which Pullman weaves into the story – my background as a physicist couldn’t let that opportunity pass by.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
After reading Philip Pullman's 'His Dark Materials' trilogy I was left with a thirst to find out what makes Philip Pullman tick. Tony Watkins has quenched this thirst with his brilliant book. Tony Watkins has interviewed Philip Pullman to discover more about the beliefs and values that run through 'His Dark Materials' and finding out about these not only enhanced my enjoyment of the trilogy, but also led me to a deeper understanding of Philip Pullman the author. I would recommend this book to anyone who would like to understand more about the view of the world Philip Pullman has, especially his beliefs about physics, philosophy and theology. I don't agree with Philip Pullman's perspective, but I found the process of analysing his beliefs helped me develop my beliefs about this fantastic world we live in more fully.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Thinking Fan's Guide for Thinking Fans 13 Mar 2011
As with the books in the series, this book examines world view assumptions surrounding hugely popular works. Watkins is a Christian who writes in an analytical manner which lays out the key issues, helping your understanding - whether you agree with him or not.

Philip Pullman's Dark Materials trilogy was a great commercial success. The engaging stories draw you into a magical world. Yet Pullman seemed to step deliberately into a world of controversy about "killing God" (Pullman's own words).

Thinking fans will want to explore this further. If you are one, or just curious, I strongly recommend Watkins' book to help you think through the issues. Myself, I found it very helpful.
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8 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not What It Says On The Tin! 24 Oct 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The title of this book is really misleading. True, Watkins explores Phillip Pullman's ideas - but his perspective is firmly rooted in his role as a Christian polemicist. For `A Thinking Fan's Guide', read `A Christian Critic's Guide'. This book is published by the evangelical Christian 'Damaris Trust', of which Watkins is a member. So be warned: unless you want to waste your hard-earned cash on a polemical Christian defence of The Authority and The Magisterium, look elsewhere for useful background material to Pullman's excellent trilogy.
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