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on 30 April 2007
Phillip Pullman's "Dark Materials" triology are the kind of books that you simply must read if you are a science fiction fan, or if you just like well-written books... You don't have to be a teenager to enjoy them, but you need to have a big imagination in order to thoroughly enjoy them. If that is the case, go on reading this review...

The "Dark Materials" triology takes place in a world similar to our own, that is at the same time very different. In that world, each person's soul can be seen, is called a "daemon" and takes the form of an animal. The daemons of children change their appearance constantly, but once the children become adults, their daemons choose only one form. Pullman's alternate world has other differences, too, for example the fact that it has different kinds of magic, and that witches and armored bears coexist with human beings. The result is that the world he builds is exotic, strange but at the same time familiar.

On the negative side, the writer also plays with an institution we are familiar with, the Church, using its name but leaving behind its essence, in order to talk about a world ruled by tyrannical ecclesiastical authorities. I didn't like that, and probably you won't like it either, but keep in mind that this is a work of fiction, and as such, its purpose is to entertain, not to be taken seriously. All the same, if you think your sensibilities will be offended, or that you won't be able to separate reality from fiction, don't buy this book. You will be losing a lot, though.

Regarding the plot of these books, the main character is an orphan girl named Lyra, that lives in the Jordan College of Oxford. Her life involves no more responsabilities than playing in the grounds (and roofs!) of the College, and making mischief with her friend Roger and her daemon, Pantalaimon. But all changes when Lyra hides in a closet and hears her uncle, Lord Asriel, talk about some weird things that are happening in the North Pole to some scholars. Lyra wants to go there with him, but is not allowed to do so. However, soon afterwards her dear friend Roger and many other children disappear, and when all clues point out to the North Pole, Lyra will start a journey to rescue them. That journey will take her to many places, allow her to meet lots of different people, and help her to discover new things about herself and others. If you want to share all that with Lyra and Pantalaimon, just read this book :)

After reading "Northern lights", I thought that the triology was promising. However, it was only when I finished the last book in the "Dark Materials" series that I realized why this triology has such a reputation as a masterpiece of science fiction. On the whole, I think that this box set is a treat teenagers and adults will enjoy, but I believe it may be too complicated and somber at times for young children. Provided you take that opinion and my previous comments into account, recommended...

Belen Alcat

PS: A film based on the first book of this triology is to be released in late 2007. It is directed by Chris Weitz, and stars Dakota Blue Richards, Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig. So... you better start reading now, if you want to read the books before watching the movie :)
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on 6 October 2005
It is difficult to say anything new about this work, but here goes...
His Dark Materials is potentially incredibly powerful, making the reader probe deeply into their own thoughts and fears. It tackles some very big issues - the history of the Catholic church being the obvious example. But most of all, above all, this trilogy has to be the most readable story I have ever encountered, and I know that many of my friends, and many people in general find this also.

At first, I must admit that I was a little concerned that Pullman was on something of a crusade to 'pull a finger' at the Church... and that this may unfairly influence the thoughts of some younger readers. But upon consideration, I think that the book is written so masterly that these things will only matter to those people who already have the seed of that thought in their minds, and in my case at least, generally agree with Pullman's point of view.

In any case, I think any excuse to highlight the atrocities of the Catholic church is probably a good thing, given that to my mind such lessons are seldom taught in the school system...! (not that they have ONLY committed attrocities!!)

Perhaps the most impressive of all Pullman's achievments is the world he creates in the books - a world full of the most amazing, imaginative characters, places, phenomena (the Northern Lights), peoples... but almost all of which have their grounding in our world. This transports the reader effortlessly into the heart of these worlds, so much so that after reading for a sustained period, one would hardly be suprised to read of 'Gobblers' in the day's papers!

All in all, this is a work of a true Master of writing, a story which I'm sure will endure for a long, long time, and can be appreciated by all ages.

PS this is NOT just a kid's book, if you own a bookshop, take note!! ;oD
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on 24 January 2004
I read this trilogy after seeing it plugged on the BBC's Big Read. Well what can I say. It is quite simply breathtaking. Reading His Dark Materials really takes you off to the world with Lyra and it's hard to come back. It is witout a doubt the best read I have had for as long as I can remember.
The most wonderful thing about it is it's relevance to the real world mixed with such fantastical storytelling with it's twists and turns. You won't be able to put it down!
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on 30 July 2010
I envy those people who haven't yet read Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. It is the best imaginative work written for the last I don't know how many years. Truly original, compelling, moving, stunning series of novels I've ever read. I don't know how to begin describing it, but you will love Lyra, her daemon Pantalaimon (I want Pantalaimon to be my daemon), Iorik Byrinson, Lee Scoresby and Hester. You will fear Mrs Coulter and her monkey. You will want to travel to the North with the Gyptians, and to be able to work the alethiometer. I want to read it all over again now!
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on 28 October 2003
I never even knew of philip pullman until i saw the northern lights glint in my eye. I have never looked back. I read all three amazing books in succession and colud not bare to put the book down. This is no childrens book but a sophisticated book which unravels its meaning as you step through its pages. one to buy and read over and over again.
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on 20 July 2006
I won't go into to detail about the plot lines or the story, but quite simply, thes are the greatest set of books i have ever read. I am an avid reader and 29 years old, so i've been round the block but nothing comes close to these titles.

If you want to read, go see Dan Brown, if you want to be engrossed and mesmerised, then start here!

Bear with the first three chapters of northern lights, after these it realy takes off! definatley not a childrens triology!
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on 27 December 2004
I can only give an impression of 'His Dark Materials', the title being a part of John Milton's great epic poem 'Paradise Lost'. And although because of such an austere philosophical and religious influence(s) upon the author, there are a great many references to vast areas of philosophy, theology, alchemy and, of course, the philosophy of science down to theories of quantum physics.
Having said that, 'His Dark Materials' remains a thoroughly readable and enjoyable epic in itself because essentially, beyond but saturated within that mix of history and knowledge, it remains a story about a child and a story for children. Children may not have prior knowledge of philosophical lines of enquiry, nor meaningful knowledge of theological inquiries, nor science. But that is not to say that children have no knowledge at all. What will appeal to kids and indeed, to the kids in us all, is very adventure, nay the very universe that Pullman has created and allowed to evolve it's own adventure and characters and natural laws. We can get lost within the worlds we create in our minds, Pullman has just given us some guidelines to play by.
There are some areas which fall seem 'unrealistic' and without prior cause, but doesn't actually take anything away from the stories at all. I just to keep thinking that it was a book for young adults and a work of fiction and not at all due any judgements of the degree of philosophical-theological-scientific accuracy. He wasn't actually writing his thesis! D'Oh! ^_^
All in all, a great book. Perhaps better than any other fantasy book I have had the wish to read because it bases itself on questions that we ask in the real world, in our everyday lives. Especially at a time when we really do need to ask what it is that we 'believe' and the background to it; because it assists us to make important moral decisions without hypocrisy.
In the end, the trilogy is about a young girl and a young boy, and the importance of love, loyalty, family and friends. Because no matter what adventure we find ourselves upon, whether by choice or by fate, it is ourselves and each other that we really must trust to bring us all through safely, beyond the void of negativity.
Read it for yourself :o)
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VINE VOICEon 26 June 2004
HDM succeeds because it works concurrently at many different levels for many different audiences. The ingredients of a vastly inventive fantasy trilogy comparable with but utterly different to the works of Tolkein, Peake, Lewis and Rowling have been drawn together meticulously yet with a light but compeling touch to create a tale of stirring adventure readable to the very last page. My 9-year old daughter is utterly hooked by the use of alternative worlds, an array of mystical creatures and assorted entities (each with very different motivations), some terrific tools (personally I fancied the intention craft!), without needing to appreciate the more subtle and complex ideas underpinning the story. It says a lot that there are a number of bloody deaths in these pages, but never once did it put my daughter off. Nor, surprisingly, did the frightening interlude in the world of the dead, though I suspect this may scare grown-ups more than kids!
In fact, the subtext creates a host of controversies, through creative use of Christian theology and quantum physics. Evangelicals tend to hate Pullman's deconstruction of the tenets of earthly religion and the existence of God in favour of "the republic of heaven", though even they could not fail to enjoy the storyline. In fact, Pullman recognises the difficulties of living without religion, so at one level this can be viewed as an analysis of how members of a secular society come to terms with living free of the shackles of tyrannical but equally mortal religious leaders. Some critics (including Peter Hitchens in the Mail on Sunday) believe the Amber Spyglass is so laden with Pullman's propaganda that the story is a "clunker". I don't know any objective person who shares this point of view. But somehow, HDM wouldn't be the same had it not stirred up such polarised opinions.
It's hugely to Pullman's credit that good versus evil can actually convey a vast array of convergent and divergent facets and emotional shade and tints. Consider the character of Mrs. Coulter, who is portrayed for much of the trilogy as self-serving and evil - in fact, she is much more subtle and complex, to her credit. Also, the ending is deliberately bitter-sweet, where a similar tale written for an American audience may have become twee and schmaltzy. In his own way, Pullman has written one of the great love stories, so it's no accident that love is ultimately the saving grace of all worlds.
You will have your own opinions too. Love or hate these books, you cannot help but be utterly spellbound by Pullman's narrative. Read and reread - these books will live long in the imagination.
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on 18 March 2002
I have not been so captivated by a book since I first read Lord of the Rings some 25 years ago. This series is enjoyable on so many levels I found myself re-reading huge chunks of it just to savour the use of language and the feelings evoked.
To bring together the mystic side of human nature, the daemons, witches, angels etc. with the objective scientific side of human nature is a tremendous feat - many of the ideas used are described by modern mathematicians like Stephen Hawkings.
All in all, a rollocking good adventure with many, many morals to discuss, the nature of good and evil being just one of them.
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on 22 June 2002
Philip Pullman's Trilogy are the best books I have ever read. 5 Stars is underestimated. These books are apparently written for young teenagers, but I'm 31! I'm sure that should these books be read by more adults then they would be more popular than the Harry Potter series; they really are much better. The worlds that Pullman takes you are amazing, you never know whats going to happen next. They are so out of this world, but yet so similar, and so in turn make you think about the world we live in and what we are made of. I cannot say enough to praise the work of this trilogy - absolutely fantasic!
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