on 8 November 2001
Northern Lights is an amazing book right down to the snazzy front cover. Philip Pullman is an extremely skilled author and has written this book in such a way that everything is described in great detail and crystal clarity but he still leaves enough out to keep you reading.
This book captivates you and hauls you in to the world of Gyptians, Tartars and shape shifing animals attached to everyone's soul.
I was impressed by his choice of characters and the way he explains their backgrounds, personalties and thier feelings and reactions.
I also liked the way he keeps the story going because you are always meeting a new character or entering a new place.
Something else I was pleased with was the fact that the book doesn't try to dumb itself down for younger or maybe less skilled readers. The friction between the characters and the ever-changing surroundings add to the reading enjoyment and always make you feel that there is something lurking around the next corner (which there very frequently is).
Throughout the story the plot unravels itself into complete disarray then comes together again to make perfect sense.
It is a book that reqires a good imagination and some patience.
This is definitely the best book I have ever read and it took some struggle to pull my mind out of strange world mode and put the book down.
on 14 April 2010
Significantly influenced by a hefty array of "canonical" English Literature (Milton, Marvell, C.S. Lewis, Blake and Byron, among others), this novel is posited in an alternate reality of earth; part Victorian and part steam-punk in its imagery and presentation.
The book casts as its heroine Lyra, a feisty and strong-willed twelve-year-old girl who lives with the scholars of the fictional Jordan College of Oxford University. Her ever-present, shape-shifting companion is Pantalaimon; an anthropomorphised externalisation of her soul. The amazingly strong bond between these two characters is expressed beautifully in Pullman's prose, and is truly unlike any fictional relationship I have ever encountered. The pair journey north through impressively original fantasy landscapes on a quest to reach Lord Asriel, an `experimental theologian' who has some mysterious, inter-dimensional and potentially dangerous research projects to do with the Northern Lights. The characters encountered in this novel are all strikingly memorable, if a tad clichéd in their portrayal; from sky cowboys to talking armoured bears and witches, Pullman draws on the whole fantasy zeitgeist in creating these individuals.
Setting the tone for the later books in the series, this story is deeply concerned with exploring the convergence of ostensibly dichotic ideas and principles: science and religion, youth and adulthood, free will and determinism, body and soul; all clash violently and spectacularly. Don't let the facile label of `children's fiction' put you off, this is as complex or simple a book as you want it to be. The story and characterisation is suitably strong and well-crafted for the casual reader, while the implicit focus on theology, astrophysics, literary suggestion and philosophical dualisms should keep even the busiest mind reeling with questions and after-thoughts.
With a breath-taking ending (an almost literal cliff-hanger), `Northern Lights' marks the start of an epic and complex trilogy of books. Touching, well-written and with a profusely discursive philosophical sub-text, this is an incredibly original work of fantasy with a twist of counter-factual history about it. At times violent and shocking, heart-breaking and funny; `Northern Lights' is a book well worth clearing your diary for.
Please be aware that this book was previously sold as 'Northern Lights' and is the first book of the trilogy and NOT a new book. I was very excited when I saw this as I had hoped that it was. I would recommend the trilogy to anyone as it has an easy reading style while at the same time appealing to adults. Something that is rare.
on 24 November 2003
I first read these books in German, then in English and - as usual - the original version is much better than the translation!
A fascinating story about a girl that has to set out into the wide world and doesn't even know the higher purpose behind it all. All she wants is to save her friend. With her huge heart, her rebellious nature and her cleverness, Lyra is a very lovable protagonist, as is Pantalaimon, her deamon!
The world of this book is very similar to ours and yet so different. For fantasy lovers it is perfect. As is this book as a whole. It is a way of fleeing from your daily routine, an opportunity of exploring exotic places and other worlds, yourself. Lovers of Harry Potter, Lotr, the Narnia Chronicles or Artemis Fowl will embrace this trilogy and read it just as quickly as I did.
Concerning the big question if His Dark Materials is a series of children's books, I would give a "maybe" because the story is simple, children are not stupid, they will understand it. The only thing that I think children would need some education for is the dark material matter. You should know *something* about atoms and materia otherwise you'll be pretty lost - or you'll have to let your imagination make everything up to you.
To sum it up: well educated or in only in elementary school, you will be most likely to love the story of Lyra and the dark and dangerous things going on in her world.
on 4 August 2002
This is the compelling story of a young girl, Lyra Belacqua, and her closest companion, her daemon, who embark on a hero's quest to rescue a friend and discover the world without and within. As with all heroes, her odyssey takes her to strange lands and through many perils. She journeys from the staid halls of academe in Oxford to the glittering frozen tundra of the North Pole. Exotic enemies and allies abound. She fights her way through a maze of mystery and lies, with the device of the title as her guide. This is a fairy tale for adults and children alike, which speaks to the heart on many levels. And as with all fairy tales it prompts us to think about what is truly real. You will not want to put it down once you start and you'll be sorry when it is ended. You'll also want a daemon of your own.
READ: ALL of "His dark materials series" and The Price of Immortality, all AWESOME BOOKS!
on 28 August 2009
Phillip Pullman's Northern Lights begins with our heroine Lyra and her daemon in Jordon Colledge, Oxford. Lyra is soon swept into the mysteries of the North when Ms Coulter, an exquisitely beautiful lady visiting the colledge wants to adopt her...but is Ms Coulter as beautiful on the inside? All the while, Children are being snatched by the mysterious 'Gobblers', and Lyra must do something before it is too late...
Daemons, Dust, Discoveries, Adventures, Witches, Bears, Manipulation, Religions and Friendships will sweep you into this astounding tale and will never let you go!
The book far surpasses the film, and it is with excellent reason that the film was named, The Golden Compass, rather than have the honour of the name, The Northern Lights.
I would recommend this to 8yrs +, boys and girls, adults and elders. I know that other reviews listed here will tell you that it isn't for adults, and to some extent, I can agree with them. However, on one level, this book is a fantastic childrens tale. There are some many more levels-read deeper. Honestly, keep reading this series. After I read the Amber Spyglass, (third book in this series) I have never thought the same way again.
A must read. Astounding.
on 3 August 2007
I thought I would read "His Dark Materials" books before they start churning the movies out, and I have just finished the first installment.
"Northern Lights" is an original, well written and fairly addictive book. It manages to compensate for the obvious limitations by being a children's book by introducing new ideas and the plot is strong and develops well into the climax. As a story, it is much better written than many other children-adult books like Harry Potter.
Criticisms are that this book was slow to begin with, and required a little effort to get into; I nearly put it down in its early pages because it was a bit slow, but once it gets going, it gathers momentum wonderfully.
on 7 April 2000
I hate it when they call a book as good as this a Children's Book.
Pullman has created an utterly convincing world; teasingly familiar yet fantastic. A world which shape shifting daemons, witches and armoured bears inhabit alongside more familiar elements such as electric (or anbaric) lights, dishonest politicians, and a not-quite Oxford.
Where the book does frustrate however, is in its ending. The Northern Lights is (as it never attempts to deny) the first instalment of a trilogy and no attempt at any resolution is made at the end of this episode. The reader is left high and dry. Having said that, the book is marvellous and I suspect that most readers will, like me, immediately rush out and buy the second instalment, The Subtle Knife (Likewise worthy of 4 stars).
In conclusion, if read as part of the trilogy this is a book worthy of a full 5 stars, images and ideas will stay with the reader long after they have finished the book. I would not recommend it however to anyone who has no intention of following it up.
on 7 April 2006
... and then buy the other two books in the trilogy!
I must admit, the first couple of chapters didn't have me hooked straight away. but when I got a bit further, I was unable to put it down!
The main characters are well developed and although the author brings several people into the story, it never gets confusing. There's something for everyone here.
When I reached the end, I realised I shoudl have bought all three books at once - now I had to wait for the next two to arrive before I could find out more abuot the characters!
on 17 January 2003
Now that Philip Pullman's work is available in several audio versions, you may be wondering what makes each one distinctive, and, considering the large differences in price, which one to chose. This version is a complete and unabridged reading, the author himself is the narrator, but there is also a full cast to give voice to each character.
The plot: briefly, as this title has been thoroughly reviewed in its book form only a few mouse-clicks from where you are now:
In a parallel world to our own, feisty 12-year-old Lyra and her daemon live in a recognisable-yet-different Oxford, where they eavesdrop on a secret meeting of scholars and their charismatic visitor Lord Asriel. She hears mysterious tales of Dust, a city that hangs in the air above the Aurora Borealis, and an expedition that ended in a gruesome murder. Lyra's friend Roger disappears, stolen like many other children by the Gobblers, and then she herself is taken from Oxford to live with the sinister Mrs Coulter. Rescued by gyptians she learns who her true parents are, and that the stories and disappearance of her friend are connected. Travelling with the gyptians to the frozen North, Lyra is drawn into a savage struggle among the armoured bears and witch-clans of the Arctic. At the experimental research station of Bolvangar Lyra finds the lost children, where horrific experiments are being performed upon them. To fulfil a prophecy, Lyra's journey leads her to the ice-forts of Svalbard, the rescue of her father and eventually to the city behind the Northern Lights, but only after she has made a terrible betrayal.
What does this dramatised reading bring to the story? Philip Pullman narrates his own work well. Many of the actors are recognisable from BBC Radio 4 dramas - Sean Barrett (as Lord Asriel & Iorek Byrnison); Garrick Hagon (as Lee Scorseby); Stephen Thorne (as the Master of Jordan College & Farder Coram). Mrs Coulter is voiced by Alison Dowling, best known for playing Radio 4's Elizabeth Archer for many years! She is a revelation here; giving real ice and menace to the part. You almost want to boo and hiss when you hear her incisive, cut-glass accent. If you're not a Radio 4 listener and don't know what I'm talking about: don't worry, these are masters of the medium, with rich, expressive voices that bring the text to life. Even where one actor voices two characters you would *never notice*! As Lyra, Joanna Wyatt's Oxfordshire accent wobbles considerably over time, but this is only a small criticism.
On a technical point, the 9 CDs are badly indexed - the 5 minute intervals are inaudible but don't necessarily coincide with chapter starts, making it hard to find your place after a break. Unforgivably, there is a change from one CD to the next right in the *middle* of the climactic armoured bear fight.
If you aren't inclined to read the book, but don't want to miss out on the full text, this is a fine substitute, although the poor arrangement onto CD may well be irritating.