My favorite book series as a child was definitely "His Dark Materials." Never heard about it? That's fine, I only personally know 3 other people who have read it. But maybe you've seen the movie, The Golden Compass? If it rings a bell, then let me tell you that its story is based on the first book of a trilogy and that it doesn't make justice at all to what you'd discover if you gave the literary work a chance. No matter what age you are, here are 7 reasons why you should try out Philip Pullman's controversial - that's why we love it - series:
1- The aesthetic
Let me remind you of what the 2007 movie got right: northern lights, armored polar bears, witches, air balloons, animal formed physical representations of a person's soul which can shape-shift until puberty is reached, a mysterious sparkly cosmic particle known as Dust... Seriously, don't even think twice the next time I say I want to go to the North Pole, His Dark Materials is the reason. If you get half as obsessed as I did, you'll have Svalbard on your weather app and check it from time to time, wondering how everyone is doing in a parallel universe.
2- That's right, parallel universes!
That's one of the themes the movie didn't get to explore. Partially because it ended before the climatic, heart-wrenching finale, partially because the parallel universes are only truly explored during book 2, "The Subtle Knife" (By the way, the title of the first one isn't really The Golden Compass, it's "Northern Lights" - at least that's the original british version -, and the last one is "The Amber Spyglass"). If you're a science fiction fan, there'll be some elements that'll please you and, surprise, the aforementioned Dust has some strong similarities to dark matter! *Doctor Who theories allowed.
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3- If you were intrigued by Dust, there's a new book coming out that will focus on explaining it
Okay, that's actually the main reason why I decided to write this article, and why now is the right time to immerse in HDM. Last week, it was finally announced the release date of "The Book of Dust," a companion trilogy which will talk about the past, the future, black holes, God, and everything that might come in between. Just to give you some perspective, Philip Pullman had been working on this new story for 17 years. Yes, almost as much time as Jean Valjean spent arrested. I, for once, had been waiting for 8. Now who's really the postponing king? "A Song of Ice and Fire " fans, don't ever complain about George R. R. Martin again. Oh, if you want to mark it on your calendar, set a reminder, or preferably both, the release date is October 19th, 2017.
4- Did I mention sci-fi-y aspects? How about criticizing-of-the-Bible-y aspects?
The entire series is centered on the idea that when original sin was committed, it was actually beneficial to humankind, freeing us from innocence (which is just an euphemism for ignorance) and giving us conscience and knowledge to think for ourselves. Lyra, the heroine, fights the Magisterium, an all-powerful catholic institution which wants to separate children from their daemons (the animal-shaped soul thing - tip: the name isn't mere coincidence) before they can assume a fixed form. If you're following the parallels, that's when the age of innocence ("blind obedience") is left behind, making the trilogy pretty much about growing up also. The books are very allegorical and Philip Pullman was inspired by John Milton's "Paradise Lost," which is an obligatory follow-up reading (which I haven't done yet) if you want to dig deeper on this thought-provoking idea. The controversy it inspires was basically the reason why the 2007 film flopped: it was watered down by Hollywood, dissatisfying the fans, but also not enough to be approved by more conservative groups, losing on both sides.
5- That's a good thing then we're getting a BBC series!
I still can't believe it's happening. Mostly because 15 months have gone by since its announcement and the only news is that the work will be adapted by Jack Thorne (The Cursed Child). Complete and utmost silence after that. I mean, I couldn't even get a picture to illustrate this topic. BBC will probably just shoot us one day with a teaser. Anyway, the TV format and the fact that Hollywood will take no part in it leave us hopeful that the entire story will be finally told, with all its "problematic" scenes and themes included. Please, don't take that as an excuse not to read the books. I can't even understand people who think like that. Don't be one of them. No matter how great the new series might be, we all know the original will still be better.
6- "Okay", you say, "but I'm a Tolkien fan..."
Philip Pullman never kept for himself his dislike for Tolkien's work, and I'm sure, were the other alive, he wouldn't approve of Pullman's trilogy either. Tolkien was against hiding allegorical meanings in stories - he said it controlled both the reader's interpretation and the author's dominion over the course of the tale -, beyond being very religious. As for Pullman, he considers The Lord of the Rings lacking in depth. Too bad they're both my favorite fantasy writers and, if I had the chance, I would gladly spend hours trying to convince them to change their minds towards each other. All I can say is, the enjoyment of one doesn't prevent the enjoyment of the other, as long as you're open-minded enough to read the works through the authors' own eyes. Don't just decide whether you like or dislike allegories, for you'd only be having half as much pleasure as you could have otherwise. I'm sure there's enough space on your heart for both.
7- Finally, if you can't take my word for it, take Lin-Manuel Miranda's
The mind behind Hamilton, Pulitzer winner, and dearie of the internet, shouldn't need an introduction. He's a huge fanboy of Pullman's and I have been trying for some time now (unsuccessfully) to get his attention and share feelings. Oh well, so many shots fired. One will reach the target. And if you're really interested by now, both "Once Upon a Time in the North" and "Lyra's Oxford" are companion short-stories that you'll end up reading. Because the main trilogy will leave a void in your heart which you might hope will be filled by the new stuff coming on, but chances are they'll only increase it. Welcome to our resurrecting fandom.