[Archive] Review: The Golden Compass

The Golden Compass CoverTitle: The Golden Compass

Author: Philip Pullman

Type: Fiction

Release: July 1995

Publisher: Scholastic Point

Original Review: January 12, 2011

To this day, I’m not sure what prompted me to finally pick up The Golden Compass. The concept didn’t interest me, and I felt that I already knew enough about it by having watched those commercials for the movie when it came out a few years ago. I thought it was too childish for me. Who wouldn’t come to that conclusion after seeing a little girl ride a polar bear?

I regret that first impression.

Okay, I probably still won’t watch the movie. But that’s because I suspect the movie itself of being at fault for my original bias. It’s hard to trust movies anyway, especially having been hit pretty hard back at the infamous Eragon fiasco.

The book, though. Wow. For a popular classic from the 90’s, it’s surprisingly deep and dark. Turns out just because the main character is a little kid doesn’t mean the reader has to be. In hindsight, I should have known that all too well.

What I liked about it was that it did not shrink from the subjects of torture, deception, and even religion. The latter, luckily enough, is enough in the background that a person who’d rather not deal with religious debate can pretty much ignore it.

Anyway, Pullman puts us deep into the mind of a girl living on the line between civilization and savagery. The primal force is what pushes this story along, but the cleverness of a sophisticated mind shines through. We get to see genius lying and the science of a sort of psychic reading that the main character, Lyra, is able to perform. It gives her a lot of answers, but only enough to build anticipation for what will happen next in this fast-paced action.

If you like your reading with a dash of mysticism, a bit of eerieness, and some tastefully executed violence, there’s no reason not to pick up The Golden Compass. This particular classic made it big for a reason: it’s really good stuff.


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