Archive for December 16th, 2007

I took my family to see the Golden Compass in spite of the hue and cry that came from the Catholic Church and the comments about the fact that the author was an Atheist. I found the movie harmless but felt that before I could comment honestly I had to read the entire selection and make a determination for myself as to the validity of the claims against it and the motives presented by the author in the work.

His Dark Essentials is a trilogy written by Phillip Pulliam. It features the Golden Compass as the opening volume. The trilogy is touted as a children’s story which won numerous accolades and awards. I confess that it was one of the most tedious and difficult reads I have ever had to endure, and it was clearly written with an agenda that teaches children all the wrong lessons in my humble opinion. The plot was questionable in is entire assertion and convoluted in the manner it was presented. It was based primarily on the theory of the multiverse and while it provided some memorable characters, most of the beings central to the story on both sides are dark and odious. Not the kind of beings suitable for description to young children.

The Catholic Church took the trilogy as an attack upon the church and the institution of religion, and raised a hue and cry about the message that it sent. In truth the author lays every evil ever done at the feet of the church (or religion as a whole) and takes the position that people like Hitler, Mengele, Stalin, or Mao were not evil, but simply did evil things. The Church on the other hand is evil in everything it does. The book reflects what in this writers opinion can only be seen as a visceral hatred for the concept of God and religion in general and a premise that what God created imperfectly (The Kingdom of Heaven) can be better constructed by a little girl (The Republic of Heaven). My first instinct was to wonder whether the author had ever been molested by a member of the clergy as a child.

It must be stated outright that religion on the whole is flawed and that it has done terrible things in the name of the many Gods represented by it. Certainly the events current in the world today demonstrate that. But it is purely irresponsible to assert that because one believes in God or that they practice their religion faithfully that they are somehow evil or bad. In the same breath we must accept that a great deal of good has also been done in the name of religion and that one should be intellectually honest in their approach to it and allow people to make their own decisions in such matters. As a Father I have my own set of beliefs, but I do not impose them on my children nor do I try to convince them to think the way I do. I make every effort to help them find information that is relevant and contemplate such issues within themselves and arrive at their own decisions. Clearly the author feels the need to impose his opinion and cannot express the subject with an open mind.

The main characters (the heroines’ parents) are two of the vilest examples of human debris ever described in literature, much less a childrens story. Self absorbed, deceitful, willing to torture, maim, or kill to achieve their goals, without even the simplest level of humanity or civility. They meander through a torturously convoluted story line filled with some of the most ridiculous concepts and philosophical conundrums imaginable. The child who actually suffered through this screed would very likely be damaged for life and have no concept of what culture, history, or religion are truly all about.

I have read many series of fantasy books, some which were imaginative and informative, but few as pointless as Mr. Pulliams’ offering. It causes me some concern that as a children’s book this is designed to dissuade a child from believing in God rather than letting that child grow in life and make their own determination based on their life experiences. It presents a very dark view of a flawed cultural structure (religion) and condemns all adherents as if they were somehow ignorant or stupid for their participation. This is a book I would recommend, to demonstrate the contents of a polluted and biased mind that cannot accept its own philosophy without trying to force it on others.

Go see the movie and enjoy a tale with some entertaining fantasy and fun adventure. The movies Lyra is a smart little girl full of spunk and displaying some of the most endearing qualities of loyalty imaginable. Iorek Byrnison, voiced by Ian McCallum, is wonderful and entertaining. Of course the Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter don’t even slightly resemble their literary characters though they do self absorbed very well. But save yourself a good deal of time and pass on the book.  No doubt that it is exactly the kind of material some would enjoy reading, but having read a good deal in my time I find it less than worth the 928 long pages it requires to arrive at a truly pointless result.

I seriously doubt that a sequel can be made directly from the book without rewriting the whole thing to avoid the questionable content, but if it is I’ll be interested in seeing how closely Hollywood is willing to come and let controversy really color the public debate. Many will find it wonderful, some will wonder what kind of drugs the author was doing when he wrote it, but at the end of the day it isn’t really worth the time it takes to read it.

It’s time we move to the next volume………………

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