Winter Reading by Philip Pullman

OK, after finishing The Golden Compass and getting psyched to see the movie, I’ve decided to take all of our readers’ advice and continue on with books 2 and 3 of the trilogy before we move on to other reading. I’ve read several reviews online that also talk quite a bit about how the heart of the story doesn’t even start coming through until book two. So let’s all nab a copy of The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, and indulge in a little more fantasy.

Regarding the controversy over the movie (and hence, the books), I’d like to point out that it’s not just a few Catholics who are making a stink. Landover Baptist Church also wants to let you know how your kids can have their morals destroyed by reading fantasty books.

Most Christians familiar with The Golden Compass (based on the pornographic scribblings of unrepentant God-hater and — quite possibly — heroin addicted child diddler, Philip Pullman), know it is an atheist recruitment film marketed towards our precious children. The film makes clear that Pullman knows only too well that otherwise decent Baptist children will believe that Jesus Christ and His followers are indeed “[unchristian word]-sucking mother-[unchristian word]ers” when a cuddly Coca-Cola polar bears says it with a smile. Not only is the film full of cute, enticing, furry animals with mouths like horny sailors on leave in a Shanghai red light district, it exposes youngsters to alarming viewpoints that are anti-religious right, anti-morality, and anti-(just believing what you are damn well told!).

OK, so it’s not a real church. But this is terribly funny and worth a read.

For a real review — by a Catholic and and atheist — see this BBC article.

Hat tip to Hemant.


Donna Druchunas is a freelance technical writer and editor and a knitwear designer. When she's not working, she blogs, studies Lithuanian, reads science and sci-fi books, mouths off on atheist forums, and checks her email every three minutes. (She does that when she's working, too.) Although she loves to chat, she can't keep an IM program open or she'd never get anything else done.

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  1. I'm a little concerned…the film is NOT getting very many positive reviews. Of course, I should perhaps have expected this when the studios gave a guy best known for directing a smutty comedy about pie-diddling the reins for a big-budget fantasy film.

    As I write this, it's only at 44% over at Rotten Tomatoes. That's around 20% lower than Snakes on a Plane.

    Regardless, I'm still going to go see the film. I enjoyed the books too much not to do so. Plus, if this first one doesn't make any money, there's even less chance we'll ever see parts two and three…which COULD be done by more capable directors.

  2. From what I’ve seen, the movie reviews are ignoring the movie and focusing on the faux-controversy. Very disappointing.

  3. On the topic of atheism and taking the bite out of the book. A point against the movie is that they changed "experimental theology" (their term for physics) to "metaphysics," which not only misses the point, but doesn't even make sense. On the plus side though, Count Dooku was shown as a member of the Magisterium.

  4. captainzebra: I hate to say it, but rather than fighting it looks as if the lion has just fallen over uproariously drunk and the bear is just laughing over its clumsiness and they are about to do a high five at the silliness of it all :) But apart from that, neat sketch :)

  5. I just got back from seeing it. It started out pretty good, but as it went it became clear that it really wasn’t right. The movie I felt did immense violence to the book. The scenery was pretty and many of the characters were well played, but the movie was very shallow. It almost entirely ignored all the themes of the book. The worst part though was what it did to the ending. i don’t want to give it away in case anyone hasn’t read it, but it is vastly different from the book and infinitely worse. If you haven’t read the book do not see the movie. If you have read the book be prepared to be saddened by the movie if you go to see it.

  6. Overall I'd give it a 6.5/10. They changed around a few bits of the storyline and yes writerdd they did give it a happy ending which pissed off more than a few people in the theater. My biggest complaint was when Lyra is kidnapped she is taken to the Bears instead of balvanger [sic]. On the plus side Ian Ian Mckellen plays Iorek and does a good year. I wish they had cast Christopher Lee in a more prominent role in the Magisterium. Nicole Kidman was perfect as Ms Coulter, and the monkey as well as every daemon was done beautifully. They left out a few scenes and changed a few other things around I wish they hadn't as well as rushing through the story, but if you look past that you'll find a very good movie with wonderful acting, beautiful special effects and CGI and a good core storyline. As far as toning it down for Christians I'd say they did the opposite. The Magisterium is much more upfront with their evilness.

  7. I just finished the Golden Compass last night it was a fun book. I found the mix of magic and physics enjoyable and the theme of reason and individuality vs conformist and believing to give it a good depth.

    I will pick up the sequels as soon as I am some where south of the 60th parallel. I will be sure to check out the movie when I am down south too.

    Sorry I am too far inland and some what too far south to seen any polar bears. And all the black and brown bears seen out here have been unarmered.

  8. I haven’t made it to the movie yet, but I heard the left out the last couple of chapters to give it a “happy” hollywood ending.

  9. Go and see the movie. It is awesome. I admittedly did not finish the book, so I cannot compare it fully. However, the movie is great on its own. I had a couple friends come along and they both said it was one of the best movies they had seen all year. The movie really needs support in the opening weekend too because apparently it's film company will not do movies for the others two books if the cost of the movie is not covered in the opening weekend. It definitely cost a LOT to make this movie too, so anyone ambivalent about seeing it soon should go and see it as (for reasons I stated) now is the BEST time to see it!

  10. Saw the movie today…they certainly did do a bit of a chop-job on its ending. This isn't entirely unlike New Line and Peter Jackson's decision to squeeze the first few chapters of The Two Towers into the film of Fellowship…except here they're squeezing the last three chapters (and, arguably, the WHOLE POINT of the first book) into the second (and still up-in-the-air) film. That was a bit of a disservice, in my mind.

    As a film, it is a bit hollow and the way the forced happy ending unravels kind of robs the film of its dramatic tension. There are still some exciting and interesting moments, but a lot of it seems rather obvious. And while the Magisterium is quite OBVIOUSLY evil and full of really creepy folks here, cutting them away from their religious basis sort of makes them more like any other evil organization in any film, which I SUPPOSE is the point. The Catholics and other religious folks are wasting their time getting upset about this one.

    Also, the film runs through things a bit fast and (probably at the studios behest) leaves out several bits of explication that could probably have been woven seamlessly into the story otherwise. We can see that the world is different, but we don't really get into enough depth to appreciate its technology or many of the other steampunk aspects of Pullman's book. Likewise, much is left unsaid about humans and their daemons…as this film is largely about that connection and the importance of NOT separating, you'd think they'd tell you a little more.

    Some characters are also given rather short shrift, with their motivations left unclear to an extent. Some of this is to be expected: this is the first part of a series and many questions should be unanswered at the end. However, a lot of these issues smack of studio intervention and keeping running time down. Perhaps the DVD version will have some more interesting moments of characterization and back story.

    That said, it does a lot well. Most of the casting was spot-on here: Sam Elliott is the only person I can think of who could play Lee Scoresby (aside from the long-dead Lee Van Cleef, the character's namesake). Also, despite my doubts after hearing of her casting, Nicole Kidman is quite chillingly good as Mrs. Coulter. Much of the voice acting is well-done, even if we don't hear much from some of the big names (Kathy Bates, Kristin Scott Thomas) who lend their voices to the daemons.

    Anyway, I'll shut up now. Ever since I had to write a 10,000-12,000 word dissertation about Snakes on a Plane, I've been unable to be concise talking about films. Stupid useless MA in Film Studies…grr…

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