Kali (_thirty2flavors) wrote,

in which i read HDM ten years after everyone else

SO I recently read His Dark Materials for the first time and... people keep asking me about it in different threads, so here is a conglomerate post that borrows a lot from the TL;DR comment I left noblealice.

First the unsrs lulz:

  • Specters are totally Dementors
  • Omg, the witches and their "humans WITHER and DIE" angst made me crack up as well
  • Also, zeppelins: mandatory in all your parallel-world needs
  • Will's dad dying at such a climatic moment was just funny, I'm sorry. I'm glad they got to chill in the land of the dead though.
  • I found the start of Golden Compass REALLY slow, ngl. It wasn't until Lyra wound up at Bolvangar that shit started to get real and I started to get interested. I liked Subtle Knife more, and Amber Spyglass most.
  • But the battle in Amber Spyglass was not as epic as I was pulling for, it just kind of ended...
  • omg the sassy gay angels though, LOL A+
  • Lee Scoresby = Yukon Cornelius
  • Metatron is like a Transformer name wtf

Now more tl;dr. I realize I am not really the target audience for this book, and I think that affected how I read things. So possibly some of these things aren't really Pullman's fault, because he's writing for thirteen-year-olds and not 20-somethings working on their English degrees. I suspect bbKali would've loved these books, if she'd read them.

I liked it. The Atheist Agenda was... heavy-handed, but as I understand it these books are basically neener-ing at the Narnia books, so I guess heavy-handedness is appropriate. Plus I am an atheist, so it was a message I could get behind. However, I could easily see how this would be the kind of novel series I would not recommend to particularly religious -- well, particularly Christian -- friends. And I can see why that "BOYCOTT GOLDEN COMPASS RAR" Facebook group popped up when the movie did, lol. He doesn't pull any punches.

I liked the story/the message more than I liked the... IDK, the books? Or -- I mean, with things like Harry Potter and Doctor Who, I love the characters so much that loving the world sort of stems from that, whereas with HDM I found that the characters were okay, but I was never emotionally invested, it was just curiosity borne out of the storyline itself. Like, I found the dialogue really stilted, and I thought they all talked like... well, storybook characters, which created a certain atmosphere but prevented me from seeing the characters as real people, so their motivations/etc were more like bits of the plot than bits of characterization, if that makes any sense. I might not be explaining it very well. I was just talking about this more with bazcat89, and I was saying that... you know when you get really into a book series to the degree where you are so immersed you forget you're reading a story? I couldn't do that with these books; I was always very conscious of the fact that I was reading something with an agenda and so I was always thinking about what he was Doing Thar. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but there it is.

But like, when Mrs Coulter turned out to actually love Lyra, it wasn't a big emotional revelation for me, it was more like an explanation for X/Y/Z. Which, I mean, characterization should influence plot too, but... I dunno, I guess I just wasn't that dazzled by most of his characters.

A big exception to this is Lyra, who I thought was fabulous. Her tenacity and the fact that her gift/strength/whatever was lying and storytelling is a big break from the norm, and I know that's largely what Pullman was going for, and I think he did it well. I read one of the Sally Lockhart books before I read HDM, and I think I'm partially of two minds -- on one hand I really do appreciate him writing heroines whose strengths are stereotypically "male" things, and who aren't wilting violets. On the other hand, I worry that maybe he skirts too close to the assumption that a strong female character is one who acts like a man (according to gender roles, anyway). There's nothing wrong with that on its own, but I grow wary of it because I worry about the take-away message being "to be strong you have to be like a (stereotypical) man", not the message being that there is strength in women as it is. But that's sort of me bringing baggage into the books, I think, based on things in fandom/in other media, so I guess that might not be a fair criticism of Pullman's work in particular. And I DO like Lyra a lot, and Sally. But I would be interested to see him write a strong female character who is "girly". I'm reading the Sally Lockhart books now -- just started the second one -- so it's also possible he will address this at some point, but he hasn't really yet. No spoilers plz~

I though the series picked up speed as it went on, I think Amber Spyglass was my favourite of the three. I liked Will too, he and Lyra were probably the only characters I felt particularly attached to -- though I also liked Iorek because LOL POLAR BEAR and the mulefa because LOL SPACE ELEPHANTS.

The writing, as in the actual technical prose, I thought was more mature than most things I see in YA, but then I haven't read much YA in a long time. Sometimes he had turns of phrase/sentences that I thought were pretty brilliant. I've forgotten most of them now, but the passage about "being in love was like China -- probably it was very nice, and other people would go there, but I never would" or whatever to be really clever. On a technical level I also think he constructed his themes and his metaphors and his storylines quite well. They're well-written and worth a read (though obviously contentious) but I think perhaps I was too old when I read them to really latch onto them the way other people have, since they weren't part of my childhood.

Finally: the 12-year-olds-have-sex passage squicked me out big time. I know why it was there, but omg they're so little D:
Tags: books: best weapons in the world
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