The Golden Compass

In spite of the trials of the last few weeks, I really enjoyed reading The Golden Compass.  For me, reading fantasy is one of the most immersive experiences you can get.  In comparison to fantasy, reality-fiction or even movies are a bore.  Why should that be?  I’ve heard that the more difficulty people have dealing the world the live in, the more likely they are to embrace alternate realities.

Whatever the case, I relished every page of the book, and dreaded having to finish it.  The story takes place in an alternate universe, similar in many respects to our own; the most intriguing difference (in my opinion) is that every human has a daemon, which is an animal companion that is the equivalent of a soul.  A daemon is consciously bound to it’s human, and vice-versa.  The story stresses how comforting it is to have a constant companion who can share your thoughts and emotions- an interesting concept.  Whatever the nature of love is, I don’t think love attains the level of complexity and closeness that this bond represents.

I was also interested to uncover the purported anti-clerical motives in the book.  Specifically, I’d heard that the book railed against the abuses of the Catholic Church, portrayed by the sinister Magesterium that stalks the main character Lyra.  Frankly, I don’t see what the big deal is- the book is no more critical than a thousand other anti-Catholic texts, all of which contain a kernel of truth about the historical misdeeds of the Church.  I guess it’s the time we live in- the book was published around 1995, a time when the eternal religious hysteria combined with a newly-developing hysteria that criticism (justified or not) of any single group or belief was wrong (I recently read about another manifestion of this hysteria- a row over the Q’uran being on a low shelf in the library, next to the Bible and Torah.  Evidently, Islam dictates that their Holy Book must be placed above all others.  Pragmatic librarians and Christians disagree, for different reasons).

The story was well-crafted and the characters were complex, but I was confused by the writing at times.  Some things I had to re-read 10 times, just to make sure I understood the meaning (and sometimes I couldn’t understand even then).

Anyway, it’s a good read that I heartily recommend.

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