Book: The Northern Lights (and Film: The Golden Compass)

Philip Pullman is an author with a reputation. He is the children’s Dan Brown. He’s known more for the controversy about what he writes than for how he writes.

I don’t like Dan Brown’s writing. I read the Da Vinci Code and though I thought it was gripping and exciting, it was also patronising and unbelievable. I also read the first chapter of “Angels and Demons” and decided it was the SAME book! I won’t mention Brown’s weird ideas about history and religion.

In contrast, though I approached the Northern Lights with scepticism due to the author’s reputation for bashing religion and the church, I’m thinking that Philip Pullman is an excellent author!

I confess that I saw “The Golden Compass” – the film version of “The Northern Lights” – just before Christmas and before I read the book. It was very much a children’s film, albeit quite a violent one, but an enjoyable romp with some imaginative scenery and special effects. The “daemons” were entirely believable! Though I thought the compass effect was done about three times too many.

I went to see the film with people who HAD read the book and they said that the book made much more sense.

And it did. Not only is Pullman an excellent author who provokes the imagination with enchanting descriptions and clever dialogue, he also spins a good yarn. The world(s) he has created is large, varied and yet coherant. He draws on reality but uses it flexibly to create somewhere of this world, possibly from another century, but also not of this world.

Does he attack the church? Well, I think so. Somewhat. He’s certainly very political and implies that the church has lots of influence on the state and indoctrinates children with it’s nasty ideas. But he’s not attacking the church that I know. I don’t know his background – maybe he has issues with the church – his own “demon”, if you like. But I, as a member of The Church (meaning the body of people who follow Jesus Christ), didn’t feel particularly put out by it. Plus, it’s allegorical, so, unlike the Da Vinci Code that presents itself as almost-factual, you’re free to see the church as being that of Pullman’s world, not of our own.

The only REALLY weird thing was the Bible being translated into the context of Pullman’s world. Oh, and his interpretation of it. Most odd and made me feel slightly uneasy.

The film and the book are a little out of synch. Having seen film 1 and then read book 1 it will be interesting to read book 2 and THEN see film 2 to see how things progress.

I found the book more grown up than the film – a better place for an adult to be. I would sincerely hope that children would be reading it too! The film – OK for kids but plain confusing for adults.