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The Magical Worlds of Philip Pullman: A…

The Magical Worlds of Philip Pullman: A Treasury of Fascinating Facts

by David Colbert

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(I took care to give no obvious spoilers about the story)

Title: The magical worlds of Philip Pullman - a treasury of fascinating facts (on Librarything)
Author: David Colbert
Language: English
Series: The magical worlds of...
Format: paperback
Number of pages: 158
Publisher: Penguin
Year published: original 2006, my edition 2006
ISBN number: 0425207900
Topic of the book: The trilogy "His Dark Materials" by Philip Pullman.
Reason for reading: It sounded interesting, and it included comments from Pullman himself.
Recommended: Yes, if you have read the trilogy.

Back cover text:
What makes Lyra a "Little Girl Lost"?
What made Pullman think of daemons?
How was Pullman's idea of Dust shaped by his life?
Did Pullman write the books as a response to C.S. Lewis's Narnia books?

"David Colbert's examination of His Dark Materials is intelligent and perceptive and full of good sense - by which I mean that he's seen many of the things I put there to be seen, and got them in what seems to me the right balance. I don't believe that my own reading of the story is more valuable or authorative than anyone else's just because I wrote it; but at least I know it fairly well, and I think David Colbert does too, and you can trust what he says about it. What's more, he writes well. This is a good guide." - Philip Pullman

The Magical Worlds of Philip Pullman takes fans on a journey through the worlds of art, science, and religion evoked by Pullman's classic saga. From the philosophy of William Blake and John Milton's classic poem Paradise Lost to quantum physics and the Bible, discover the complex origins and controversial themes that have made Pullman's trilogy a modern marvel in literature.

This book was not authorized, prepared, approved, licensed, or endorsed by Random House, Inc., New Line Cinema, or any other individual or entity associated with the HIS DARK MATERIALS books or any movies based on those books.

Comments on the back cover text:
Actually the paragraph by Philip Pullman made me buy this book (it was secondhand, so quite cheap as well).
However, it does not talk about Pullman's other books, only about His Dark Materials.

First paragraph from the Introduction:
After asking me to write this book, my British publishers, who have published Philip Pullman, said they'd written to him as a courtesy to tell him about the project. His response was revealing. More than just agreeing to answer questions, he volunteered that he wouldn't try to influence my conclusions. That's not a common reaction. People who are about to be the subject of a book are usually weary, and want to influence what's written. Pullman would have even more reason to be concerned, because his views on religion have attracted many hostile critics. His ideas have often been described inaccurately, and twisted to make them easier to oppose. Yet Pullman remains open to discussion and debate.

Each chapter answers a different question, for example "What does the trilogy owe to Paradise Lost?" and "Who gave daemons to humankind?". In the sidebars are comments about small things in the text. There are also "inserts" (grey pages with more information about a certain topic, for example Mrs. Coulter's daemon). However, these inserts aren't placed very well: they interrupt the sentences of the chapter text. It would have been better if these inserts had just been placed at the end of the chapters.
Normally I don't read such "guides" to books I like, but as mentioned before, I read this one because of Pullman's comment on the back cover. In the book's text, you also come across many comments by Philip Pullman, which I really like: it's not just someone who has written about his own ideas, but actually checked with the author. The question about the name of Mrs. Coulter's daemon is also answered, as are some small things I've been wondering. It's not a very in-depth philosophical book, but it's not super-superficial. The answers are interesting to read, and there aren't any illogical things. Pullman's next His Dark Materials book, "The book of Dust", is also mentioned. I saw that it'll probably be finished in 2015 and published in 2016, but there are some hints of what it'll contain in this book :)

Writing style:
It's not my favourite kind of writing style, as it is written as if the author is talking to the reader ("If you think..."). However, it reads easily and quickly.

The illustrations show things described in the text, so they're actually quite functional. There are not too many illustrations.

It's a nice book which answers some questions about the trilogy, especially because Philip Pullman's comments are included a lot. If you haven't read the trilogy, however, don't read this book. Then it won't be interesting at all.

Yes, it's a book I'll reread sometime.

Related links:
-Review of the book Once upon a time in the North, a sequel to the main His Dark Materials trilogy.
-Review of the book The good man Jesus and the scoundrel Christ by Philip Pullman. Not a part of the "His Dark Materials" series, but included here because it's of the same author :)

On my weblog here.
  mene | Sep 26, 2014 |
This book explains some of the inspiration for the Golden Compass series (including the reason behind the title, for the Brits who get so annoyed by the American title-it has nothing to do the alethiometer). Colbert doesn't stop with the obvious influences (though he does a good job of making them accessible)-of Blake and Milton. He explains the poetry, lives, and evolution of the characters and their creator. As with so much writing, knowing about the author's life helps understand his writing; this is especially true of the literature studying, Anglican reared, agnostic/atheist writing this series.

However, Colbert's writing is often scattered and doesn't flow very well. The sidebars often take away from the writing. The inserts (the grey pages) are annoyingly put in right in the middle of a sentence. Put them at the end of the freaking chapters!
He could have also spent more time discussing daemons-I felt the chapter just got thrown in as an afterthought. Gyptians, the armoured bears, the witches, and all the otherworldly creatures also seemed to be glossed over. There are so many layers to the Dark Materials trilogy. While this book certainly helps uncover many of them, there are still more layers to unearth-this book is often just a boring explanation, much like an English class analysing Beowulf. ( )
1 vote kaelirenee | Nov 17, 2007 |
David Colbert is the author of three other bestselling guides to great books, The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings and Narnia. He will answer all your questions. ( )
  rblob007 | Apr 16, 2007 |
Explains the inspirations for some of Pullman's characters and settings, very entertaining. ( )
  ArmyAngel1986 | Feb 1, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0425207900, Paperback)

Enter the realm of His Dark Materials-soon to be a major motion picture starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig.

After exploring the worlds of Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, and Narnia, David Colbert turns to Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. From the philosophy of William Blake and John Milton's poem Paradise Lost to quantum physics and the Bible, this book reveals the complex origins and controversial themes that make Pullman's trilogy a modern marvel in literature.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:51 -0400)

Discusses the complex origins of and controversial themes in Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy.

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