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The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

The Golden Compass (1995)

by Philip Pullman

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: His Dark Materials (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
29,88264065 (4.08)2 / 880
Accompanied by her daemon, Lyra Belacqua sets out to prevent her best friend and other kidnapped children from becoming the subject of gruesome experiments in the Far North.
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    Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve (Jannes, passion4reading)
    Jannes: Epic and awe-inspiring and steampunk-ish... also surprisingly complex characters and moral ambiguity for a YA novel - just like HDM
    passion4reading: Intelligent and thought-provoking children's/YA fiction with an unusual premise.
  9. 52
    A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L'Engle (Anonymous user)
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    The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett (bibliovermis)
  13. 20
    The Witches of Willowmere by Alison Baird (mene)
    mene: "The Willowmere Chronicles" series includes daemons, but focusing more on the Ancient Greek version. "His Dark Materials" series has a parallel world where everyone has a daemon, but in a different way than the daemons in the Willowmere Chronicles.
  14. 42
    The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman (Aleana)
  15. 53
    The Darkangel Trilogy by Meredith Ann Pierce (VictoriaPL)
  16. 20
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  17. 31
    Pavane by Keith Roberts (timspalding)
  18. 97
    The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (ut.tecum.loquerer)
  19. 20
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  20. 10
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(see all 28 recommendations)

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English (615)  Danish (6)  German (4)  French (3)  Spanish (2)  Italian (2)  Portuguese (1)  Swedish (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Finnish (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (637)
Showing 1-5 of 615 (next | show all)
Amazing. I was in my 30s when I read this, so ... is it wrong that it blew my mind with how good it was? Supposed to be "young adult" level? Idunno, maybe my ideas about reading level are too simplemindedly strict. It was amazing. ( )
  rmlrml | May 5, 2020 |
One of those rare books that I enjoyed more re-reading it as an adult. I read this in... early high school, probably... and it didn't really click with me. I don't think I was looking for metaphysical conundrums and religious metaphors in my fantasy at that stage. ( )
  a-shelf-apart | May 4, 2020 |
This series is a wonderful one that I enjoyed thoroughly when I’d first read them. I’m no longer sure when exactly this was, for the first time, but I remember there was a stupid email going around, talking how bad it would be for children to read them. I didn’t know the series at all, so I read a description and thought it sounded interesting, so I borrowed them from my local library. Needless to say, they are no where near as bad for children as these ridiculous emails led people to believe.
There is a new series being made of these novels, so I thought I’d reread them as soon as my library had a copy available, but this time on audiobook, as I’m want to do. I got *very* lucky and found the full cast version, and I enjoyed it very much! All the characters are great, and the narrators are very good at their work. Here is a list:

Philip Pullman as the narrator
Joanna Wyatt as Lyra
Rupert Degas as Pantalaimon
Seán Barrett as Lord Asrial and Iorek Byrnison
Steven Thorne as The Master and Farder Coram
Douglas Blackwell as John Faa and Iofur Raknison
Andrew Branch as Kaisa
Alison Dowling as Mrs. Coulter
Joel Shilling as Ma Costa
Sue Sherridon as Serafina Pekkala and Roger
Ann Rosenfeld as Mrs. Lonsdale
Stephen Grife as Martin Lanselius
David Graham as Jothem Sentelia
Garrick Hagen as Lee Scoresby
Liza Ross as Stelmaria
Haywood Morse as the Chaplain
John O’Connor as the Dean
Rachel Wolfe, Anna Colon, Alexander Mitchell, Arthur Mitchell, Harriet Butler, Fiona LaMont, and Andrew LaMont played the children
“All the other roles were played by members of the cast.”

**any misspellings are my own, as I couldn’t find a full listing of the cast online anywhere. So I had to transpose this list myself.**

Do yourself a favor and listen to this full cast audiobook as soon as you possibly can. It’s a real treat.

Meanwhile, this novel continues with the same rating, as I enjoyed it a second time. It’s recommended to all.
( )
  stephanie_M | Apr 30, 2020 |
I'm a sucker for alternate universes, and 'His Dark Materials' has been in the To Be Read pile for a long time. I've seen the film based on this book, and also the more recent BBC dramatisation. So the plot was known to me. What I wanted to see was the sort of job Philip Pullman made out of the world-building, and also to get a feel for the controversies that accompanied the film (particularly) on its release.

I found the world-building far more detailed and intriguing than I expected. There is considerable detail shown of the world outside Pullman's England, apart from Svalbard; this is slipped effortlessly into the novel. There were a number of things that surprised me about the novel; Lyra is a far more feral child than the screen adaptations suggested, and I was also surprised that the novel did not strike me as exceptionally anti-religious. Indeed, we have a Catholic church firmly entrenched in Britain, albeit one with different instrumentalities - we appear to have the Magisterium instead of the Jesuits, for example. In this volume, Pullman doesn't really offer any opinion on the Church; the Magisterium and the General Oblation Board are certainly the baddies, but that's just religious politics. Anyone who believes this book to be anti-religious because it takes a dim view of religious politics has led a very sheltered life.

The setting could do with a little explanation. As an alternate reality, we assume that the story is set in the present day; but the description of the towns and cities, and the technology, suggest a setting more in line with the 1930s. (The film took the fantasy elements further and detached Pullman's world further from our own; the BBC TV adaptation back-dated the setting to something more like the 1950s.) Seeing as the Catholic Church is pre-eminent in this world, this suggests that Pullman is familiar with the Morton Hypothesis, that Catholicism has had a tendency to stifle scientific and technological advancement, and the nations of western Europe only achieved their technological advantages through embracing Protestantism.

Some reviewers have commented on the theme of child abuse in the book. It is only abuse in the terms of the novel - severing children from their daemons, the familiar spirit creatures that accompany everyone in this world - and although this is firmly in the fantasy portion of the work, by the time this is revealed Pullman has built up our understanding of the link between people (especially children) and their daemons so much that the prospect of severing that link is quite abhorrent. The explanation that Mrs Coulter, the sinister figure behind the General Oblation Board and the project to sever children from their daemons, gives Lyra is the justification for all the tortures the strong exercise on the weak "for their own good". Given that this is (or at least, was) a Young Adult book in intention, this illustration of the evils of those with power segregating people into camps and performing experiments on them is clear and no less powerful for being fictional.

Other characters - the leaders of the gyptians, the canal dwellers who spirit Lyra from London to Svalbard, for example - are exceptionally well drawn. Lord Asriel, heroic explorer and Lyra's uncle (we are told) is painted as romantic but distant to start with; accounts from the gyptians reinforce this picture. But things are seldom what they seem. Perhaps the character I personally enjoyed the most was the armoured bear, Iorek Byrnison. "Defend the right to arm bears!" says the t-shirt slogan, and Iorek is the personification (ursunification?) of this.

The gyptians have interesting antecedents. Many of them have Dutch or Greek family names, suggesting a far greater interchange between England and old Europe. The name itself is suggestive of the oral history the Roma people have for themselves. And there are descriptions of the Fens, and the North Sea beyond them, that suggest that the Dutch never assisted in the draining of the Fens in the Restoration period in this reality. The gyptians hold their meetings in a hall in the middle of the Fens, inaccessible on foot, that recalls Viking moot halls. And the North Sea (here, the 'German Sea') is described as shallow, suggesting that the frozen nature of the North lands has locked up a lot of water that in our world made Britain into an island defended by deep and turbulent seas.

So I enjoyed this greatly. But I had to acknowledge that there was little here - beyond the conceit of the daemons - that I had not seen elsewhere. The big comparison I kept making was with Keith Roberts' 'Pavane', an alternate reality where Elizabeth I was assassinated and the Spanish Armada succeeded in returning England to the Catholic fold. That book pre-dates Pullman's work by 25 years or so; yet I've never had the impression that Pullman has ever been part of the science fiction community. Pullman achieved his status through his work with children's literature, and the plaudits for 'His Dark Materials' arose from there. He himself does not speak of it as fantasy, but instead says it is "stark realism". The acclaim this book and the others in the trilogy have received is very much an expression of the cultural cringe there is in the UK about science fiction and fantasy; other books with similar themes are just as deserving of praise, but don't get it because of their labels. Part of that cultural cringe is authors denying their works the fantasy or SF label. On this, Philip Pullman must be guilty as charged. But that's not going to stop me carrying on reading the series. ( )
2 vote RobertDay | Apr 19, 2020 |
Lyra Goldentongue and her daemon, Pantelaimon, liberate the kidnapped children and her father…
  JohnLavik | Mar 29, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 615 (next | show all)
As always, Pullman is a master at combining impeccable characterizations and seamless plotting, maintaining a crackling pace to create scene upon scene of almost unbearable tension. This glittering gem will leave readers of all ages eagerly awaiting the next installment of Lyra's adventures.

» Add other authors (139 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Pullman, Philipprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Astrologo, MarinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bailey, PeterIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Baylay, KateCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bützow, HeleneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Beck, IanIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Beck, Rufussecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Berdage, RoserTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Borbás, Máriasecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brooks, TerryIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nielsen, CliffCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rohmann, EricCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rooijen, Quirijn denEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sabino, ElianaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sahlin, OlleTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ströle, WolfgangÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Targo, LindaToimetaja.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thorne, StephenNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Torrescasana, AlbertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tulinius, Gretesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tulinius, Gretesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tutino, AlfredoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Williams, StuartCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wormell, ChrisIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Into this wild abyss,
The womb of nature and perhaps her grave,
Of neither sea, not shore, nor air, nor fire,
But all these in their pregnant causes mixed
Confusedly, and which thus must ever fight,
Unless the almighty maker them ordain,
His dark materials to create more worlds,
Into this wild abyss the wary fiend
Stood on the brink of hell and looked a while,
Pondering his voyage...

     — John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book II
First words
Lyra and her dæmon moved through the darkening hall, taking care to keep to one side, out of sight of the kitchen.
We are all subject to the fates. But we must all act as if we are not...or die of despair.
...this was in the seventeenth century.  Symbols and emblems were everywhere. Buildings and pictures were designed to be read like books.  Everything stood for something else.; if you had the right dictionary you could read Nature itself.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Northern Lights was published in the US as The Golden Compass
Please distinguish between the book, abridgements and the movie.
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Book description
In a universe somewhat like our own, children are beginning to disappear from cities around England. For Lyra Belacqua, a half-wild orphan girl living at Jordan College, Oxford, the kidnappings are just another excuse for games, battles and tall stories - until her best friend Roger is reported missing. Vowing to rescue him, Lyra embarks upon a journey to the savage North, where physicists and theologians alike are conducting controversial research into the nature of something known only as 'Dust'. Apart from her friends the gyptians, her only guide is a curious golden instrument called an alethiometer. If she is to survive her ordeal, she will have to learn to interpret its cryptic and peculiar messages. 432
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