Thursday, November 15, 2007
All accusations of wanting to turn the world's children into atheists aside, I can honestly say that I couldn't get past the first 140 pages of this book. First, before I berate it, I 'd like to say that I thought the idea of "daemons" was really intriguing. They were well thought-out, creative characters, and they added a lot of interest to the story. They were probably the thing that I liked the best about the first 140 pages. Or the only thing. I couldn't like Lyra, because her character had no consistency, and none of her changes in character were backed up by any reasoning. When someone changes a basic characteristic about themself, there is always a reason--something that has led them to change. You can't just say "Lyra is an innocent school girl," and then "Lyra is a lying, shrewd little twit;" "Lyra is very clever," and just afterwards "Lyra does very dumb, impetuous things for no reason." Either she is very clever or she is very impetuous, and if she is clever and impetuous, please explain why. Don't just leave it hanging out there for someone to make up on their own. As much as books require imagination, characterization is the authors job. Just ask Charles Dickens.
The second fault I found was the constant mention of "dust" without any real clues as to what it could be. Too confusing. If this story really is being written for children, their attention won't be held by "dust." It will remind them too much of having to clean their rooms. At least give it a better name, if you're only going to give us incomprehensible clues as to what it is.
Third, I sincerely believe that, as the master of voice, Mark Twain rolled over in his grave the minute the "gyptians" were created. The language Pullman gives to them annoys me, to the point that this is exactly why I finally tossed the book aside and vowed that I would not read it to my children, for fear of tainting their education. And, just in case you were wondering, the names of cultures and races should be capitalized (i.e. Gyptian). Of course, since I didn't feel I could finish the book, I never really found out the reasoning behind the non-capitalizations. And at this point, I don't really intend to try. Whether or not I go to see the movie when it comes out is still up in the air.
It's not a "I can't put it down," story, but it definitely is a "I think I'd like to find out what happens in the end." The banter between the two siblings is all-too-familiar. However, I would never, ever suggest that any book end with the phrase "shared a special look." The story felt a little bit choppy, but otherwise I really enjoyed this one. It's fun. I do wish there had been more sightings of magical creatures. I hope we'll see more of Kendra and Seth, and especially the magical creatures that Mull has brought to life, in the second book.