NORTHERN LIGHTS: PHILIP PULLMAN Saturday 22 October, 2011

Maybe this is a ‘kids book’ but it’s dealing with some incredibly grown up issues in a very exciting way.

If you believe in the teachings of organised religion and you get a little touchy about people who disagree with those teachings you might want to skip this series of books.

Philip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy is a masterpiece of fiction. Although initially published as a children’s book this is as thrilling, insightful and articulate as any book for adults. In fact in many cases this is more so. Apparently I’m not the only person who thinks this though.  It is now available alongside the ‘grown-up’ books and it even has a special cover so that people don’t feel foolish about reading a children’s book. Frankly if you feel foolish reading a book that has a cover on it that marks it as something for kids then you probably don’t deserve to read it…or maybe you should be forced to read it on public transport, with the children’s cover…and no clothes.

The book follows the adventures of Lyra as she travels from Oxford to the frozen north.  It’s a “cracking yarn” as my father (and grandfather) would say. It also includes one of my favourite concepts in fiction.  The dæmon is a wonderful idea.  Along the way she gets into all manner of scrapes from sailing with a community of barge dwellers, meeting the fearsome polar bear warriors and dashing around in a hot air ballon.  What’s really stunning is that you will feel genuine peril.  One moment in particular had me barely able to breath I was so tense. Lovely stuff.

I bought this after I finished reading one of the Potter books. The display in the shop said this was very similar. It’s not. Potter (as much as I love it) is lightweight and frothy in comparison. This is some steely stuff and deals with real world issues in a very intelligent and inventive way.  As the books move through the series you realise that this is a stern rebuff to organised religion not a book about a boy at public school with magic bits.

Go and grab a copy (children’s covers please!) and immerse yourself in a series that will grab you by the heart and the brain.

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