Hatereading: His Dark Materials

Feb 11 | Posted by: Fighter #1 | Tags: Hatereading

I’ve been meaning to do this Hatereading for a while; I should probably finish it while it’s still winter and thus vaguely relevant!

His Dark Materials*! In all honesty, I didn’t actually hateread this series per se. I like epic fantasy, so I figured that odds were good I would legitimately like this series despite it being marketed as “Narnia for atheists”.**

If you don’t read much, you may remember this as that movie from a few years where a little girl rides a combat polar bear: The Golden Compass.

Largely, the series had some pretty cool ideas. See aforementioned combat polar bears. There were also ghosts that only attack adults, people’s souls manifesting as external animal familiars, creatures with symbiotic plant wheels for feet, and a bunch of other pretty cool and creative things.

Where the series really fell on its face was handling the morality of it’s main characters; specifically, they did a really bad job of addressing the concept that KILLING CHILDREN IS WRONG!

From what I gather, the movie cuts off right before this point, but the first book ends with the father of the protagonist (Lyra) murdering a child in order to open a portal to another dimension. Her mother had previously been running a scientific outpost that experimented exclusively on children, killing many in the process.

In my book, that lands you solidly in the “bad guy” camp. Once you kill a kid, you are firmly established as a villain. Now, it’s possible for any villain to be redeemed, but some work has to go into it. The bad guys must be penitent for their actions, and they should attempt some sort of restitution or restoration first.

That was this series’ big problem. It eventually tried to redeem those characters by having them nobly sacrifice themselves to slay the evil god the series was about, but it never addressed their earlier evils. They lived as villains and died as villains pretending to be heroes.

If you can ignore that bit of cognitive dissonance though, they were pretty good books. I’d endorse ‘em.


* His Shark Materials for all you Snake Vomit fans out there!

** The “Narnia for atheists” marketing was really pretty inaccurate. It was really more Narnia for deists. There were gods; they were just the bad guys.

(Thumbnail via Amazon.com. His Dark Materials is written by Phillip Pullman and published by Random House and Knopf Books)

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