Thursday, 19 July 2007

The Golden Compass

I wasn't really much aware of this blight on children's literature until a few weeks ago. I was visiting Matthew O'Connell in Hong Kong and, during our interminable discussions on everything (the conversation tangent had turned to literature in this case), he began to tell me of the His Dark Materials trilogy by Phillip Pullman, which he had unwittingly picked up and read while in England. The content, while at first engaging, became progressively distressing as the plot progressed, according to Matthew, before revealing itself as a full-blown war between good and evil- standard fantasy fare yet with this key difference: that God is squarely located in the latter camp.

Having since done some casual cultural research (read: have googled the relevant words and seen what comes up), it appears I've come a bit late to this one. A number of people around the forum have already seen the dangers here and started sounding the horns. (Here's an old review of the books by Greg Krehbiel, for example) Yet , for all that, there are still relatively few. I've come in late, but how many others haven't come in at all? I haven't seen a mugshot of Phillip Pullman on the cover of ChristianityToday yet, as it happens. Most Christians I know, of whatever persuasion, haven't heard of these books.

The other night, my brother Shaun and I enjoyed a night on the town with the declared aim of seeing Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (an aim which, happily, we fulfilled). During the course of waiting for the film proper to begin, we saw a preview for a film called The Golden Compass. It looked good. In fact, it looked like the kind of film I would enjoy seeing. Excellent effects. Some recognisable actors. An overall air of mystery and adventure. It was the kind of preview that promises an exciting and fulfilling film-going experience. If I had known nothing else about it, I would have been first in line (well, maybe twenty-seventh, given my poor record of arriving early for anything). However, I also happened to know it is based on the first book of His Dark Materials.

The film is set to be released in a couple of months' time. It will desseminate the poison of these books much more widely than it has been disseminated hitherto. Hopefully, the Christians will sit up and start planning a response BEFORE the fallout from the film is felt. In any case, we can expect the books, which have so far largely slipped under the collective Christian radar, to become much better known soon enough.

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