Thursday, 27 August 2009

Northern Lights (Philip Pullman)

Northern Lights A young girl, Lyra, sets out on a dangerous quest in a world parallel to our own, to rescue her friend from terrors unknown.

Northern Lights took me a few pages to really get into. I wasn't immediately gripped by the action; Lyra, the heroine, seemed childish and silly; and the opening scene seemed melodramatic and unrealistic.

But after the first few pages, I was hooked. Lyra is cocky, smart and likeable; and I loved the action between her and her "daemon" (an external soul in animal shape).

Although that's one thing that annoys me a little bit. What's wrong with good old-fashioned "demon" spelling? A daemon isn't the same as a demon, you say? True enough. Then later in the series you find out about "vampyres". What's wrong with spelling it the normal way? Geez.

Another thing that annoys me? The British version (which I made sure I got) is called Northern lights; the American version is called the (apparently) much more exciting The golden compass.

OK, I agree that the so-called compass is more prominent in the book than the northern lights, even if the northern lights are really what the book is all about. But. It is not a compass. It looks like a compass. It is not one. It is an alethiometer. And, OK, that may look like a hard word before you try to say it, but seriously — just repeat after me. Ah-lee-thee-oh-meh-ter. It's barely more complex than "thermometer".

Not that I'm suggesting they should have called it "The golden alethiometer" because, well, that'd be silly. But if you're going to change a perfectly good British title, at least change it to something that accurately reflects an aspect of the book. Even "The armoured bear" would have been better than The golden compass.

Moving on. Apart from minor quibbles*, I really enjoyed this book, and looked forward immensely to the second in the trilogy.

*Such as the heroine becoming attached really fast to the armoured bear and the aeronaut, and vice versa — they only hung out for a few days! I've done the same thing myself, in my writing; you spend so much time writing the story that it feels to me, the writer, as if my characters are much closer than they actually are. But to the reader, they've only had a couple of fighting scenes together so why does Mr Aeronaut suddenly feel she's the daughter he never had?

Next week: My review of Book Two in the trilogy.


Ange said...

Re Mr Aeronaut - strange things happen to people who have been through stressful situations together! I'm sure some movie had something about it.. either Speed or Speed 2.

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