Monday, September 10, 2007

book thinks

Now that I am in the middle of Ishamael Beah's A Long Way Gone, and Gail Anderson-Dargatz's Turtle Valley is sitting on my nightstand, beckoning, I am having some thoughts about Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass. I have told a couple of people that it is "nothing like Harry Potter." But in fact, there are many plot elements and thematic aspects that are very much the same:

  • both are coming of age stories, about a child who discovers he/she is destined for a difficult and complicated greatness
  • both are set in worlds that are based on ours, but fundamentally different because of the presence of magic in everyday life, and the addition of a variety of creatures/species/kinds of people who we don't have in our world
  • both explore themes of good and evil, truth and deceit, especially in the way that the young heroes understand the actions of the adults (authority figures) in their lives
  • both are set partly in a school or university
  • both have a "GREAT EVIL FORCE"
  • both have a benevolent giant who is something of a mother figure
  • in both, the young hero discovers strength and abilities he/she didn't know he/she had
  • in both there is a quest that ends up with unexpected results and a revision of purpose
  • in both there are sacrifices, betrayals, confusion, hardship and extreme danger
  • in both, ideas of society, law, philosophy and to greater or lesser degrees religion are explored through plot, setting, characters and background history
I guess I could say that there are no new stories. In fact, everyone who thinks Harry Potter is a fresh original should read Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising.

Of course, all of these things come from all of the stories we have told each other since the beginning of time. That's how stories work, and that's how people's need for connection and understanding is satisfied. That's why we like them. At least that's what I think.

The Golden Compass differs significantly from Harry Potter in tone and mood. It's written in a more direct and less whimsical style, and it gets to the point more quickly. Given all of that, it is complex and intriguing, and definitely less sentimental than Harry Potter. While Potter and the Compass exist in parallel almost-the-same worlds, if I had to choose one world or the other to explore and have adventures in, it would be the darker and more subtly layered world of Pullman's creation.

In fact, I'm happy that we have both. Lots of readers will enjoy both series, but many will like one or the other for very definite reasons. And everyone should read the Susan Cooper books too. By the way, The Dark is Rising will also be out as a movie, later this year I think.

question: are there any new stories?

mompoet - Lyra's Hagrid is a bear

No comments: