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The Golden Compass: Deluxe 10th Anniversary Edition (His Dark Materials #01)

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The Golden Compass: Deluxe 10th Anniversary Edition (His Dark Materials #01) Cover

 

 

Excerpt

1

THE DECANTER OF TOKAY

Lyra and her daemon moved through the darkening hall, taking care to keep to one side, out of sight of the kitchen. The three great tables that ran the length of the hall were laid already, the silver and the glass catching what little light there was, and the long benches were pulled out ready for the guests. Portraits of former Masters hung high up in the gloom along the walls. Lyra reached the dais and looked back at the open kitchen door, and, seeing no one, stepped up beside the high table. The places here were laid with gold, not silver, and the fourteen seats were not oak benches but mahogany chairs with velvet cushions.

Lyra stopped beside the Master's chair and flicked the biggest glass gently with a fingernail. The sound rang clearly through the hall.

"You're not taking this seriously," whispered her daemon. "Behave yourself."

Her daemon's name was Pantalaimon, and he was currently in the form of a moth, a dark brown one so as not to show up in the darkness of the hall.

"They're making too much noise to hear from the kitchen," Lyra whispered back. "And the Steward doesn't come in till the first bell. Stop fussing."

But she put her palm over the ringing crystal anyway, and Pantalaimon fluttered ahead and through the slightly open door of the Retiring Room at the other end of the dais. After a moment he appeared again.

"There's no one there," he whispered. "But we must be quick."

Crouching behind the high table, Lyra darted along and through the door into the Retiring Room, where she stood up and looked around. The only light in here came from the fireplace, where a bright blaze of logs settled slightly as she looked, sending a fountain of sparks up into the chimney. She had lived most of her life in the College, but had never seen the Retiring Room before: only Scholars and their guests were allowed in here, and never females. Even the maid- servants didn't clean in here. That was the Butler's job alone.

Pantalaimon settled on her shoulder.

"Happy now? Can we go?" he whispered.

"Don't be silly! I want to look around!"

It was a large room, with an oval table of polished rosewood on which stood various decanters and glasses, and a silver smoking stand with a rack of pipes. On a sideboard nearby there was a little chafing dish and a basket of poppy heads.

"They do themselves well, don't they, Pan?" she said under her breath.

She sat in one of the green leather armchairs. It was so deep she found herself nearly lying down, but she sat up again and tucked her legs under her to look at the portraits on the walls. More old Scholars, probably; robed, bearded, and gloomy, they stared out of their frames in solemn disapproval.

"What d'you think they talk about?" Lyra said, or began to say, because before she'd finished the question she heard voices outside the door.

"Behind the chair--quick!" whispered Pantalaimon, and in a flash Lyra was out of the armchair and crouching behind it. It wasn't the best one for hiding behind: she'd chosen one in the very center of the room, and unless she kept very quiet...

The door opened, and the light changed in the room; one of the incomers was carrying a lamp, which he put down on the sideboard. Lyra could see his legs, in their dark green trousers and shiny black shoes. It was a servant.

Then a deep voice said, "Has Lord Asriel arrived yet?"

It was the Master. As Lyra held her breath, she saw the servant's daemon (a dog, like all servants' daemons) trot in and sit quietly at his feet, and then the Master's feet became visible too, in the shabby black shoes he always wore.

"No, Master," said the Butler. "No word from the aerodock, either."

"I expect he'll be hungry when he arrives. Show him straight into Hall, will you?"

"Very good, Master."

"And you've decanted some of the special Tokay for him?"

"Yes, Master. The 1898, as you ordered. His Lordship is very partial to that, I remember."

"Good. Now leave me, please."

"Do you need the lamp, Master?"

"Yes, leave that too. Look in during dinner to trim it, will you?"

The Butler bowed slightly and turned to leave, his daemon trotting obediently after him. From her not-much-of-a-hiding place Lyra watched as the Master went to a large oak wardrobe in the corner of the room, took his gown from a hanger, and pulled it laboriously on. The Master had been a powerful man, but he was well over seventy now, and his movements were stiff and slow. The Master's daemon had the form of a raven, and as soon as his robe was on, she jumped down from the wardrobe and settled in her accustomed place on his right shoulder.

Lyra could feel Pantalaimon bristling with anxiety, though he made no sound. For herself, she was pleasantly excited. The visitor mentioned by the Master, Lord Asriel, was her uncle, a man whom she admired and feared greatly. He was said to be involved in high politics, in secret exploration, in distant warfare, and she never knew when he was going to appear. He was fierce: if he caught her in here she'd be severely punished, but she could put up with that.

What she saw next, however, changed things completely.

The Master took from his pocket a folded paper and laid it on the table beside the wine. He took the stopper out of the mouth of a decanter containing a rich golden wine, unfolded the paper, and poured a thin stream of white powder into the decanter before crumpling the paper and throwing it into the fire. Then he took a pencil from his pocket, stirred the wine until the powder had dissolved, and replaced the stopper.

His daemon gave a soft brief squawk. The Master replied in an undertone, and looked around with his hooded, clouded eyes before leaving through the door he'd come in by.

Lyra whispered, "Did you see that, Pan?"

"Of course I did! Now hurry out, before the Steward comes!"

But as he spoke, there came the sound of a bell ringing once from the far end of the hall.

"That's the Steward's bell!" said Lyra. "I thought we had more time than that."

Pantalaimon fluttered swiftly to the hall door, and swiftly back.

"The Steward's there already," he said. "And you can't get out of the other door..." 

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thomasn528, November 27, 2007 (view all comments by thomasn528)
Pullman's books have subject to some angry scrutiny by some Christian and other believers, and this is intended to provide an alternative point of view.

Pullman's "Dark Materials" series is, it's true, in part an attack on _organized_ religion -- on the worldly power it wields when it takes a bureaucratized, theocratized, Catholic Church-like form. True, Pullman goes further, arguing essentially that if such organized religions are truly representative of God... well, then there's a problem with God, too.

But much more importantly, the series is a discussion of the consequences of an obsessive focus on eternal life after death rather than on a productive life before it. And they are a discussion of what it means to grow up and understand that. Indeed, Pullman is more ally than antagonist to Christians (and other believers) in one very important way: he doesn't dispute the notion of a "soul" -- rather, he extends and elaborates on it with the daemons accompanying humans in the alternate universe he describes.

But for those who believe the books are necessarily an "attack on Christianity," there's arguably an even more important point about Pullman's books: there is no mention whatsoever of Jesus in any of his discussions of either the Church or its ethereal counterpart, the Authority. Indeed (or instead), the chief protagonists Lyra and Will play a Christ-like role when they make a great but utterly necessary sacrifice at the end of "Amber Spyglass" -- moreover, after essentially "harrowing" Hell, admittedly with a decidedly different goal in mind than Jesus had in the New Testament.

To me, Pullman's books are ultimately not so much an attack on religion as an alternative vision of spirituality: sentience and mature purpose are the great goods of the universe, to be cherished, husbanded, and multiplied. That, it seems to me, is not such an awful vision for a Christian -- even for a conservative Christian -- to contemplate.

Pullman himself has called his books an attempt to kill God, and God's death is indeed ultimately part of the story -- though a strangely lesser part than one might think. But if your faith in God is unshaken by evil in the real world, it ought to be unshaken by a fantasy trilogy as well. Meanwhile, readers of all faiths (or lacks thereof) would do themselves out of a singular feat of the imagination and a powerful challenge to their beliefs about "children's books" -- if nothing else -- if they don't give these books a fair chance.
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Melissa Kinsey, November 28, 2006 (view all comments by Melissa Kinsey)
I read this book after reading an article in the NYer about Philip Pullman, in which he said that good literature has the responsibility of teaching morals in the context of an engaging story. He lambasted writers who shy away from the big questions as well as those whose stories are not compelling, Tolkien being guilty of the first and C.S. Lewis the second. I wanted to see how he measured up to his own standards. Not a fan of science fiction, I nevertheless devoured not only The Golden Compass but the other two books in this trilogy: The Amber Spyglass and The Subtle Knife. Great stories all, and straight from, as Pullman calls it "the literary school of morals."
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780375838309
Author:
Pullman, Philip
Publisher:
HMH Books for Young Readers
Author:
Lowry, Lois
Subject:
Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Magic
Subject:
Fantasy
Subject:
Action & Adventure - General
Subject:
Fantasy & Magic
Subject:
Children s-Science Fiction and Fantasy
Edition Description:
Cloth
Series:
Giver Quartet
Series Volume:
01
Publication Date:
20111025
Binding:
Electronic book text in proprietary or open standard format
Grade Level:
from 7
Language:
English
Illustrations:
12 Full-color illustrations
Pages:
208
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.5 x 0.83 in 1 lb
Age Level:
12-17

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Related Subjects

Children's » Action and Adventure » Adventure Stories
Children's » Middle Readers » General
Children's » Science Fiction and Fantasy » General
Young Adult » General

The Golden Compass: Deluxe 10th Anniversary Edition (His Dark Materials #01) Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$12.00 In Stock
Product details 208 pages Penguin Random House Llc - English 9780375838309 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

A gorgeous new edition of a gripping book that's officially for children but adored by adult readers as well. New "document" additions to this edition include letters from Lord Asriel.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "As always, Pullman is a master at combining impeccable characterizations and seamless plotting, maintaining a crackling pace to create scene upon scene of almost unbearable tension. This glittering gem will leave readers of all ages eagerly awaiting the next installment of Lyra's adventures." Publishers Weekly
"Review" by , "Superb...all-stops-out thrilling."
"Review" by , "[A] multi-layered fantasy adventure."
"Review" by , "Arguably the best juvenile fantasy novel of the past 20 years....It's sheerly, breathtakingly, all-stops-out thrilling."
"Review" by , "Very grand indeed...scene after scene of power and beauty."
"Review" by , "Fantastic....A shattering tale that begins with a promise and delivers an entire universe."
"Synopsis" by , In Lois Lowryand#8217;s Newbery Medaland#8211;winning classic, twelve-year-old Jonas lives in a seemingly ideal world. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver does he begin to understand the dark secrets behind his fragile community.
"Synopsis" by , The Giver, the 1994 Newbery Medal winner, has become one of the most influential novels of our time. The haunting story centers on twelve-year-old Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory does he begin to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community. Lois Lowry has written three companion novels to The Giver, including Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son.
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