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Phillip Pullman

Author John Cech
Air Date 11/18/1999

Phillip Pullman Transcript

If your household is looking for some books that will take you to the next level after Harry Potter, let me say just two words: Phillip Pullman. Well, maybe I’d better use more than two. Phillip Pullman, like J. K. Rowling, is an author from the UK who has also taken up that time-honored English tradition of fantasy writing and done something unbelievably good with it. Something that will plant all sorts of seeds, no matter what week you read it in.

Pullman has published the first two volumes of a fantasy trilogy that has developed a following fans just as fervid, if not as large, as those that have championed the Harry Potter books. Pullman’s books are set in an England that might have been, had we not discovered electricity, gasoline, or atomic energy — it’s a curiously retro place, where people travel in dirigibles and burn oil lamps. But what makes it even more compelling is the presence of animals called daemons, who are the embodiment of a key element of their owners’ character. Our daemons are in flux during childhood, changing form until we settle on our true adult nature; but we cannot be separated from our daemons without great soul-searing loss. In the first volume of the trilogy, The Golden Compass, we follow the adventures of Lyra, the daughter of the powerful Lord Asriel, who discovers that she has the innate power to operate a strange device — the golden compass — that will tell her the answer to any questions that she asks it. What she wants to learn about is what her father is trying to keep secret from her and the rest of the world — his discoveries in the arctic Northern Lights, of a rift in the cosmos.

The second installment, The Subtle Knife, which was published two years ago, plays dramatically with the idea of parallel worlds, as Pullman introduces a boy from our own present, Will Parry, who finds his way into another reality where he meets Lyra. Together these two quick-witted, courageous young people go in search of Will’s father, also an explorer like Lyra’s, who had been lost years ago, armed with a knife they have found that can cut through any material.

The third book in this series, The Amber Spyglass, is due out next spring, and many of us can’t wait to see what will grow this time from Pullman’s complex, fertile imagination.

Posted in Authors, Literature