Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy is rightly acclaimed as a modern classic. Pullman creates alternative worlds that fascinate and delight, and has built up a loyal army of readers. He has been described as the 'most significant', but also the 'most dangerous' author in Britain. Who is Philip Pullman, and why have his books provoked such a wide variety of strong opinions?
Tony Watkins explains what makes His Dark Materials such a magnificent work of fiction. He explores the
influences that shaped Pullman's writing and the major themes of the trilogy, including daemons, Dust and Pullman's perspective on God.
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Part One: The Storyteller
1. The once upon a time business
2. Philip Pullman: places and people
3. Storytelling and other stories
4. His raw materials
Part Two: The World(s) of His Dark Materials
5. Northern Lights
6. The Subtle Knife
7. The Amber Spyglass
8. Beyond The Amber Spyglass
Part Three: Shedding light on dark matter
9. Dæmons and growing up
10. Dust, sin and the Fall
11. Consciousness, wisdom and the second Fall
12. Truth, integrity and the alethiometer
13. The Magisterium and the Authority
14. The republic of heaven
15. Once upon a time lasts for ever
Appendix: The science of His Dark Materials
Philip Pullman’s acclaimed His Dark Materials trilogy, a sweeping retelling of Milton’s Paradise Lost and the biblical Fall, has caused great controversy among Christian readers. Watkins, a self-proclaimed Christian and managing editor for the Damaris Trust’s CultureWatch Web site, offers a perspective on Pullman’s work that is anything but dark and is sure to enlighten the debate among Christians. The book is divided into three parts, the first a walk through Pullman’s life and background and the second an overview of the major dimensions of each book in the trilogy. It is not until the third section that readers will find what they are really looking for: a critical evaluation of major themes and story dimensions such as dæmons, sin, and the infamous “death of God”—an assessment that is smart and wisely restrained. Watkins’s critical appreciation of Pullman’s trilogy will surely appeal to a Christian audience, but will reach well beyond this market to a general readership looking for a solid, substantially sourced, and well-written analysis of this beloved work of literature.
Publishers Weekly, 15 March 2006
This is indeed a thinking fan's guide! Tony Watkins delves sympathetically and seriously into Pullman's fiction. He provides a readable and fun way into the theological and philosophical questions, while showing integrity towards the stories themselves.
David Wilkinson, Principal, St John's College, Durham, and author of The Power of the Force: The Spirituality of the "Star Wars" Films and God, Time and Stephen Hawking
As more of these guides to His Dark Materials are published, its good to see that they're covering more and more material. Dark Matter by Tony Watkins (published by Damaris) is the first of the books to really go in depth into the more controversial issues raised by His Dark Materials. He looks at the series from the perspective of a Christian who deeply enjoyed His Dark Materials, and is willing to tackle some of the questions that Pullman raises. While some of the earlier guide books have presented just the facts about the books, just going through and reciting the storyline without adding much commentary, Watkins has provided some excellent analysis that will be insightful to new readers and long-time fans alike. There are extensive footnotes throughout the text that are useful in following up on some of the information and quotes he uses, as well as an appendix on the science in the trilogy . . . Some readers might have expected Watkins to condemn parts of the trilogy because of his Christianity, but he is successful in portraying both his enjoyment of the story as a whole and his respectful disagreement on a few issues which are all handled tactfully.
BridgeToTheStars.net review (leading His Dark Materials fansite)
Resources on His Dark Materials by Tony Watkins. For much more depth on these issues and more, see my book, Dark Matter: A Thinking Fan's Guide to Philip Pullman.
Resources on Pullman's other books
These links are to articles about Philip Pullman written by others. Many of the links are now dead as this list dates from about 2004. However, I'm leaving the links here as you may be able to find the articles via the Internet Archive.
General sites about Pullman and His Dark Materials
Bridge to the Stars - leading fansite
HisDarkMaterials.org - leading fansite
Philip Pullman in his own words: interviews and articles he's written
The Devil in Philip Pullman, Daily Telegraph, 30 November 2007
'Identity Crisis' - on the religious hatred bill, first published in The Guardian, 19 November 2005
'The Dark Side of Narnia', The Guardian, 1 October 1998
'My Golden Compass sets a true course', The Sunday Times, 2 December 2007
Reviews, critiques and other articles
Beliefnet blogs about Philip Pullman, including contributions by myself, Donna Freitas, author of Killingthe Imposter God and others
'Craig claims Golden Compass is not anti-Catholic', The Guardian, 28 November 2007
David Byers, 'Catholic boycotters are "nitwits"', The Times, 27 November 2007
Ciar Byrne, 'The Church vs the cinema: Philip Pullman's blasphemous materials?', The Independent, 28 November 2007
Peter T. Chattaway, 'The Chronicles of Atheism', Christianity Today, December 2007
Helena de Bertodano, 'I am of the Devil's party', Daily Telegraph, 29 January 2002
Donna Freitas, 'Reluctant Theologian', Newseek, 24 November 2007
Donna Freitas, 'God in the dust - The Boston Globe' Boston Globe, 25 November 2007
Lev Grossman, 'Sympathy for the Devil', Time, 29 NOvember 2007
Julian Joyce, ''Golden Compass author hits back', BBC News 29 November 2007
Maev Kennedy, 'He is one of the greatest storytellers of all time, and he's here among us, writing now. It's just thrilling to be around', The Guardian, 30 November 2007
Melanie McDonagh, 'What all directors pray for', The Times, 28 November 2007
Laura Miller, 'Far From Narnia', The New Yorker, 26 December 2005
1. Michael Nelson, 'For the Love of Narnia', Chronicle of Higher Education, 12 May 2005
Jeffrey Overstreet, The Golden Compass: Questions I've been asked, answers I've given
Hanna Rosin, 'How Hollywood Saved God', Atlantic Monthly, December 2007
Vanessa Thorpe, 'Religion row hits Pullman epic', The Observer, 14 October 2007
Jennifer Vineyard, 'Golden Compass Angering Christian Groups', MTV News, November 2007.
Jennifer Vineyard, 'His Dark Materials Writer Starts Fantasy-Book Beef', MTV News, November 1, 2007