This was my first full cast audiobook, and I didn’t think I’d like it at all, but it really worked. The voice acting was all great, apart from the guy voicing Lee Scoresby sounding like he was trying to do a bad impression of John Wayne. The also started each chapter with ear-piercingly bad music, which I assumed was BBC stock music from the 70s, but it was apparently composed just for this book. Those are minor gripes, though, in what was otherwise a great production.
The story starts with a new character – Will, a boy from a world not unlike our own. He and Lyra eventually join together as companions and continue the quest to investigate the magical Dust. A war is now brewing between Lord Asriel’s growing army and the religious authority, and it’s clear that both of these kids have some part to play in that. This is the middle child of the trilogy, so there’s mainly set up for a big payoff in the next book, but it handles that quite well and stays interesting.
When I finished the first book, I couldn’t really understand why the Christians were protesting. Sure the baddies were in the church, but it was hardly as if Pullman was really going after them. I’ll never fully understand any group ever trying to ban a book, but protesting that book just felt like a particularily bizarre focus of their effort – like PETA protesting a meat-related street name.
Well, it becomes fairly clear in the first few chapters of the The Subtle Knife that he decided to ramp it up a bit in this one, and I can at least see why they were up in arms. He doesn’t hold any punches at all when it comes to his criticisms, which I can definitely respect. This was originally published ten years before the recent trend of pro-atheism books hit the market after all, at least The God Delusion and God is Not Great anyway, and it’s nice to see him avoid sugar-coating for his young adult readers.
I wonder if he realised just how much of an uproar this would cause with religious groups when published. I imagine he suspected he’d recieve some attention from it, but probably not quite as much as it got. This is a great marketing technique, actually. I likely wouldn’t have read, or maybe even heard of, this book if it wasn’t for the protesters. I might just add in some gratuitous Christian bashing if I even write a novel, just to get my sales up.