The Golden Compass
This book is set in a parallel world, and begins the story of Lyra, who is caught up in a complicated plot aiming to make possible travel between universes. In Lyra’s world, each human being has a daemon, an animal familiar (a physical manifestation of the person’s soul) with whom only that person can communicate. Tied up with the attempts to facilitate travel between universes is a group of evil men and women who want to separate children from their daemons.
This book is very well-written — exciting, interesting, with good world-building and well-drawn characters — and, along with the other books in the series, has become very popular among young readers. This is unfortunate, however, considering the series’ moral qualities. Pullman has stated that his purpose in writing these books is to write the anti-Narnia books — to counter the worldview Lewis set forth in his well-known Christianity-based series. Pullman borrows concepts from Milton’s Paradise Lost for his trilogy, collectively known as His Dark Materials, but states that he wishes to tell a new version in which Satan conquers God. Blatant as such statements may seem, however, Pullman is much more subtle in this book, and disguises his strongly anti-Christian sentiments in a rousing good tale which nonetheless twists Christian morality and truth, as well as putting down the Christian church (the Church backs the villains who are trying to separate children and their daemons). A warped view of good and evil is the central problem, of course, finding its outlet in occultic magic being portrayed as good and many other facets of this highly dangerous book.
I have not read the second and third books of the trilogy, but according to my research (on-line and skimming sections of the books), Pullman’s anti-Christian agenda comes through much more forcefully in them. God is explicitly identified as the Christian God, and then ridiculed and blasphemed (described in the end as a senile and easily destructible old man). Pullman’s anti-church sentiments — and indeed anti-organized religion sentiments — are clearly emphasized; the Church is portrayed as being anti-freedom, and the series ends with a vision of the “Republic of Heaven”. In addition to all this blatantly anti-Christian content, the third book culminates in a sexual encounter between the two main characters (who are, by the way, 12-year-olds). As you can perhaps understand, I have no real interest in reading the other two books in the series, and I certainly do not recommend this trilogy to the Christian reader.