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Some days I want to cull the best of the "didn't read the copy and/or morally offensive!!!" reviews from Amazon.com so they can be read without having to sift for the gems. In the roughly one thousand reviews of Phillip Pullman's The Golden Compass, the first book of the His Dark Materials trilogy, there's about a dozen hysterical reviews where people piss and moan that Pullman simply must be an atheist because the church is corrupted by power in the books' universe, that he "rewrites" Bible passages (part of the series' mythology is an Adam-and-Eve-like storyline involving two adolescent characters and the temptation is not explicitly evil), and it's pagan because there are witches and daemons in it! TEH EVIL! *makes warding hand motions*

The negative comments about daemons are funny mostly because they're misinformed. Explained in two simple statements:
1. Daemon and demon are different words. I know they look alike, but so do your and you're and people don't confuse them all the time... oh wait, they do. Never mind. In this universe, a daemon is a computer program that lies dormant waiting for specific conditions to occur. In the books' universe, a daemon is the physical expression of a person's soul that assumes the shape of different animals until approximately puberty, when it settles on a single form that expresses a person's true personality. Pullman assumes the reader is able to think about what they're reading, so he never pauses from the story to say HI, READER! DAEMONS REPRESENT EACH PERSON'S SOUL, which confuses the non-offended negative reviewers.
2. Difference is not automatically evil. The argument that daemons are evil (see above for those of you who confuse that with demon) is baseless -- since they're people's souls, that's arguing that souls are evil. Granted, there are probably religious groups that believe human souls are dirty and evil and there's nothing you can do about it, but if Pullman called them "souls" there would be fewer negative reviewers vectoring that daemons = demons = evil and less fodder for me.

Most of the reviews are also from younger readers, which suggests that most of America's schools are turning out functionally illiterate and too-lazy-to-think consumers. It's great that kids are voluntarily reading something longer than popular magazines, but I nearly snorted my juice when one young reviewer complained that the word aleithiometer (a device in the books' universe used to determine truth, hence the name) was too long and Pullman should have used 'sod' or 'poul' instead. I wonder if they know that 'sod' is a real word in English. Then again, they're probably trying to hunt down the hot boy that gave the boxed set a negative review because the book -- he doesn't specify which one -- is too long and he has to read it for school.

My favorite of the adult negative reviewers is the "PARENTS BEWARE!!1" guy. After reading his review of the entire trilogy posted as a review for the first book, I clicked on the "read more about me" link and found he cut and pasted the same text as a review three times -- and he was offended by the nudity and sex in the DVD of The Singing Detective, so make sure to cleanse your house now. (Next thng you know, I'll show you all my breasts, but you've probably already seen them.) I'm amazed he didn't go and post it for every Pullman book, especially Puss In Boots: The Adventures of That Most Enterprising Feline because I'm pretty sure it says somewhere in the Bible that animals should not dress like people... or was that Animal Farm? Damn liberals getting the schools to add works by that damn commie Orwell to the curriculum. *snerk* I also nearly fell off my chair laughing at the "To whom do you pray?" guy. Dude, I never knew atheists were almost as evil as the Jews. I better go out and collect the whole set while I still have time.

One Morally Offended reviewer commenting on the second book in the trilogy, The Subtle Knife, starts with a warning that the book promotes devil worship, details every negative thing the major characters do in that book (hello spoilers!), and ends up: "Keep yourself and your children away from this book. Remember what you feed your mind is just as important as what you feed your body. Unless of course you want to buy the whole series and shelf it next to your dog-eared copy of Anton Levy's the Satanic Bible, and the Necronomicon." I haven't found as good a used bookstore out here as Edward McKay, so if anyone has a spare copy of either book I'd be happy to relieve you of it so they can keep my copy of the His Dark Materials trilogy warm, although it would be out of genre. (Yes, I shelve books by genre.) I bet the "Levy" version of LeVay's Satanic Bible is worth more for the misprinting, too.

Nearly as amusing as the Morally Offended reviewers are the "this is as bad as [x]" reviewers. One ran on about how Pullman shouldn't write for children because the His Dark Materials books are anti-Christian and warned not to be fooled by library association glowing reviews and medals (The Golden Compass won the 1996 Carnegie Medal, England's equivalent of the Newberry Award) and to read books before your children do. I was momentarily confused because I thought everyone's parents did that (if you think I'm a voracious/fast reader, you should meet my mother) but then they concluded with the line "These books, like The Giver, are ones the parents need to have read first." Now I'm really lost. What's so bad about The Giver? I own it and have read it a couple of times, but I'm lost as to what's so bad about it. Jeffco Schools, home of the Columbine special, feels so unthreatened by the content that middle school honors English students read it.

Another reviewer called the books "feminist pederasty", compared the work to Ursula K. Le Guin, and closed with the comment that the polar bear reminded them of Coca-Cola commercials. After coughing *bullshit* a few times, I still haven't figured out what's wrong with Le Guin, except that reading The Dispossessed gave them a headache. I'd pay to see a Coca-Cola commercial where the polar bears wear meteorite-iron armor and beat the hell out of each other.

The best of all the negative His Dark Materials-related reviews came from Lyra's Oxford, which I hope to acquire in the next few months because I'll happily take the "crumbs" of the short story as an after-dinner mint to the trilogy and the possible next big book following Lyra. For the best entertainment value, I'm dissecting it line-by-line.

Not a book for teens, November 16, 2003

Or for anyone, since it's labeled for ages 10 and up, just like the trilogy.

Reviewer: A reader from Spring Lake, NC USA

Well, that explains a lot. (For those of you not familiar with North Carolina, Spring Lake is near Fayetteville. Naturally, it attracts a lot of the kind of folks from the nearby bases that you probably wouldn't want to drink with, trailers, and that awful prefab housing that's like a fungus down there.)

This book is about witches and deamons.

I read this as "I did not even look at the book flap or ask a bookstore employee what this mysterious book was about before I bought it."

I read it before I allowed my daughter to read it. (I will not let her read it.)

There's one point back to the mother, although that's the only positive thing I have to say about her entire review.

It is hard to read. I had to look up words in the dictionary for meaning.

1. Pullman writes at a fifth-grade reading level.
2. Looking up words is not a Bad Thing.

When I bought the book I thought it would be something interesting and true about Oxford, England.

The publisher's category for it is YA fantasy. Unless the bookstore had it completely mishelved (possible, but the category is listed on the bookflap so it's user error either way), I have no idea how someone might mistake "fantasy" for "true". She should have tried Travel or Geography if she wanted non-fiction.

The book is short and only takes about a hour to read.

I am completely baffled by this. The entire book is 64 pages -- including the introduction, short story, numerous woodcut illustrations and ephemera from Lyra's world -- and Pullman's works have large text (I could comfortably read the entire trilogy without my glasses and I can only see 8 inches clearly without them). The reviewer must read slower than Himself, which is worthy of being in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Recap: Morally Offended negative reviewers are hella funny, I'd like copies of The Satanic Bible and the Necronomicon to keep my copy of the trilogy company, and Lyra's Oxford is shaping up to be a real treat when I get my hands on it. (Himself just volunteered that we already have a copy of the Necronomicon. I guess that means I can use the Book of Mormon to keep the other side of the trilogy warm. Heh.)

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
revme
Nov. 22nd, 2003 07:22 am (UTC)
Hee. You should write/rewrite/whatever that for the TODCRA LJ.

Anyway, to be fair(ish), isn't "Daemon" also the UK spelling of "Demon" (aside from the computer program, as you mentioned, which is, of course, the first think _I_ think of when confronted with "Daemon").... not that that means a damn thing, since, as you mention the books Daemons aren't the same thing as Demons (English or not), but... yeah.

[a second later]
OK, I wasn't going to look it up, and cite my laziness as a reason, but I did. The Merriam Webster Dictionary (I would use the OED, but they actually want money) actually confirms that "daemon" is an accepted variant spelling of "demon" (i.e. evil guys with pitchforks and whatever), but also provides this info:
2 usually daemon : an attendant power or spirit : GENIUS
3 usually daemon : a supernatural being of Greek mythology intermediate between gods and men


So, uh, yeah. While it is Kinda-Sorta The Same Word, it's In Another Way Not, although I suppose you could use "Demon" to mean those things as well. (Yeah, I know #3 has nothing to do with anything, and #2 is actually what you're talkin' about.)

I guess you can _kinda-sorta_ give them the benefit of the doubt on that, but... I dunno, I'm tempted not to, just because they actually believe in A Red Guy With Horns And A Pitchfork Hoppin' Around Goin' "Hee-hee-hee! I'm the DEVIL! I'm gonna GETCHA!" to paraphrase David Cross.

Also, uh... "feminist pederasty"? Buh-whee? Is that related to the Ursula K. LeGuin bit or was it just one flavor in the stew of idiocy? I mean, geez, I don't really like LeGuin (I have only read The Dispossessed, though), but... jeez, it didn't annoy me enough to use it as the "OMG WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU GODLESS COMMIES" when I write about books I hate. I mean, geez. I save that for Bear v. Shark. I think the worst I ever did to/with TD is write an essay mentioning it once or twice as an excuse to write about Frank Zappa and the PMRC for a class.

Anyway, I'm still trying to figure out what "feminist pederasty" means. Maybe it'd help if I read the book it's reviewing, but I don't think I want to read something so sinful and horrible. So, I am forced to ask you: Is it about Pegging?[1] And how are these CG bears involved?


[1] Actually, I'm _guessing_, again from not having read these evil, sinful books, that they mean that it's Figuratively Anally Violating The Reader With The Horrible Sinful Feminist Philosophy (or, "How dare those uppity women think they're equal?! If they're so equal, how come they're women?!"). But... that's pretty weird. Anyway, I just wanted an excuse to mention Pegging.
oddharmonic
Nov. 22nd, 2003 08:18 am (UTC)
You should write/rewrite/whatever that for the TODCRA LJ.

What changes should I make for it to be TODCRA-ready?

just because they actually believe in A Red Guy With Horns And A Pitchfork Hoppin' Around Goin' "Hee-hee-hee! I'm the DEVIL! I'm gonna GETCHA!" to paraphrase David Cross.

You're making me laugh so hard I'm going to wake Himself up.

Is that related to the Ursula K. LeGuin bit or was it just one flavor in the stew of idiocy?

The same review -- titled "feminist pederasty", mentioned Ursula LeGuin and ended with the Coca-Cola bear reference.

LeGuin's more fantasy, less sci-fi work is wildly popular (the aforementioned Earthsea trilogy) and her short story collections are pretty rereadable. I guess I miss the feminist evil because I have a vagina.

I think I read that Zappa/TD paper; wasn't it on censorship?

I think the reviewer is using "feminist pederasty" to describe how he feels about traditional classics being taken out of libraries (as they allege in their review). Or they're just an idiot and like the sound of the word. *snerk*

You can borrow my copy of the trilogy as soon as I unpack it; it's a long read but it's not terribly dry, it just starts slow. No pegging involved, just two adolescent characters kissing in the third book and there's implied intimacy, if "entwined arms" and acting lovey-dovey counts.

They compared the armored bears (when Lyra, the main character, heads north she meets a soceity of polar bears that wear meteorite-iron armor and roam around serving the bear kind) to the Coca-Cola bears, which annoyed me because Iorek (the bear Lyra travels with) is a furry fighting machine and acts in ways that are considered heroic and touching when human soldiers perform them.

There's not a whole lot of feminist philosophy in the book. In fact, some of the characters come off as pretty mysogynistic, but there is a decidedly not-chapter-and-verse approach to Christian mythology in the trilogy. I think that counts enough for most people to go off with every "big" word they know.
revme
Nov. 22nd, 2003 09:20 am (UTC)
You should write/rewrite/whatever that for the TODCRA LJ.

What changes should I make for it to be TODCRA-ready?

I dunno, maybe a little bit less personal (or explain who, say, Himself (i.e., 'my husband') is, since it's for a little bit more of a general audience), adding anything you want, removing anything you want, whatever. If you wanted to copy/paste, that'd probably be cool too, whatever. You've read my rewrites and the originals they came from, although I'm a lot more drastic because those things were written:
a) a long time ago
and
b) with the understanding I'd re-write them to coherent them up later

So it's a bit different. I think you've written about Idiotic Amazon Reviews before; maybe Frankenstien them together? I don't know, whatever..8) Basically, when I say "rewrite", I mean "do whatever and post if you want", y'know what I mean? Outside of the people thing, I don't really think anything else _has_ to be done, and even with that, eh, fuck it if you don't feel like changin' that..8)

just because they actually believe in A Red Guy With Horns And A Pitchfork Hoppin' Around Goin' "Hee-hee-hee! I'm the DEVIL! I'm gonna GETCHA!" to paraphrase David Cross.

You're making me laugh so hard I'm going to wake Himself up.

Heh, he goes into that when he's talking about Ashcroft on his CD "Shut Up, You Fucking Baby!", which is _definately_ worth it. It's actually reasonably cheapish, too, since it's a 2 disc set for the price (at least I've found) of 1. And it's David Cross, who is the MAN.
I think I read that Zappa/TD paper; wasn't it on censorship?
Yeah, it's also up at TODCRA, so...heh.
vogonpoet
Nov. 22nd, 2003 11:49 am (UTC)
The Necronomicon is a silly work of fiction.

It IS funny, though.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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oddharmonic
Melissa, starry-eyed soy-lovin' Expatriated Zulu

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