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