My first Philip Pullman, and probably my last.
When I read a book I don't like, I usually figure it's just not for me, and I have different tastes, blah, blah, and move on. Not this time. The novel "deserves" a few notes.
Philip Pullman has awfully combined two of the greatest conundrums of modern science, dark matter and the nature of consciousness, into one very week element within his narrative, and has connected it with the transition from childhood to adolescence. After all this is a YA novel.
Pullman's suggestion is that children are not fully self-conscious until adolescence. This premise is nonsense, even for a book. Pullman's claim is that these elements of consciousness start streaming into the children and their daemons settle into a fixed form. Uhm...Come again?
All those elements could work if the execution was any good. Unfortunately it's pretty awful. I know this a YA novel. Pullman's intension was for the book to be read by young adults and maybe even the younger set. Even so he can be faulted for style and narrative (LeGuin's The Earthsea Trilogy, Heinlein's Have Space Suit - Will Travel, John Christopher's Tripods Trilogy, Kurt Vonnegut's Welcome To The Monkey House, Douglas Adams' Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy Trilogy, and Jonathan Letham's Girl in Landscape come to mind in terms of almost faultless execution).
After a good start set in an alternate universe things slack down and became completely predictable. Despite a few scenes that could have been tense, I never felt the suspense growing, only the boring level growing by virtue of introducing repetitious literary devices , like the phrase: "She was horrified..". Character-wise is also where the novel really fails.The characters are nothing more than cut-out cardboard cliches. They are not gripping. The conversations are often painful to read. And the adventures? Yawn.