Books about His Dark Materials

As a highly successful series, His Dark Materials has developed a small pantheon of books that take a look at the trilogy from all different angles; taking in the books' themes of religion and science, and its many classical influences from Milton to Blake. If you know of a book not featured here, please contact us.

What does the Bible say about...The Pullman Trilogy: His Dark Materials

Connect Bible Studies, November 2002, Price: £4.99 / From $6.21

Published by Damaris Publishing, "this set of four Connect Bible Studies looks at the issues raised by Philip Pullman's trilogy His Dark Materials and compares them with the Bible. What does the Bible say about the true nature of authority in the world? What was the Fall really about? What is the truth, and how do we think about the future?"

You can purchase the study as an eBook from the Scripture Union. There is also an extract there to view. We don't have a copy for review unfortunately.

The Science of His Dark Materials

John and Mary Gribbin, November 2003, Price: £7.19 / $5.99

Published by Hodder Children's Books, the Science of His Dark Materials takes a look at the science behind the trilogy, such as the Northern Lights, the quantum physics of parallel universes and so forth. It has an introduction by Philip Pullman.

Our review praised the book's "elegant and straightforward style," saying, "the authors provide fans with a fun, accessible reference guide to many of Pullman's subjects."

Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials Trilogy:
A Reader's Guide

Claire Squires, November 2003, Price: from $26.23 / from £0.54

Written by Claire Squires, this release is part of Continium's series of reader's guides. The book has a short biography of Pullman, a thematically oriented study of the novel in question, a summary of how it was received upon publication, and a list of discussion questions, suggestions for further reading, and useful websites.

Our review liked the book, calling it "a good resource, both for readers who had already been acquainted with the trilogy and its author for some time, and for those just discovering it," but raised a caveat about its somewhat short length.

A Closer Look at His Dark Materials

John Houghton, October 2004, Price: from £0.01 / from $19.98
A critical investigation of Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials Trilogy", and the insights it offers to today's world. A UK and American best-seller as well as the basis for a major film to be released in 2007, "His Dark Materials" trilogy is an unusual sort of young adult series: one that appeals to adults as much as (if not more than) to their children thanks to its richly imagined world, rigorously explored cosmology and unflinching confrontation of the modern answers to the Big Questions. The film promises to reignite a firestorm of controversy. Contributors with backgrounds in philosophy, theology, science fiction and children's literature help readers find their way through Pullman's trilogy, from the streets of Lyra's Oxford to Dr. Malone's lab in our own world, from the republic of Heaven to the harpy-ruled pit of Hell.

Dark Matter : a Thinking Fan's Guide to Philip Pullman

Tony Watkins, September 2004, Price: £8.09/ From $6.53
"Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy is rightly acclaimed as a modern classic. Pullman creates alternative worlds that fascinate and delight, and has built up a loyal army of readers. He has been described as the 'most significant', but also the 'most dangerous' author in Britain. Who is Philip Pullman, and why have his books provoked such a wide variety of strong opinions?"

Tony Watkins explains what makes His Dark Materials such a magnificent work of fiction. He explores the influences that shaped Pullman's writing and the major themes of the trilogy, including daemons, Dust and Pullman's perspective on God." A good outline of the book's contents is available on the publisher's website.

Our review found the book to contain "some excellent analysis that will be insightful to new readers and long-time fans alike."

The Devil's Account: Philip Pullman and Christianity

Hugh Rayment-Pickard, December 2004, Price: £8.96 / $9.89
Recommended by Pullman himself, this book is a critique of the His Dark Materials trilogy. “The tide of commentary on Pullman's work is mounting fast, but little of it is likely to improve on this brief but brilliant book. It is a measure of the cogency of Rayment-Pickard's argument that those of us who disagree with some of his conclusions will now have to work hard to defend our position” – The Church Times.

Navigating the Golden Compass: Religion, Science and Daemonology in Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials"

Glenn Yeffeth, August 2005, Price: £10.79 / $14.00
A critical investigation of Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials Trilogy", and the insights it offers to today's world. A UK and American best-seller as well as the basis for a major film to be released in 2007, "His Dark Materials" trilogy is an unusual sort of young adult series: one that appeals to adults as much as (if not more than) to their children thanks to its richly imagined world, rigorously explored cosmology and unflinching confrontation of the modern answers to the Big Questions. The film promises to reignite a firestorm of controversy. Contributors with backgrounds in philosophy, theology, science fiction and children's literature help readers find their way through Pullman's trilogy, from the streets of Lyra's Oxford to Dr. Malone's lab in our own world, from the republic of Heaven to the harpy-ruled pit of Hell.

"His Dark Materials" Illuminated: Critical Essays on Philip Pullman's Trilogy (Landscapes of Childhood)

Millicent Lenz, November 2005, Price: £22.60 / $27.95
British author Philip Pullman's celebrated trilogy for young readers, His Dark Materials [Northern Lights/Golden Compass (1995), The Subtle Knife (1997), The Amber Spyglass (2000)], has reached a broad spectrum of readers, from those appreciating his metaphysical imagination and literary depth to those charmed by his suspenseful and emotional storytelling. Pullman's trilogy is distinguished not only for its narrative and poetic power but also for its awareness of literary tradition. His Dark Materials confronts some of the most urgent dilemmas of our time without suggesting answers but rather a way of meeting them with courage and surviving them with grace. Edited by Millicent Lenz, renowned for her study of Pullman's work, this is the first book to place His Dark Materials in critical perspective. The fourteen diverse essays within offer literary and historical analysis as well as approaches from such disciplines as theology, storytelling, and linguistics.

The Magical Worlds of Philip Pullman

David Colbert, September 2006, Price: From £0.01 / From $1.99
After exploring the worlds of Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, and Narnia, David Colbert turns to Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. From the philosophy of William Blake and John Milton's poem Paradise Lost to quantum physics and the Bible, this book reveals the complex origins and controversial themes that make Pullman's trilogy a modern marvel in literature.

Philip Pullman, Master Storyteller: A Guide to the Worlds of His Dark Materials

Claire Squires, January 2007, Price: £9.89 / $17.95
It has been 10 years since The Golden Compass (Knopf, 1996) first appeared in the United States. Embraced by critics and readers alike, the book grew into a trilogy known as "His Dark Materials," which placed Pullman in the forefront of a rising tide of hefty fantasy cycles, just ahead of the "Harry Potter" series. Squires covers every aspect of the Pullman phenomenon, examining the success of the series from many angles-characterization, theme, setting, and storytelling skill-as well as adaptations to stage and screen. Of particular interest is her chapter on "Intertextuality," which discusses literary influences on Pullman's writing, both his acknowledged references to Milton and Blake and the connections critics have noted to writers of folktale, fantasy, and science fiction. Squires does not shy away from the controversy that Pullman's themes have stirred up-his apparent diatribe against religion in the form of "the Authority" and the Magisterium, and the ending of the trilogy in which Lyra and Will must part ways forever-and she refers to many direct quotes from Pullman himself as well as commentators on the series. A chapter on the author's other writing (which includes historical fiction, fantasy, adventure, and contemporary fiction as well as adult novels) and an extensive bibliography of books and articles about his work round out this accessible study.

Philip Pullman's 'His Dark Materials', A Multiple Allegory: Attacking Religious Superstition in 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' and 'Paradise Lost'

Leonard F. Wheat, September 2007, Price: £15.29 / $15.01
Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials" trilogy is one of the most popular fantasy works of our time. Both the trilogy and a new movie based on it are being marketed chiefly as YA (young adult) fare. But Leonard F Wheat shows in this fascinating analysis that "His Dark Materials" is far more than a YA tale. At a deeper level it is a complex triple allegory - a surface story that uses 231 symbols to tell three hidden stories. As such, it is among the most profound, intellectually challenging, and thoroughly adult works ever written. Wheat brings the hidden stories to light. He demonstrates how Pullman retells two prominent works of British literature - C S Lewis' "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" and John Milton's "Paradise Lost". Pullman's aim is to counter Lewis' pro-Christian allegory with his own anti-Christian allegory. Pullman does this in his second allegory by turning "Paradise Lost" upside down. Satan and his daughter, Sin, along with Adam's murderous son Cain, become heroes; God and Jesus become villains. This retold story depicts our society's warfare between knowledge (symbolised by Dust) and religious superstitions (symbolised by Spectres). Pullman adds an original third hidden story featuring Christian missionaries, Charles Darwin, agnostics, and atheists. Wheat's intriguing interpretation of Pullman's work is the first to point out the many allegorical features of "His Dark Materials" and to highlight the ingenious ways in which Pullman subtly attacks religious institutions and superstitions. Pullman fans as well as readers interested in fantasy or concerned about religious coercion will find Wheat's book not only stimulating but overflowing with surprises.

The Rough Guide to Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials"

Paul Simpson, September 2007, Price: £6.39 / From $1.29
The Rough Guide to Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials explores the beguiling world of Philip Pullman’s classic trilogy. The guide covers Pullman’s inspiration from science and literature, including string theory, climate change and dark matter, Milton, Blake and fantasy fiction. The Story and characters are unravelled with insight into the key mysteries and events and how everyone from Lyra Belacqua to the golden monkey demon fit in to the author’s grand design. You’ll find everything from the story behind the filming and cast of the first His Dark Materials film, The Golden Compass to how the Victorian era shaped Pullman’s imagination, with a tour of Oxford’s Exeter College, Geneva (home of the Magisterium), Venice (Cittagazze), and of course where to catch the Northern Lights. Pullman shares his views on religion, and discover what organised religion has to say about his books. Cut through the darkness and step into another universe with The Rough Guide to Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials.

Killing the Imposter God: Philip Pullman's Spiritual Imagination in His Dark Materials

Donna Frietas and Jason E. King, October 2007, Price: £10.79 / $17.95
Freitas and King believe that Philip Pullman—whom the New Yorker called one of England's most outspoken atheists—is a theologian in spite of himself, and that Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy is a religious classic on the order of the Chronicles of Narnia. Here, the authors attempt to show that the Pullman novels are not about killing off God, but rather, annihilating an understanding of God that is antiquated and unimaginative. Analyzing lengthy scenes from the novels, they find Pullman's views pantheistic, rather than atheistic. Pullman resurrects a far more sophisticated divinity and wrestles mightily with theological questions. Freitas and King explore Pullman's beliefs about God, good and evil, and salvation, seeing the novelist as squarely situated within liberation theology and surprisingly Greek, indebted nearly as much to Socrates and Plato as to God the Father and God the Son. Freitas (Becoming a Goddess of Inner Poise) and King clearly know their material and have the requisite passion for their topic. Although this is not light reading, the book release's timing to coincide with the motion picture, His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass, should give it higher visibility to a popular audience.

Shedding Light on His Dark Materials: Exploring Hidden Spiritual Themes in Philip Pullman's Popular Series

Kurt Bruner, October 2007, Price: £8.99 / from $0.35
Bestselling authors of Finding God in the Lord of the Rings Kurt Bruner and Jim Ware team up again in a study of Philip Pullman's popular His Dark Materials fantasy series. Unlike authors such as J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, Pullman writes from an intentionally anti-Christian perspective. As the authors explore Pullman's themes, characters, and charges against Christianity, they ultimately conclude that though Pullman intended to do just the opposite, he has created a cosmos that seems to confirm the existence of a loving God—one where truth wins out over deception, grace trumps the virtue of self-reliance, and relationship is prized above independence. Released in conjunction with the major feature film, Shedding Light on His Dark Materials will equip parents, teachers, and readers to better understand and respond to Pullman's brilliant but troubling work.

Science of Phillip Pullman's "His Dark Materials

John Gribbin, October 2007, Price: £4.91 / From $0.72
With an introduction by Philip Pullman himself. Award-winning science writers Mary and John Gribbin reveal how Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy (Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass) is rooted in astonishing scientific truth. Drawing on string theory and space-time, quantum physics and chaos theory, they answer fascinating questions such as: Could parallel worlds like Will’s and Lyra’s really exist? How does the subtle knife cut through anything? Could there be a bomb like the one made with Lyra’s hair? And, of course, What are the Dark Materials?

Darkness Visible: Inside the World of Philip Pullman

Nicholas Tucker, November 2007, Price: £5.85 / $9.95
This is the essential companion to the man behind one of this autumn's biggest films: Philip Pullman's "The Golden Compass". Philip Pullman's writing is full of mystery and adventure - of parallel universes, daemons and armoured bears. The "His Dark Materials" trilogy is set to become a major motion picture event with the release of the first film, "The Golden Compass". "Darkness Visible" explores this epic world and the diverse creative influences of Pullman's brilliant work. Written by acclaimed critic Nicholas Tucker, and packed with exclusive photos, illustrations and fresh material from recent interviews, this is both a celebration of Philip Pullman and an absorbing guide to all of his books. It features stills from "The Golden Compass" movie.

Pied Piper of Atheism: Philip Pullman and Children's Fantasy

Pete Vere, December 2007, Price: £6.21 / $9.95
British author Philip Pullman is widely acclaimed by critics and readers for his best-selling, award-winning trilogy, His Dark Materials. But he has been criticized by some for attacking Christianity and promoting atheism. What is the truth about Pullman and his books? What does he believe about God, religion, the Catholic Church, and atheism? What does he hope his books will accomplish? Why does he express such strong disdain for the fiction of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien? Should children be reading the His Dark Materials trilogy, or watching the film version of The Golden Compass, the first book of the trilogy? These are just some of the many important questions addressed by Pete Vere and Sandra Miesel in their accessible, concise, and thoroughly-researched analysis of Pullman's fiction and beliefs. The authors provide a literary critique of His Dark Materials and reveal the many premises, and often surprising literary and philosophical sources of that popular work, as well as explain the symbolism present throughout. They also compare Pullman's fiction to The Chronicles of Narnia, the Harry Potter books, and other famous works of children's fiction. And they examine the metaphysical premises and moral propositions found throughout His Dark Materials, and point out the many objectionable aspects of the books--including violence and sensuality--about which every concerned parent should know. Readers looking for a fair, firm, and non-sensational critique of His Dark Materials will find it in Pied Piper of Atheism.

The Definitive Guide to Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials

Laurie Fros, June 2008, Price: From £4.99 / From $5.04
“The official reference guide to Philip Pullman's HIS DARK MATERIALS trilogy. Contains everything Pullman fans need to know: in-depth, chapter-referenced sections on characters, places, creatures, sciences, languages, and much more.”

Death and Fantasy: Essays on Philip Pullman, C. S. Lewis, George MacDonald and R. L. Stevenson

William Gray, November 2009, Price: £14.24 / From $24.99
Drawing on philosophy, theology and psychoanalysis as well as on literary criticism, this collection of essays explores a range of fantasy texts with particular attention to the various ways in which they seek to deal with the reality of death.

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