The Overrated Compass

Every once in a while, there will be a thread on /r/books about how amazing The Golden Compass series is. There will be a praise-filled opening post from someone who has recently discovered it, followed by thousands of comments from people extolling how deeply it affected them, both as children and adults.

I read all three books to try and learn what the fuss is about. I might have loved them when I was 10. Maybe I would appreciate them at 20. But I read them at 33, and do not share the enthusiasm of other readers.

The story is your average children's fantasy. It has some original elements – but mainly, children go around and do unlikely things, and attempt to save the world while facing unlikely challenges. Its main distinction is in how fundamentally it's centered around a ham-fisted, uninspired, black-and-white portrayal of religion as completely evil. It comes across as overwhelmingly lacking nuance.

I feel I learned nothing of value from this work. I experienced few emotions. I would go so far as to call it throwaway literature – if it wasn't for the large fan-base it attracts.

I suspect the readers who derive the most value from this work are young people who need help and encouragement to build their own spiritual reality; who need reassurance that it's okay to reject restrictive worldviews imposed on them by their families and parents. I suspect that this can be tremendously worthwhile, but you have to be at a time in your life where this is useful.

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