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Northern Lights

Parallel worlds have always fascinated me, the idea that something familiar but other night be out there. Philip Pullman offers people and action as well as places, with splendid imagination and flawless writing.

Northern Lights – published in the US as the Golden Compass, presumably to avoid any confusion with uninspired sitcoms – is the first in a set of three books that touch on theology and physics with equal ease and create a world you can hardly imagine not existing. Subtle Knife adds a half-deserted city and the Oxford of our own world to the Oxford, the London and the Arctic already conjured up. Amber Spyglass switches between these worlds, adds another inhabited by wheeled animals and pulls all threads of the tale together in a thought-provoking conclusion.

Thanks once again to Felicity, who despite the demands of work and family yet finds time to explore unfamiliar writers and let us know. After pointing us in the direction of Reginald Hill, now she has encouraged us to discover Philip Pullman's finely-crafted work. I had in fact seen the on-line chapters from the Subtle Knife a while back and not liked them at all: this must have come from not knowing their context, for after reading Northern Lights with breathless amazement I couldn't get hold of the second book fast enough, and having to wait for the Amber Spyglass to come out was almost frustrating.

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