Sunday, April 25, 2010

His Dark Materials

I finally got it over with a couple of weeks back. Apologies to fans of Philip Pullman, but I found the trilogy too much of a drag. It didn't help that my copy is the 3-in-1 paperback that was so bulky I developed biceps from carrying it around.

Just offhand, I thought the attempt at religious subversion was so unsubtle it felt crude. It's possible that my traditional Christian sensibilities were ruffled a bit, thus my less-than-glowing review. But then again, this isn't the first book I've read that challenged the givens of the Christian faith. I just think this one lacked finesse.

So angels fall in love with each other like gay men? Okay, granted, Balthamos and Baruch probably didn't have sex, but their devotion to each other was clearly different from that of regular friends. I won't call it Platonic either because it went beyond the intellectual level. There was obviously something homoerotic there. Only a lover would pine away for a dead beloved like that. It reminded me of vampires, particularly the Antonio Banderas character in Interview With The Vampire who got so taken with the Brad Pitt character (sorry their names escape me now) it broke him when the latter left.

Now this gay thing between angels is probably a jibe at Roman Catholic priests. Not entirely undeserved, true. But was there a need to play it out that much? Did Balthamos have to be depicted as cantankerous and sarcastic, and given to bouts of emotional meltdown, like a stereotypical elderly gay man?

But why am I so hung up on Balthamos and Baruch? I don't know. A lot can be said about the storytelling technique in general, but it's the gay angels that stand out in my mind. Oh, and the 'Ancient of Days' depicted as an aged angel so shriveled up he's like a grotesque-looking baby. I thought that was somewhat funny if not overdone.

The fantasy elements--multiple parallel worlds--were nicely done. The science behind the plot felt solid. The philosophy, although it felt flawed to me, was strongly presented. The language was in keeping with the complexity of the plot, but at some points seemed uppity. If this was written for young adults, I'm not too sure it succeeded to connect. That there's an effort to reach adult readers is obvious to me. But I'm not about to take that against Pullman. It's not easy to write for kids and still impress their parents. That's why reading His Dark Materials affirmed my fanhood for J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter.

On the whole, I give it 3 out 5 stars (5 being the Harry Potter series).

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Homicidal in Manila

My sunburn from our Gigantes and Guimaras weekend is not even peeling yet, but already I can't stand it in Manila. The sticky heat, the horrible traffic, the pollution--they stir up my inner Kraken. I don't know where all this rage is coming from. I feel like acting it out on an overcharging cab driver. Maybe I just need to run tonight. Yeah, I'll do that.