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Beyond His Dark Materials:
Innocence and Experience in the Fiction of Philip Pullman

Susan Redington Bobby
McFarland, 207 pages

Beyond His Dark Materials
Susan Redington Bobby
Susan Redington Bobby, assistant professor of English at Wesley College in Dover, Delaware, teaches classic and contemporary fairy tales and adolescent literature. She has chaired panels and presented papers on topics related to adolescent literature, fairy tales, heroism, and gender at various conferences.

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SF Site Review: Fairy Tales Reimagined

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A review by Nathan Brazil

'Is Philip Pullman a latter-day Scheherazade? Absolutely.'
Beyond His Dark Materials is a small book about a large subject; the fictional realms and diverse characters created by Philip Pullman during his more than 30-year career. These are worlds filled with tales of the human condition, filtered through a fantasy lens. Author Susan Redington Bobby presents her personal analysis of Pullman's themes, with particular reference to innocence and experience, the journeys that Pullman's characters take, and his quoted belief that wisdom only really comes to us when we lose.

It should be noted that the clue is in the title, and what is under discussion here is indeed beyond His Dark Materials. Those works are mentioned and referenced, but this is not a book where the trilogy, specifically, is examined in great depth. Instead, Susan Redington Bobby concentrates on Pullman's other works, including his stand-alone titles, the Sally Lockheart books, and his short stories. Among the themes put under the author's microscope -- as related to Pullman -- are fairy tale and folklore revisions, quest-driven tales, the influence of German Romanticism and the Gothic, orphaned displaced and dispossessed children, socially conscious penny dreadfuls, fantasy and realism through social satire, and the impacts of the sins of the father in young adult contemporary novels.

If the above description makes the book sound rather intellectual and somewhat lacking in fun, it's because Beyond His Dark Materials is not intended to compete with that which it describes. As an assistant professor of English at Wesley College, Delaware, Bobby teaches classic and contemporary fairy tales and adolescent literature. Writing fantasy novels is not her game. This book is intended for the purpose of academic reference, and as a catalyst for further discussion within such circles. If the question was whether Beyond His Dark Materials is a Bobby dazzler, my answer would have to be no. Especially when the price of $40 for paperback or almost $25 for a Kindle version is taken into consideration. But, for readers interested in having Pullman's themes examined in an almost forensic manner, or for those engaged in academic study of fantasy works, this book may have a place on the shelf.

Copyright © 2013 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at

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