Mark Reads ‘The Golden Compass’: Chapter 8

In the eighth chapter of The Golden Compass, we learn how gyptian society functions when the plan to head to the north is finally laid out publicly. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Golden Compass.


This is not going to be an easy journey for Lyra Belacqua.

Lyra had to adjust to her new sense of her own story, and that couldn’t be done in a day. To see Lord Asriel as her father was one thing, but to accept Mrs. Coulter as her mother was nowhere near so easy. A couple of months ago she would have rejoiced, of course, and she knew that too, and felt confused.

I have certainly never had to deal with something as complex or as life-changing as this, but there was a part of me that understood why Pullman used the phrase “new sense of her own story” here. I don’t know if this is the case with other people who have been adopted, but there comes a time when you learn you are adopted, and your own internal story has to change. That’s a really, really weird sensation, and in my case, it actually happened twice. My parents told me that I was adopted at a really young age and that fact was unavoidable. They had to tell me by the time I got to elementary school. Here was a mixed Latino kid with a dark-skinned Hawaiian-Japanese father and a pale white mother with fiery red hair, and it was impossible to look at my family and ever think that my twin brother and I somehow came out of that. I look absolutely nothing like my parents, which…I guess that is weird? I don’t know what that experience is like, to resemble my parents, so I have nothing to compare it to. But in those days, the story was always very, very simple: my birth mother could not take care of me, and my brother and I became wards of the state before we were adopted out of foster care. The end!

I learned a few months before my eighteenth birthday that this story was horrifically simplified, and for a good reason: my birth mother had been trying to find me for many years and always spoke about taking us back. My mom hid that detail (as well as the fact that my biological mom was actually her step-daughter BRAIN EXPLOSION) for years to keep me safe. It factors into why she was so strict with me as well, but that’s a story for another time.

In short, you have to learn to internalize these details, because the “story” you’ve been telling everyone about your life is now suddenly wrong, and that’s such a weird thing. It’s your own life! How could you be wrong about it? So, in a way, I get how bizarre this must be for Lyra. However, her situation is far more dramatic than mine, and learning that Mrs. Coulter is your mother is not fun in any universe ever. Seriously, MAJORLY FUCKED UP. Also, whomever made The Golden Compass movie: you did an absolutely awful job because I remember NONE OF THIS AT ALL.

Lyra copes, though, and she chooses to do it in the way she knows best: through braggadocio and hyperbole. I almost feel like it’s a running gag to see how ridiculous she can get when telling stories about Lord Asriel, and I rather enjoy the idea that he poisons people just for the fuck of it. Strangely, as absurd as her stories are, at this point, they don’t actually seem terribly out-of-character for Lord Asriel. As far as I know, he does poison people with the venom from a Turkish serpent that is stolen through a honey-covered sponge. Which….whatever, LYRA YOU ARE AMAZING.

She takes this same zest for the fantastical details of her father and incessantly pesters Ma Costa about what happened on the day her father killed Edward Coulter. I feel like it’s a sign of her character that she is so obsessed about murder, but she seems to be the kind of person attracted to these kind of stories. Maybe that’s because they’re not as real to her, since she’s not experienced things of this nature, but I also know that part of this is her way of coping with the new news. Like earlier, she has a new story to tell, and the pride she feels for her father is compounded into her desire to know absolutely everything about him. Gosh, that’s even weird to me, and I’ve only been reading this book for just short of two weeks. Lord Asriel is her father. OH, PULLMAN, THE THINGS YOU ARE DOING TO ME.

Lyra also takes time often to pull out the alethiometer, given her recent knowledge of how it works, and fool around with it:

Remembering what Farder Coram had said, she tried to focus her mind on three symbols taken at random, and clicked the hands round to point at them, and found that if she held the alethiometer just so in her palms and gazed at it in a particular lazy way, as she thought of it, the long needle would begin to move more purposely. Instead of its wayward divagations around the dial it swung smoothly rom one picture to another. Sometimes it would pause at three, sometimes two, sometimes five or more, and although she understood nothing of it, she gained a deep calm enjoyment from it, unlike anything she’d known.

So now I wonder, of course, if there’s another meaning to it. Can any person learn to control an alethiometer, or is this one of those things where only certain people are gifted enough to use it? And given its complexity, I wonder how Pullman is going to explain precisely how it works using the specific symbols and signs without confusing readers.

The narrative shifts to the second Roping meeting, set three days after the first one, when John Faa learns the results of the taxing and liens from the six major families of gyptians. What I adore most here is that Pullman shows us the way that politics work in the gyptian society, and it’s clearly something he thought about for an extensive amount of time. We’d learned before that the gyptians are split into six ruling families, and those families have an hierarchy within themselves, but this second Roping meeting more clearly lays out how open this society is about the way it runs.

The transparency we see here seems so practical and efficient, and I kind of adore how John Faa is held accountable by the people underneath him and how the system is set up so that people can express their concerns and problems in the open, which forces Faa to provide satisfactory answers. Honestly? I’ve never quite seen anything like it.

And so the meeting commences. The head of each of the six families comes forward to report how many men they can offer for the journey and how much gold they’ve collected. At the end of it all, with on hundred and seventy men volunteered for the mission, John Faa very plainly lays out what is going to happen. It’s a relatively simple plan, for now, with the gyptains taking a ship up to the north with the intentions to rescue as many children as possible. The details are not given publicly, and I suppose there’s no need to at this point. Then, like he did before, John Faa opens the meeting to the gyptian citizens for any questions or concerns the might have.

It starts off innocently enough, with one man asking if Faa knows why the Gobblers are taking children, and all Faa can answer is that it appears to be a theological matter as far as he knows. But regardless, any reason is not worth having their kinds stolen from them.

The second question comes from Raymond van Gerrit, who spoke up at the last Roping. This time, he asks a question that, at face value, seems fairly pragmatic: Knowing how sought out Lyra is, exactly who is she to deserve as much protection from the gyptians when she simultaneously seems to be putting them all in danger?

John Faa’s answer is NOT AT ALL WHAT I EXPECTED.

“But if any man or woman needs a reason for doing good, ponder on this. That little girl is the daughter of Lord Asriel, no less. For them as has forgotten, it were Lord Asriel who interceded with the Turk of the life of Sam Broekman. It were Lord Asriel who allowed gyptian boats free passage on the canals through his property. It were Lord Asriel who defeated the Watercourse Bill in Parliament, to our great and lasting benefit. And it were Lord Asriel who fought day and night in the floods of ’53, and plunged headlong in the water twice to pull out young Ruud and Nellie Koopman. You forgotten that? Shame, shame on you, shame.”


Having made his point abundantly clear, John Faa moves on to assigning various men tasks that need to be done in preparation for battle: collecting arms and munitions, commanding fighting, gathering supplies, dealing with money, SPYING (omg fuck yes MORE ON THIS PLEASE), and the chain of commands.

You’ll notice that I said he assigned various men for the job, and I love that a woman named Nell hasn’t forgotten this.

“Lord Faa, en’t you a taking any women on this expedition to look after them kids once you found ‘em?”

“No, Nell. We shall have little space as it is. Any kids we free will be better off in our car than where they’ve been.”

“But supposing you find out that you can’t rescue ‘em without such women in disguise as guards or nurses or whatever?”

“Well, I hadn’t thought of that,” John Faa admitted. “We’ll consider that most carefully when we retire into the parley room, you have my promise.”

Well, at least he can admit that, right? Still, I’m curious if every society in this series is divided so rigidly by gender and how this is going to effect Lyra herself.

The questions continue, as another man asks how in the hell they are going to beat a bunch of vicious armored bears to get to Lord Asriel, to which I would have replied TOUCHE, SIR, but Faa is much more convincing than I am as a leader. Like we’ll see with the next question, I’m constantly surprised how practical Faa comes off as, always ready to answer a question that is the most logical and fair assessment of the situation. Here, he states that their primary goal is to rescue the children, but that he’ll use any resource provided to find a way to rescue him, too. The next question relates directly to that answer, too.

A woman stands up and relates how they‘ve all heard of the awful things that the Gobblers might be doing to their children and that, at the very least, they’re still guilty of stealing their kids. This whole time, I’ve appreciated the calm and peaceful demeanor of John Faa, but this woman seems to fear it, in the sense that she is worried he’ll be too soft on the Gobblers. And Faa’s response, like many things he’s said, stirs one hell of a sense of respect in my heart:

“To be sure, there’s a warm passion behind what you say. But if you give in to that passion, friends, you’re a doing whta I always warned you agin: you’re a placing the satisfaction of your own feelings above the work you have to do. Our work here is first rescue, then punishment. It en’t gratification for upset feelings. Our feelings don’t matter. If we rescue the kids but we can’t punish the Gobblers, we’ve done the main task. But if we aim to punish the Gobblers first and by doing so lose the chance of rescuing the kids, we’ve failed.”

BE STILL, MY HEART. how is this man the most perfect thing ever. my god. Because even after saying that, he states that when the time is right to punish, he will basically DESTROY THE GOBBLERS. I mean…I don’t exactly know what that entails and I don’t even know for sure what the Oblation Board is made up of or what it’s doing in the north, but the man’s certainty is surely addictive.

Throughout all of this, as the point of view has mostly focused on Lyra being a spectator of the Roping, and after it’s over, we switch back to her desire to be a part of the action. She’s a tad disappointed that Faa never spoke of her role in the journey to the north. When she brings this up to Tony, he laughs in her face, stating that her role has already been done. Upset that she feels she hasn’t done much, she vocalizes her discontent to Tony, but he’s not interested. And who could be, when this is happening?

For this part, Pantalaimon occupied himself by making monkey faces at Tony’s dæmon, who closed her tawny eyes in disdain.

My hero.

Lyra, unsatisfied with merely sitting back and letting this all pan out without her, marches her way right up to the parley room, knocks on the door, and plainly lays out her case. She is going so she can save her father and Roger. She can take anbaromagnetic readings, knows which parts of a bear you can eat (BLESS HER), and can certainly use her alethiometer if needed.

God, I love her bold confidence. AT ELEVEN. I mean, I was confident about my use of words like LITERALLY and SPECIFICALLY and I knew every Poe tale like the back of my hand, but Lyra has this fierce streak of confidence that fills me with joy. Unfortunately, John Faa quickly dismisses the notion, ordering her to stay and help Ma Costa and stay safe. When Lyra tries to protests, he makes it clear that traveling north is not an option for her. Yet as she leaves the parley room, she makes her intentions clear to her dæmon.

“We will go,” she said to Pantalaimon. “Let ‘em try to stop us. We will!”

GOD SHE IS SERIOUSLY AMAZING. can i just be lyra please

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
This entry was posted in His Dark Materials, The Golden Compass and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

117 Responses to Mark Reads ‘The Golden Compass’: Chapter 8

  1. Avit says:

    Hum, those names certainly do look Dutch.

    I don't suppose it's very strange that multiple societies, especially multiple societies in close contact, would have less than egalitarian views of women. It is true, after all, to life.

  2. Kira Wonrey says:

    Lord Asriel is so amazing ♥

  3. Maya says:

    Lord Asriel facts: the new Internet meme?

    I love how bloodthirsty Lyra is. It's just so interesting to have this eleven year old girl who just wants to know more about when her father murdered someone and knows all about him poisoning people. A little bit different that a lot of female protagonists in children's literature y/y?


  4. knut_knut says:

    Oh, Mark, I didn't know your adoption story until now, but I can't imagine what it must have been like to have your story change TWICE 🙁 I remember when I was little and I first "realized" that I was half Japanese (for some reason I didn't pick up that my parents were two different ethnicities?). Definitely not as big of a change as either you or Lyra experienced, but it was still a weirdly pivotal moment for me. It sounds kind of stupid, actually, that I had a realization-moment when it came to my ethnicity…

    ANYWAY, John Faa is seriously the greatest man ever and I love how Lyra just takes everything in stride. Chuck Norris!Lord Asriel is truly her father because that child is the definition of badass

    • Mia says:

      I know a girl who didn't know her half-siblings WERE half siblings until she innocently asked why she had different colour skin (because her father's Indian, and their dad wasn't) and it made her question her relationship with those siblings. I mean, obviously they were still her siblings in the sense that she'd grown up with them, but it's still a bit of a kicker to find out they're not exactly who you thought they were! I can't imagine how weird it would be to discover that your PARENTS aren't who you thought they were, that would probably impact even harder!

      • knut_knut says:

        Did her relationship with them change drastically after she found out? That must have been really difficult for her to come to terms with it. My dad actually grew up without knowing that their elderly family friend was actually his grandfather and didn't find out until his own father (my grandfather) died o_O My great-grandfather changed his last name because he thought it would help him get work since he thought our last name was too ~ethnic~ (sad thing is, it worked). My grandfather was so ashamed of him that he changed his last name back and then essentially disowned his own father and wouldn't allow him to be a real part of his family 🙁 Neither my father nor any of his siblings found out until after their father died.

        • Mia says:

          I think part of her problem was that she couldn't see how them only being half related to her was a good thing. She was fairly young, so evil stepsisters etc. could have been a part of it. I think she coped amazingly well though, because OF COURSE them not being completely related to her shouldn't make a shred of difference, and her parents managed to talk her through it. I think her parents did a good job of explaining to her that it doesn't make a difference, and that her siblings were still the same people.
          That's some sad family history, there. Not knowing that a family friend is related to you? Wow. That's got to wrong-foot you.

      • burritosaurus says:

        I know a girl who didn't know her half-siblings WERE half siblings…

        I'm 27, and I only just ~officially~ learned that my older sister has a different father. According to my dad, I asked about it when I was really young (like 3 or 4) but my mom wouldn't talk about it. I sort of figured it out on my own, but it was still really weird to hear my dad admit it out loud after all that time. Actually, a lot of weird things came to light around that time, and it's been kind of hard to reconcile what I grew up thinking with what I know now….but Lyra. Damn, that girl is amazing at just taking things as they come along! I wish I had been more like her when I was a kid.

        • notemily says:

          I have a dead uncle, and my parents won't tell me how he died. True story. Whenever I ask, they're like "we'll tell you later." Family secrets are weird.


      • Danika the Lesbrarian says:

        See, this is why I like my mom's method. We have a messy family, and even though I still don't understand all of it, she grew up telling us everything. "Kacey's dad is Rob, but your dad, Glenn, is also her dad because he helped raise both of you, and these siblings of mine have my dad and these siblings have my mom and these siblings are brother and sister to each other but are my half siblings–"

        I always knew my sister was technically my half sister, and it never seemed weird to us, because it was never hidden. I wish people would realize that it's really better for kids if you just tell them the truth from day one.

    • Brieana says:

      (for some reason I didn't pick up that my parents were two different ethnicities?)

      I didn't pick up on that when I was little. I guess kids don't really question things that they've grown up with because to them that's just "normal".
      Not that there's anything abnormal about interracial marriage or being biracial.

    • Noybusiness says:

      "for some reason I didn't pick up that my parents were two different ethnicities?"

      Not weird. Placing significance on ethnic identifiers is only culturally ingrained (but rather perniciously so once it is).

      My Intro to Anthropology teacher told an anecdote where a kid told his parents "I hate black kids", referring to some other children who picked on him. His best friend was black, and his parents said "You don't hate (best friend's name) do you?!" The kid was puzzled, having no idea his friend was black.

      • miabuterflie says:

        I had no idea my parents had Scottish accents until it was pointed out to me. That was just the way my parents spoke, I had no idea other people had any trouble understanding them!

  5. Ellalalalala says:

    John Faa is love.
    Pan is love.
    The gyptians and their society are fascinating.
    And Ma Costa laughing at Lyra's fanciful interpretation of her past is priceless. "Swords?!"

    Lord Asriel is a bit too badass for my liking, though. I feel a little bit nonplussed by just how utterly amazing he has been so many times and specifically to the Gyptians YEAH GO ASRIEL!. I guess it makes sense and you need the whole Lyra/Asriel/Gyptian connection to justify their taking care of her at the potential expense of their civil liberties (or do you? I dunno, knowing Mrs Coulter = the Oblation Board and that she's looking for her seems like a pretty good justification in its own right to me), but it just feels a bit …pat that he happens to be Chuck Norris Deux.

    Minor niggle. Everything else: MOAR PLS.

    • monkeybutter says:

      Yeah, I think it was just John Faa playing to the crowd's passions, too. Anger at Mrs Coulter and the Oblation Board would be enough to get them to go North, but John Faa is trying to convince them that it wouldn't be right to give Lyra up to the searchers. The guy who suggested it was the same one who asked whether or not they'd be rescuing landloper children at the last Roping, so it seems like John Faa was trying to tamp down on any us vs them mentality before they left. He's a great politician and leader.

      But, hey, we still know that Lord Asriel isn't a perfect badass hero. He's still the guy who threatened to break Lyra's arm in the first chapter.

  6. summeriris says:

    John Faa is seriously amazing. I wish Gypsy men were more like him.
    This YouTube is from Appleby Fair last year. English and Scottish Travelers at Appleby. My Ma and Da grew in wagons like these.[youtube VZ3U0O6iS8M youtube]

  7. Saphling says:

    Lord Asriel Facts:

    Some magicians walk on water. Lord Asriel swims through land.

    Lord Asriel invented rap music when his heart started beating.

    Lord Asriel actually died twenty years ago; Death just hasn't had the courage to tell him yet.

    Lord Asriel can slam a revolving door.

    Lord Asriel's foot is more accurate than a ruler.

    There used to be a street named Lord Asriel, but they had to change it because no one crosses Lord Asriel and lives.

  8. Kaci says:

    That would be the greatest internet meme ever. Oh my God. I can't even form thoughts about the rest of the chapter or your review now because I'm just thinking up Lord Asriel Facts.

  9. settledforhistory says:

    Finally, my books arrived and I haven't missed too many chapters!

    I experienced a “new sense of my own story” about a year ago. It is probably not as crazy as finding out about your true parents, but I found out I have Asperger syndrome last year. Now, I see everything that went wrong in my life and every problem that I had at school in an entirely new light. It's still quite mind boggling and I certainly did not cope as well as Lyra.

    Anyway about this chapter: I love that Pullman told the story of Lyra's parents so early in the book. It gives us and Lyra a chance to get used to the idea and it creates the right atmosphere for the following chapters. Now we do not only anticipate her reunion with either Mrs Coulter or Lord Asriel because of their possible reaction but also because of Lyra's reaction to seeing her parents. It also makes the whole situation less dramatic, less Star Wars like.

    I think Lyra's obsession with the morbid parts of her past has to do with how she grew up. The people her age she was freinds with where mostly boys and she probably wanted to look tough in front of them. And when you think back to chapter 2 and the severed head, Lord Asriel does not seem to want to protect her from the ugly things of life.

    The gyptian roping sounds so great, I wish politics in the real world where at least a bit like it. I mean, even though he is the "king" it is still more democratic than most governments. Also it is hard to believe what a wonderful leader John Faa is, this is such a perfect speech against vengeance: "But if you give in to that passion, friends, you’re a doing what I always warned you agin:you’re a placing the satisfaction of your own feelings above the work you have to do."

    About Lord Asriel 'the Chuck Norris of His Dark Materials': Lord Faa's speach made me think about the standing gyptians have in sociaty. It is probably rare that any outsider helps them and than even at the risk of his own life. It is like Hagrid's (or Lupin's) enormus gratitude towards Dumbledore, because no one else would have let him stay at Hogwards. I'm curious if that belive (that Asriel can't do anything wrong) will be disappointed, because we don't really know what he is doing in the North.

    I agree, I want to be Lyra and I want a daemon.

    • KristinAdele says:

      "I found out I have Asperger syndrome last year. Now, I see everything that went wrong in my life and every problem that I had at school in an entirely new light."

      I have kind of similar feelings …
      My dad kept his drug problems and his bipolar disorder a secret from everyone until he had a breakdown and went to rehab when I was a sophomore in college. After that, I looked back on my entire life, on every memory of when something went wrong, when he would get mad for no reason, or when he would promise me something that would then fall through at the last minute. I guess hindsight is 20/20, but I really feel like a fool sometimes for not knowing what was going on. I see everything so differently now that I actually know the truth.

    • theanagrace says:

      Chuck Norris = Lord Asriel = Professor Dumbledore

      mind = blown

  10. monkeybutter says:

    I knew every Poe tale like the back of my hind

    Oh dear.

    What I like best about this chapter is that in light of John Faa's Lord Asriel facts, Lyra's distorted tale of the attempted poisoning of her father somehow seems more probable. But there seem to be so many good, true stories about Lord Asriel that her lies are unnecessary. And how could Lyra resist going North after hearing about her father's fantastic acts?

  11. Darth_Ember says:

    Probably significant Lord Asriel has the most impressive daemon seen thus far; a snow leopard. Badass.

    • Kiryn says:

      Lol, totally true. Fuck your golden monkey Mrs. Coulter, Lord Asriel's snow leopard could eat him.

      By the way, has the snow leopard been named yet? Just want to make sure I don't spoil any details, no matter how small, since I can't follow along in reading the actual chapter. 🙂

      • Mauve_Avenger says:

        Lord Asriel says her name in the very first chapter of the book. 🙂

        • stinalotta says:

          His daemon’s name is one of my favorite daemon names in the books, along with Pantalaimon.

          [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

      • Tilja says:

        Stelmaria. If it was said in the first chapter, there's no spoiler in it.

        The one we haven't heard is the golden monkey's name.

  12. Hiney says:

    I don't know the back of my hind very well. It's kinda hard to see it without a mirror.

    Do you really know the back of your hind that well? Why?

    (snarky laughter)
    Well, I thought it was funny!

  13. eleventysix says:

    I think the title of this chapter is so incredibly appropriate. It's the same thing I felt reading it (why won't people give Lyra all the information she wants right away without her having to ask ohemgee so unfair!) and at the end (whaddyah mean, not going to the North with all the men?! boo.) – so, well done, Pullman.

    I think something that always catches me with Lord Asriel in this chapter is that for a man who seems to be simultaneously bad-ass and progressive, some of the choices we know he's made – specifically with respect to his relationships with Lyra and Mrs. Coulter – seem strangely out of character. Although, I kind of like strangeness, it makes him seem more human.

    It's also interesting to think about how Lyra reconciles her own sureness-of-self with her view of women in general. I don't know why, but I get the sense that the series is set in a time period that might be advanced technologically, but also regressed socially – similar to one of those dystopian future deals. I wonder if Lyra sees herself as an exception to the rule of how women are supposed to act, or has taken a leaf out of her parents' books and just doesn't give a damn about how society thinks she's supposed to act. Either way, I like watching her go. She seems like a handful, but she's highly entertaining.

  14. Braggadocio

    Why hello there, new favourite word.

    LOL CHUCK ASRIEL. Does he too check under his bed at night for Toph, why am I asking this of course he does.

  15. ComputerizedWoman says:

    Lord Asriel facts shall take over the internet!

    And yes Lyra is not like many female progtagonists. Which is why I love her so dearly. All these characters are so amazing in their own way.

  16. Marilyn says:

    Without confusing readers? What has he been doing to you/everyone this whoooooole time?

  17. eleniel says:

    My only comment about this chapter: JOHN FAAAAAAAAAA HOW ARE YOU SO AWESOME AND PERFECT HOW

  18. ldwy says:

    I have huge amounts of respect for John Faa after this chapter. His calm honesty when taking heed of his people's questions is so admirable and not every person would be able to lead the way he does. I loved the passages you've highlighted as well.

  19. arctic_hare says:

    Lyra is hilarious and wonderful, I'm so glad you love her like I do, Mark. <3 She and her wild stories and imagination are just made of awesome. And one can easily see where she gets her awesome: her badass dad!

    John Faa is amazing too, I had forgotten just how much so till this reread. I am loving this rediscovery of so many great things, and being reminded of why I enjoyed this book so much the first time.

  20. BradSmith5 says:

    I was a bit worried when I saw the chapter title; it looked like it belonged in one of those 'Twilight' books. "FRUSTRATION." I imagined that Lyra would in her room the whole time, full of angst while other people had the adventure. I'm so, so glad this little protagonist doesn't take everything lying down. And John Faa! He has the best dialog, oh man. They should have just named this chapter after him. Yes, AGAIN.

    I also want that scene where we see the althewhateverometer working. I want to see every picture the needles point to, every thought Lyra has, and every response from the indicator. Anchor, thimble, top hat: Boom, boom, boom!

  21. warmouth says:

    It doesn't really surprise me that Lyra likes to hear rather gruesome stories. Granted, she's more inclined towards those stories, but really most kids seem to like really messed up stuff. Trust me, I do a lot of work with kids at the museum and they love the gross and violent stuff the most. They'll go "Eww" and then pause and beg me to tell more. (So I know lots of gross facts about animals. Do you know that that deer will eat live birds from mist nets? That's messed up.)

    Anyway, pic spam…


    <img src=""&gt;

    Still want an alethiometer. I'd carry it in my pocket and people would ask, "Whatcha got there?" And I'd be like, "It's an althey…err altho..altoid…a FUCK YOU WATCH."

    <img src=""&gt;

    • Shanna says:

      You sound like you have a cool job. When I was @ school I used to give tours to grade 8 students in the summer and they loved being grossed out when I showed them out ‘window cow’. Snowflake the cow was happy as could be, and so were the kids because they got to commisserate about how gross her digesta looked.

      I have read that about deer as well. You know, it makes sense for the deer to do that – the bird is right there for the taking. It’s very opportunistic for the deer, as the bird will be easily digested by the deer’s GIT, but normally they wouldn’t catch a bird on their own. Similar papers have been written about manatees (which are basically, from a GIT standpoint, big underwater horses) opportunistically eating fish out of nets.

      • warmouth says:

        It is a pretty cool job. I helped out in the education department at events and taught these online classes *kinda like skype sessions with another class*. Ah, did you guys have a cow with the glass or whatever installed in it too? We had one on our campus, but it kinda makes sense at our college, since it's a big agricultural college.

        I live in Michigan where we have like a million deer; they are about as bad as raccoons.

        • Shanna says:

          Yup, we had fistulated cows (agricultural programs at my school too). I live in Ontario and my city (about 350 000 people) is over run with deer…like to the point that the city was considering doing an official cull because they were ruining the ecosystem in some of the protected/conservation areas.

  22. Patrick721 says:

    John Faa. The Most Reasonable Man In The World.

  23. James says:

    God, I love Lyra. The thing about her fixation on violence and gore and whatnot is that it's just an idea. She likes to think about it and is fascinated by gruesome tales and the chance to see a severed head, but when she's actually faced with violence and death, she's terrified. Which I love, because it's so realistic. For all that she gets a thrill thinking about Asriel's bloody encounters with various wrong-doers, she's eleven years old and far more sheltered than she realises. In chapter 7, when a man is dying in front of her, bleeding profusely, she's horrified. And I love that. She is so brave and she is confident and a fighter, but she's also a child and Pullman never forgets to remind us of that.

    • Shanna says:

      You are correct – it IS realistic. Kids (at least some, and not just boys) love gory stories. I don’t like real violence and I never liked being scared in real life (ie I hated carnival haunted houses when I was little) but I lapped up scary stories as a kid. I still like the spooky/scary stuff as an adult, and am not easily grossed out (favourite classes in university involved the ones where we had dissection labs). I know kids and adults who absolutely cannot handle a story that is the least bit scary or gory, but yeah, kids in general are not as fragile as some people think. Just look @ the popularity of the Goosebumps and Fear Street (my favourite series when I was 12) books. Lyra’s a very realistic 11 year old girl in this sense.

  24. pennylane27 says:

    Oh man I can't believe I missed the brain melting of last chapter! Although it's hard for me to separate the chapters and my reactions, as I read them in what I can only describe as a frenzy. So my mind went from "WTF IS THIS OMG THEY'RE HER PARENTS IT'S SO CREEPY OMG" to "MA COSTAAAA" to "OMG John Faa is all kinds of awesome" to "I want Lyra to go to the Nooooorth" to "WHERE'S MY DAEMON?" again, because siriusly, why can't we have nice things.

  25. cait0716 says:

    The present beware. The future beware. He's coming. He's coming. He's coming.

    • Saphling says:

      He had a pocket full of horses, fucked the shit out of bears. He through a knife into heaven and could kill with a stare.

      He made love like an eagle falling out of the sky. Killed his sensei in a duel and he never said why

  26. Mauve_Avenger says:


    Because Lyra likes to inject a tiny bit of the truth into her lies, she used the location of IIzmir as a throwaway detail. Izmir is a real city, the capitol of the Turkish province of the same name. The ancient Greeks called it Smyrna.

    Apparently the Oxford colleges have ancient rights against being intensively searched by officials? And there's a statute that prevents aircraft from flying to low above gyptian land? And apparently gyptians have "ancient privileges" with the British government, but these seem to only deal with the gyptians right to move in and out of the fens.

    When Tony hears about Lyra's desire to go North: Tell you what, I'll bring you back a walrus tooth.
    When Lord Asriel is entreated to take Lyra North: If you're a good girl, I'll bring you back a walrus tusk.

  27. hazelwillow says:

    Hahaha, these Lord Asriel factoids are great!

    I don't wholeheartedly like Lord Asirel myself. I find him interesting, but I'm wary of him. Remember how he twisted Lyra's arm?

    As for John Faa, he's a good leader, but I like Farder Coram best. There's a richness and kindness to him I just love.

    • notemily says:

      Yeah, there's a weird coldness to Lord Asriel. Like how Ma Costa tells about him walking around with his baby while there was a DEAD GUY ON THE FLOOR. He obviously cares about people, since he took Lyra to be raised at Jordan where he thought she'd be better off, and he helped the gyptians, but he can be really callous too.

  28. Ken says:

    I'm with you on the bewilderment on how the name Chuck Norris became synonymous with "awesome," particularly considering his uncomfortable personal views.

    • sabra_n says:

      If I remember correctly, the immediate stimulus for the creation of "Chuck Norris facts" was that when NBC became NBC Universal, they gained access to the back library of Walker, Texas Ranger episodes, and to celebrate this fact, Conan O'Brien started airing funny clips of the show on his program every night.

      This combined in the minds of the Intarwebs with the "Vin Diesel Facts" meme to create the "Chuck Norris Facts" meme, because they're both celebrities presented as macho to the point of being utterly ridiculous. This was also, notably, in 2004, before Norris'…specialness was really known to the public.

      There was an edge of mockery to those memes at the time. I guess by now the memes have kind of twisted around to be affectionate and half-ironically admiring, like this one with Lord Asriel, but at the time there was more of a sneer to it. And you wouldn't want to sneer at Clint Eastwood, would you?

      • Tilja says:

        Thank you for this explanation. This combined with what Ken said make me want to know more about the mockery created by these memes. Now I really need to know the Vin Diesel memes as well.

        The link came out wrong, so just tell me what name to look for on youtube for it.

    • Kelly says:

      Yeah, it was one of those things that was funny because it wasn't true and everyone knew it. I kinda equate it to the William Shatner thing-now that he's 'in' on how terrible of an actor he is and plays up that side (thinking very specifically of the priceline commercial where he's giving instructions via an earpiece to a guy and he's imitating Shatner perfectly), he's more popular than when he was trying to be a serious thespian.

    • Tilja says:

      Now you make me want to know which are those uncomfortable personal views. I need to find this.

      • sabra_n says:

        The fact that he's a Texas separationist is probably the least uncomfortable part of it. 🙁

  29. Maya says:

    He'll save children, but not the gyptian children. He'll save children, but not the gyptian children.

  30. Steeple says:

    Mark, don't you know many kids are bloodthirsty? Haha

    Seriously though, I do enjoy reading about your life. You have a real talent for storytelling, for being enthralling and amazing all the time. I'm glad that Lyra's (I almost wrote Katniss's lol) story speaks to your experience. As someone who has a nuclear family structure (two parents married since adulthood, bro and sis are directly related), I can't know what it's like not to have blood ties to one's family. The closest thing I can relate at all is how I look more like my aunt than the rest of my immediate family (I have a lighter shade of brown hair and blue eyes).

  31. Moonie says:

    Also, speaking of weird adoption stories, one of my best friends was adopted by her grandmother when she was very little, and was raised by her. So she refers to her grandmother as "mom" grandfather as "dad", uncle as "brother", etc, etc. When we first met, i got confused whenever she talked about her family, but i'm used to it now.
    Plus, she's super happy with them, so it all works out. <3

  32. Ash says:

    This world is seriously tragic, it lacks both daemons and John Faa :<

  33. fakehepburn says:

    "Also, whomever made The Golden Compass movie: you did an absolutely awful job because I remember NONE OF THIS AT ALL."

    No spoilers, but PLEASE tell me we're liveblogging this movie when you finish the book? I've blocked out most of the details, but I distinctly recall seeing it in the theatre with my sister (who also read the books, of course), and a few moments where we lashed out at the screen with a volley of "What? WHAT? WHAT THE HELL?" simply because they fucked it up so badly.

    We were alone in our outrage, so I figure nobody else in the theatre had read the book, and everybody was confused as to the source of our rage.

    So basically I think we should liveblog it and we as a community can rage together. Yay?

  34. fakehepburn says:



    Lord Asriel, ULTIMATE BADASS


  35. BradSmith5 says:

    Yeah, who needs Asriel!? We'll make our OWN memes! Okay, I'll go first:

    John Faa was going to be on the cover, but he's so cool and big and strong that they couldn't find a cover or store or world big enough for all of his awesomeness and people wouldn't even open the book because they'd just sit and stare in awe at his massive bull neck so they had to put something less amazing on the cover like a wild armored bear which in fact is something still pretty massive and amazing and that makes it funny.


  36. Noybusiness says:


  37. Brieana says:

    I love that you're enjoying one of my favorite books!

  38. Jen says:

    I never saw the movie until after I read the book. Be glad you remember none of it. It is gawdawful. D:

    I want to be adopted by John Faa. XD

  39. vampireprincess2468 says:

    The characters in this book are so great

  40. Alexander says:

    Nellie: typical Dutch first name
    Koopman: Dutch word for "merchant" (literary: buy-man aka someone who buys/sells stuff)

  41. flootzavut says:

    It's different I know, but I wonder if others will identify: I had to re-understand my childhood when, as an adult, I looked back and realised that I was abused. May sound crazy to some, but as a child, I didn't think of people treating you badly – even really, really badly – as abuse. I always looked on myself as having a normal, happy childhood, and yeah sure THAT had happened which wasn't good, and THIS had happened, but wasn't I basically just normal? And I just lived with that disconnect. Actually having to come to terms with being sexually and psychologically abused, to look back and say, yes there were good things in my childhood but it was also abusive, just twisted my brain up and I'm still finding it hard to accept/apply to myself. Keeping it secret from basically everyone ever for two decades also I suppose adds to the unreality. But yeah, I don't know how similar this is in one way, but just to say I kind of identify with that idea of having a new sense of my story: not from finding out something I didn't know before, but from reframing what happened to me and realising how bad it was/how much of an impact it had on my life.

    And a side note – there have been a lot of things happen in the last 12 months that have contributed to me bringing these things out in the open, naming them, dealing with them, starting to emerge from the depression they've caused, but I want you to know, Mark, that your openness and honesty on your markreads pages is definitely a factor. Thank you. Even six months ago I'm not sure I would have spoken this openly on a *gasp* public blog, with a username that at least some of my friends would instantly recognise. Like I said, there are a lot of factors, but this is one of them. Thank you.

    • flootzavut says:

      (I meant to say also – that it's not just the story you've been telling others, but also the story you've been telling yourself, yesno? that makes it (it seems to me :)) even weirder to realise how wrong I was…)

    • notemily says:

      I went through a similar thing. For many years I thought my parents were awful to me because I was a bad child, that it was my fault. It's only in the past couple of years that I've gone "hey, wait a minute. I was a CHILD, and they were the adults, and they should have treated me better." It is strange to reframe that stuff in your head. I still catch myself thinking "if only I had been a more obedient kid…"

      • flootzavut says:

        Yeah, exactly – as a child you assume it's your fault. I was fortunate – my parents did not mistreat me. Sadly other relatives did.

        A quote that a friend posted on her facebook and which really struck me, might well strike you too – I read this and went "oohhhhhhhhhhhhhh yeah…"

        "Children construct their self-knowledge from the input they get from others. They regard the way people react to them as mirrors that reflect who they are. They don't know that mirrors can be distorted."

        At the grand old age of 32, I am finally learning that how others react to me is exactly that – how they react to me. Not a verdict on the state of my soul!

  42. flootzavut says:

    re: the alethiometer – I actually think Pullman does an incredibly good job of explaining it with words, I seem to remember eventually almost feeling I could see it in my mind's eye and understand how Lyra used it. Which, for such an esoteric and complicated invention, is pretty good going. I have my beefs with Pullman, but his worldbuilding and his ability to put that very real, very complex world into the reader's head is fantastic.

  43. Nadège says:

    Oh, the writers of the books/series should read your reviews! I'm sure they would absolutely love the way you react :p Come on, seriously, can't anyone tell them what they're missing!! :p

  44. mal612 says:

    I read : "…the day her father killed Edward Coulter."
    as "the day her father killed Edward Cullen." and my face went o.O
    Twilight has clearly taken over huge portions of my subconscious. fuck.

  45. Lotte says:

    It's so weird to read Dutch names in an English book. So.WEIRD.

    And John Faa is really awesome, he sounds like someone who really should be president of the world. He's so…reasonable and…AWESOME.

  46. xynnia says:

    "Also, whomever made The Golden Compass movie: you did an absolutely awful job because I remember NONE OF THIS AT ALL."

    I know right T__T Aside from the casting of Daniel Craig as Lord Asriel (my brother and I were EXCITE when we found out about that), that movie really did suck in comparison to how AWESOME the book is.

    Haha, Lord Asriel = Chuck Norris XDDD Good likeness.

    "GOD SHE IS SERIOUSLY AMAZING. can i just be lyra please"

    I'll tell you a secret, Mark :3 I decided when I was 14 that I wanted to name my daughter (or one of my daughters) Lyra. I haven't given up on that dream yet.


  47. Stephalopolis says:

    While there was a lot of cool stuff in this chapter (seriously- love Faa.), there was one main section that stood out to me-

    "you were setting up such a howl, you and that daemon both" It makes sense in retrospect, but I guess I had never thought about babies having daemons as well. So what forms do they take? Can I see a baby Pantalaimon please?

  48. dcpierce says:

    My grandfather always said, "Never let the truth get in the way of a good story." He would approve of Lyra : )

    After Raymond spoke, I imagined him as a grown-up Pansy Parkinson, to wit: "But Lyra's right there! Someone grab her!"

    I love that John Faa is practical but in no way apathetic to everyone's concerns. His speech and the Q&A are just golden. Please run all the nations!

    Oh god, he's too perfect isn't he? Something horrible is going to happen…stay away sadistic author! You can't have this one! (I may be a little invested in this story myself).

    Lastly, Lyra's matter-of-fact presentation of her skills is both affirming and adorable. I'm digging her as our hero : )

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