To anyone with some spare time: I really have to recommend a series of books that I recently re-read and fell in love with all over again. Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials is magical and wonderful. The best way I can describe it is as a mix of Harry Potter, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens, and Milton's Paradise Lost. Sometimes they put it in the "young adult" section, but it's a great deal more violent and darker than Harry Potter, so don't write it off on account of that.
The main character, Lyra, lives in a world that is very much like ours in some ways, and very different in others. For one thing, everyone in her world has a Daemon - a soul manifested in animal form. The church and science are one and the same, polar bears can talk and work with iron to create their own armor, witches are commonplace, and everyone is after a mysterious substance called Dust. Plus, in later books, there are animals with wheels, harpies, gay angels, the underworld, nuclear bombs, monkeys, and lots of other crazy stuff. It is AWESOME.
They're making a film out of the first book, The Golden Compass, starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, so you should read it before the movie comes out in December 2007. However, be warned - some of the concepts in the series have caused controversy because they can be interpreted as being "anti-Christian." We're talking really hard-core battles with God and angels here. Don't say I didn't warn you.
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