The Secret Commonwealth (2019) by Philip Pullman

Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were great friends—both Oxford writers and scholars. Both important to this day.

Philip Pullman is another Oxford man, one who believes he should be ranked with those great writers.

I wouldn’t go that far.

Certainly Lyra in The Golden Compass (also known as Northern Lights) is one of the great children characters in fiction.

Certainly Pullman’s invention of the daemon is one of the great fantasy inventions.

A film adaptation of Northern Lights, titled The Golden Compass, was released in December 2007 by New Line Cinema, starring Dakota Blue Richards as Lyra, along with Daniel CraigNicole KidmanEva GreenSam Elliott and Ian McKellen. Though it was a financial failure, I personally like the film.

That all said, the plot of this other world is simply too scattered.  Seems he started without knowing how it would end.

Secret Commonwealth is 5th in the series, and weakest so far

Super fan Rine Karr posted the best review I’ve read. She was disappointed. The book is too preachy:

Racism, xenophobia, and the refugee crisis. Sexism, violence, and rape. Propaganda, the suppression of free speech, and religious fundamentalism.

Recall Pullman’s His Dark Materials series:

  1. Northern Lights (or The Golden Compass)
  2. The Subtle Knife
  3. The Amber Spyglass

His The Book of Dust series is a prequel and sequels:

  1. La Belle Sauvage (2017)
  2. The Secret Commonwealth (2019)
  3. … TBD

The Secret Commonwealth follows Lyra Silvertongue and Dr Malcolm Polstead, both at Oxford; she as an undergraduate at St Sophia’s college and he at Durham College.

It takes place twenty years after the first volume, La Belle Sauvage and seven years after the conclusion of His Dark Materials.

The setting is a world dominated by the Magisterium (commonly called “the Church”), an international theocracy which actively suppresses heresy. …

The relationship between Lyra and her dæmon, Pantalaimon, has been severely strained …

This is my least favourite of the 5 books, so far.  Too confusing.  Too random. I certainly hope book 6 wraps up Lyra’s endless and seemingly pointless journey in some satisfying way.


Line of Duty – season 1 (2012)

Another GREAT British TV show.

Line of Duty series 1 is a a British BBC police procedural …

… BBC Two‘s best-performing drama series in ten years …

It focuses on the activities of two senior AC-12 officers, Detective Sergeant Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) and Detective Inspector Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure).

They actually work for Superintendent Ted Hastings, played by Adrian Dunbar.

And investigate corrupt officers with links to organised crime.

In season 1 their nemesis is Detective Chief Inspector Tony Gates, played by Lennie Michael James

Although the police refused to co-operate with the programme’s producers, the production team was advised anonymously by serving officers and by retired police officers.

Patriot – TV series

Patriot is an American comedy-drama web television series.

81% on Rotten Tomatoes. 

Weird, original, quirky, dark. 

I can’t compare this show to anything — other than Royal Tenenbaums Wes Anderson.

The first 5 episodes are excellent. The last 5 slow and painful.

I doubt I’ll continue on to season 2.

To prevent Iran from going nuclear, intelligence officer John Tavner must forgo all safety nets and assume a perilous non-official cover (“NOC”)—that of a mid-level employee at a Milwaukee industrial piping firm.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

Without Remorse by Tom Clancy (1993)

Without Remorse is long. Stephen King long.

…  Kirkus Reviews gave it a mixed verdict, stating that it is “twice as long as the two rather creaky storylines can bear …”

The writing is not particularly skillful.

Chronologically it’s the first in the Jack Ryan universe.

But I’d never gotten much into the Jack Ryans: Alec BaldwinHarrison FordBen AffleckChris Pine, and John Krasinski. 

Jack Ryan is not an important in Without Remorse. This book introduces a more interesting character, John Clark, portrayed by actors Willem Dafoe and Liev Schreiber over the years.

Published 1993, it’s dated. Every marijuana users is EVIL, for example. And likely to die.

That’s the bad news.

But, surprisingly, I made it through.

I enjoyed learning about John Clark (real name John Terence Kelly), the former Navy SEAL. His particular skills are fascinating.

His main talent is killing people. Vigilante justice.

In any case, I’ll give Red October a try. Second book chronologically in the series.

Bosch – season 6

Amazon’s first and longest running original series is one of their best.

Season 6 is based on The Overlook and Dark Sacred Night.

One of the many things I love about this show is how closely they stick to the feel of the books.

Great writing.

Great actors. An ensemble cast. Older and more believable than most American TV stars.

Troy Evans and Gregory Scott Cummins as Detectives Crate and Barrel steal the show every time they get on screen, for example.

It’s interesting to see Bosch’s daughter Maddie (Madison Lintz) get more important over the seasons.

Complex yet easy-to-follow multiple plot lines.

Bosch’s surprising yet perfect partner is J. Edgar, played by Jamie Hector.

Lance Reddick as Chief of Police Irvin Irving is always good. He gets married this season to Linda Park.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

Season 7 will be the last in this series.  I was hoping they’d bring in a new character from the books: Renée Ballard. But rumours are she won’t be in the final season.

She’s a Bosch-like intense female detective working the night shift (“late show”) in Hollywood, beginning many investigations but finishing none as each morning she turns her cases over to day shift detectives.

related – Why Amazon’s ‘Bosch’ Is the Underrated Mystery Show You Should Be Watching

British TV – Bodyguard – season 1

Bodyguard is a BIG HIT British police-thriller TV series.

I highly recommend it. 

… set around the fictional character of Police Sergeant David Budd (played by Richard Madden), a British Army war veteran suffering from PTSD, who is now working for the Royalty and Specialist Protection Branch of London’s Metropolitan Police Service.

He is assigned as the principal protection officer (PPO) for the ambitious Home Secretary Julia Montague, whose politics he despises. …

Madden played Robb Stark in the first three seasons of HBO‘s fantasy drama Game of Thrones …

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

CCTV crime drama – The Capture

The Capture is a British mystery crime-drama staring Holliday Grainger as hot shot Detective Inspector Rachel Carey of Homicide and Serious Crime Command.

She played Robin Ellacott in Strike, an even better recent British TV series.

Ron Perlman is excellent too.

A fascinating plot – the story starts with a soldier acquitted of a war crime in Afghanistan, based on helmet cam evidence.

But the most interesting part is CCTV video footage being manipulated. 

Closed-circuit television (CCTV) is used for security as well as video surveillance around the world.  Facial recognition software is used, as well. Scary.

There is one surveillance camera for every 11 people in Britain.

I did think writers had trouble ending this great story. It was dragged out. And I didn’t buy the wrap-up.

Click PLAY or watch the trailer on YouTube.




Absentia – season 1

I’d like to recommend Absentia as it has a lot of promise, … but I fall in line with Rotten Tomatoes which has it at 70%.

Too much chase, not enough resolution of plot.

Stana Katic is FBI agent Emily Byrne who disappears without a trace while hunting one of Boston’s most notorious serial killers, and she is declared dead in absentia.

Six years later, she is found in a cabin in the woods, barely alive and with no memory …

She returns home to learn that her husband has remarried and her son is being raised by the new wife …

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.