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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman 
31st-Jul-2007 01:12 am
Pullman, Philip. The Subtle Knife. 1997. New York: Knopf, 2002.
          Summary: His Dark Materials Book II. In a strange new world overrun by Specters, Lyra meets Will, a boy from yet another world hiding from pursuers and yearning for his lost father. Though a series of unexpected events, Will becomes the new bearer of the subtle knife, a knife capable of cutting anything--and a knife that Lord Asriel will need on his side if he hopes to destroy God once and for all. But just as Will is at last fatefully reunited with his father, Mrs. Coulter kidnaps Lyra...
          Comments: Hmm. Not so impressed the second time around. Pullman must be suffering from mid-trilogy slump. He also seems to be succumbing to the temptation of widespread commercial success--which, naturally, requires that he write a male protagonist. (With a super-duper blade and a father complex. Naturally.) Girls will read books about boys, but boys won't read books about girls, after all. And this means that the average boy won't give a rat's ass about Lyra...even though, clearly, given her emerging importance in Pullman's worldview, he ought to care a lot. Thus, we get Will. And Lyra kowtowing to Will and hanging on Will's every word. Where did the girl who faced down the talking polar bear go? God, this new incarnation of Lyra is annoying.
          Oh, and speaking of God, Pullman's atheist agenda is beginning to show in the second book. Lord Asriel's plan to wage war against the Authority and kill Him is explained early on, and the Church is thoroughly vilified for the way it neurotically seeks to cut away pleasure and emotional bonds through circumcision, genital mutilation, castration, and, in Lyra's world, through intercision (the cutting away of a person's daemon). As far as Pullman is concerned, God in general and organized religion in particular have no redeeming qualities whatsoever. It's a rather bullheaded view, to say the least, but he definitely gets props in my book for talking frankly about genital mutilation and castration in a novel recommended for ages 10 and up. The audacity!
          Notes: trade paperback, 5th printing
          Rating: 4.5/10 - The weakest link in a trilogy of relatively enduring quality. Unfortunately, you can't possibly skip it if you hope to appreciate the full impact of whole.
31st-Jul-2007 01:06 pm (UTC)
Haha! This was my brother's favorite book in the trilogy. Originally, I stumbled across TSK and started His Dark Materials from there. Will annoyed me, and Lyra absolutely irked me. I was blown away when I learned about Compass (and found Lyra's origins and demeanor hella more interesting), and for a week fantasized about tapping into limitless knowledge and hanging out with giant polar bears. :
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