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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman 
31st-Jul-2007 01:13 am
Pullman, Philip. The Golden Compass. 2000. New York: Knopf, 2002.
          Summary: His Dark Materials Book III. Will rescues Lyra from her mother Mrs. Coulter, and the two descend into the world of the dead in order to find Lyra's friend Roger. Once there, they learn that the dead are in torment and free them. Thanks the sacrifice of Lyra's parents, the war against Heaven is won, and all that's left is for Lyra to fall in love with Will and thereby save the world for good. Unfortunately, the learn in the end that they must both return to their repsective worlds for that good to stick.
          Comments: The longest of the three books by far, it is also the most fragmented and uneven. I found the multiple narrative threads distracting; all the adult politicking, warmongering, and angelic homosexuality (no, really) got in the way of the heart of the trilogy, which to my mind is the children's journey through worlds. (Hell, there wasn't even a Satan in the original rebellion against God to make an appearance for interest's sake. What's up with that?) Though the chapters with Dr. Malone and the mulefa were definitely among the most original of concepts I've seen in a long time. (Elephants on wheels? Who woulda thunk it?) Oh, and speaking of the series' intelligent beasts, the plight of the armored bears and their melting homeland reverberated poignantly for me with the plight of real polar bears today.
          The centerpiece of the novel, of course, is all about life after death--and how no life after death is to be much preferred to an eternity in a prison world created by God (presumably out of sheer spite because He didn't actually create the universe or intelligent life). Doesn't the idea of your consciousness dissolving and your entire being dispersed throughout the universe represent the ultimate in comfort? Pullman seems to think so. Moreover, in an especially clever twist, to ensure that the dead can have their justly-deserved oblivion, we must busily fill the world with creativity, learning, and scholarship. So Lyra and Will won't have their happily ever after. So what? We've succeeded in vindicating the oppressed atheist of the multiverse and in making scholarship a spiritual imperative! Err, okay...if you say so...
          The marketing of this trilogy is interesting. Perhaps taking a cue from the way that J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series gets release in dual "children's" and "adult" editions in her native country, Pullman's American publisher has decided to do the same for His Dark Materials. And, boy, do they go all the way. The adult editions even get the Knopf imprint, which is usually reserved for highbrow literary fiction a la Toni Morrison and fiction that aspires to be highbrow and literary a la Anne Rice. I can't say that the tail manages to wag the dog (sorry, Knopf); the novels are not especially challenging intellectually unless you're a child or an utter moron, but, on the other hand, they're not especially condescending either. That's a small consolation. I suppose I'll resist the temptation to whine about the dumbing down of literary culture these days. Let's just say that some serious apologies ought to be going out to Toni. (Anne's optional.)
          Notes: trade paperback, 4th printing
          Rating: 5.5/10 - Grand but imperfect. Still, you have to admire the author for the scope of his ambition.
31st-Jul-2007 06:55 am (UTC)
If you are looking to read another interesting series, might I suggest Lisa Jackson's Dark Jewels Series. I read it a very long time ago so what I remember of it was quite good, but my taste level has changed quite a bit, but it may be worth checking out.
31st-Jul-2007 02:39 pm (UTC)
Is it a childrens'/young adult series? If so, well, I'm off those for awhile. >_< Un-great experiences all around.
31st-Jul-2007 11:27 am (UTC)
You got something against gay angels? ^_~

You know, I'd have to say the first HP book was the best too, with the last one really just lacking.. Lots of popular characters seemingly missing until the very end, etc..
31st-Jul-2007 02:40 pm (UTC)
You got something against gay angels?

Not on principle, but I think Pullman included them mainly to be iconoclastic.

I'd have to say the first HP book was the best too

Well, I feel really sorry for Rowling, then; the first (and then the second, and then the third) Harry Potter book was utter crap.
31st-Jul-2007 03:08 pm (UTC)

Then don't read any more of them, as if I had to say it... Among other things, the evil super wizard who was built up all through the series suddenly became clueless and incompetent, and finally accidentally killed himself ^^;
31st-Jul-2007 03:11 pm (UTC)
I don't plan to. I read 1-3 back to back waaaay back in 2002. After that, I got tired of listening to the people who recommended the series to me insist that it got better (because it wasn't) and gave up.
31st-Jul-2007 03:33 pm (UTC)
I wouldn’t say it gets better ^^; This last one had hundreds of pages of running around without much happening, and then a rushed through final battle.. And you would hate the female characters, they mostly seemed more hollow and, well, catty than ever.. Like Ginny, who in the midst of the final battle is mostly concerned with Harry’s old girlfriend being there, and makes sure they don’t get time alone together >_< And of course Hermione’s squeaks, screams, shrieks, and shrillness....
31st-Jul-2007 03:38 pm (UTC)
I find it more than sufficient to go see the movies. It wastes less of my time.

And suffice to say that I don't speak anymore with the people who recommended the books to me. (For, oddly, semi-related reasons.)
31st-Jul-2007 03:46 pm (UTC)
I think the movie of this would be better than the book, the visuals could make up for the writing ^^;

I’m always afraid to recommend books, not sure anyone else would like the ones I like ^^;;
31st-Jul-2007 03:51 pm (UTC)
I don't have to be afraid of recommending books because I already know people most often don't take my advice. :P (Although my track record, when I can get people to listen, is excellent.)
31st-Jul-2007 04:31 pm (UTC)
You’re better at figuring out what other people would like, I’m just kind of good at figuring out what I like ^_^;
31st-Jul-2007 12:52 pm (UTC)
Someday I'll get around to reading the last two books of this series. I liked the first one enough, but didn't think it was extremely well done. Sounds like I can wait a while before picking up the last two... Thanks for reviewing them!
31st-Jul-2007 02:38 pm (UTC)
They're a good thing to read while sick in bed, which is what I was doing but not when I'm in the mood for Great Literature(tm) (which is most of the time ^^; ).
31st-Jul-2007 03:27 pm (UTC)
Sorry to hear you were sick but that's actually really good to keep in mind. Next time I'm sick I'm totally sending someone to pick those up from the library for me.... maybe I'll even have a better impression of them then I am expecting because I'll be half out of it!
31st-Jul-2007 03:41 pm (UTC)
I dunno whether you'd feel the same, but they were cheap gratification/vindication for the atheist materialist in me.
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