Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Live-Blogging His Dark Materials, Part III

I finished The Amber Spyglass two days ago, but didn't blog it yesterday because I was busy watching the politics.

It was the sort of book where the impact of the ending took over and made me forget the details of the earlier parts; so I need to read it again. (I'll have plenty of opportunity, as this foot cast is going to stay on for another two months.)

Here are some thoughts, as they cross my mind.

* Metatron. I know Metatron is part of the Judeo-Christian mythology, but I couldn't look at the name without imagining Godzilla Vs. in front of it.

* You can see how the technological differences between 1995 (when The Golden Compass was published) and 2000 (when The Amber Spyglass was published) filtered through into Pullman's text. He gives us, in Amber Spyglass, an internet, courtesy of the Gallivespians and their lodestones. Even in a parallel universe, Pullman can't imagine a world without email.

* The serpent, in the form of Mary Malone, offering Lyra and Will the gift of knowledge. Which isn't "what is the nature of G-d," because they've already learned, Wizard of Oz-style, that God is just an old man hiding behind a curtain; nor is this knowledge the meaning of life and death, since Lyra and Will have already traveled through the land of the dead and discovered what we are meant to do after we die. What Mary Malone gives Lyra and Will is the knowledge of the flesh. In short, she teaches them about sex.

* Which they promptly have. Lyra is 12 and Will is 13. This was the only part of the book that disturbed me a little. Lyra, after all, hasn't even started menstruating yet. Yes, Pullman is pretty vague about what happens in that forest, and doesn't give us any paragraphs about "throbbing manhoods" or anything like that (thank goodness), but they lose some kind of virginity in that forest, and even my liberal heart says that's at least three years too young.

* Pan becomes a marten, eh? I hope I wasn't the only reader who had to look that one up.

* There's something very satisfying about Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter sacrificing themselves by pushing Megatron into the infinite abyss. The thought of them falling, down and down, for the rest of eternity is a little chilling, however. I hope Pullman realized that he wrote them a way out: when the angels go to close the doors between the worlds, they say they will close up the abyss as well. Surely, while they're there, one of them could dip inside and bring Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter back to the surface.

* There's something much less satisfying about the "we have to close all of the doors so you and Will can never see each other again" business. Sure, the idea that Lyra and Will would have to separate was kind of a given; but the reasoning behind it seems a little contrived. The doors create Specters? The most idiotic villains in the book? Oh, and Dust is leaking out of them?

This also doesn't bode well for philosophies on international or intercultural relationships. Lyra and Will come from "different worlds," so they can never be together because "neither of them can survive in the other's world." It makes me start humming West Side Story's "Stick to your own kind/stick to your own kind..."

On the other hand, Adam and Eve were banished from paradise. But they were banished together.

* Pullman did write a note at the end of this edition; a series of what he called "Lantern Slides" distilling images of what happened to certain characters after the trilogy's conclusion; he included a scene which implies that Lyra and Will do talk, across space and time, at the wood bench in Oxford. Assumedly this works because Mary planted those magic seeds there, which grew up into a lovely tree.

* Which brings me to: people who cross into other worlds die, but seeds grow? And don't tell me it has to do with humans having Dust, because those seeds Mary planted were the very essence of Dust itself.

* So. The central philosophy. The innocence of childhood can reveal things us adults can't understand; then the kids are supposed to grow up and have sex, whereupon they have to spend the rest of their lives re-learning what came to them naturally before their sexual awakening.

* I hated that the alethiometer just "clicked off" in Lyra's hands. That was unfair. And she suddenly couldn't remember what the symbols meant? That didn't make sense either. It would have been better if she could remember the symbols, but couldn't control the hands, or something like that.

* And yeah, cried at the end. Poor Lyra and Will.

There is a short "sequel" titled Lyra's Oxford, which Pullman evidently means as a short prequel to his next book, The Story of Dust (in progress). This I look forward to reading, if only to find out how much Pullman lets Lyra and Will communicate, or if he introduces a new love interest for either of them. ^__^


bombaygirl said...

Nicely written. I had some of the same issues with the book...but loved them all anyway. I hated leaving their worlds.

Blue said...


Unfortunately, I read them too late to catch Golden Compass in theatres... and will have to wait for DVD. :P

Marc Benjamin said...

I just finished the trilogy on Audio. I found your blog through a web search. Good wrap up though I don't really think the kids had "sex" in the woods. Ewwwwwww!