>Philip Pullman – The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials book 3)

Picking up The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman at the local book store, I was both excited and disappointed to see the book was substantially longer than the two previous books in His Dark Materials trilogy – The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife.  I was excited because The Amber Spyglass being the 3rd and final book in the series, a longer book most likely means the author did not rush the ending and did not race to the climax like you see in some other books.  I was a little disappointed because a longer book means it will take me that much longer before I find out how the author ends the story (I read really slow).  I was very disappointed at the ending.  Just as The Amber Spyglass is longer than its predecessors, my review of this book will likewise be longer than the previous two reviews as I wrap up my thoughts of the series as a whole.
You may remember in my review of The Subtle Knife, I said the book seems oddly out of place as if it should be book 1.  After finishing the series, I stand firmly behind my belief.  Will is as much a central character in His Dark Materials as Lyra, so he really should have found his way into book 1.  Also if you look at the title of all 3 books together, The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass, we see that subtle is the only description that does not represent a colour.  I don’t even think the knife is all that subtle…….
Anyone ever watch an episode of a Soap Opera? (don’t worry I’ll tie it in in a minute)  In Soap Operas, the script writers use a very odd trick with time.  They will have one scene going on, then cut that scene off in the middle to go to another scene, and then go back to the original scene and continue exactly where it last left off.  Philip Pullman does something very similar in His Dark Materials.  He will write one scene and to start the next scene he will write

“at that very moment in [another] world…..”

or something similar.  It’s clear why some script writers and Pullman do this – they want to show the two scenes are going on simultaneously, but I feel it has the opposite affect.  To me it seems like time actually stops; the actors and characters actually stop their scene to stand and watch the next scene. When that scene is over, that is their cue to start moving again.  It just has a kind of disjointed feel, like the two scenes aren’t even part of the same story.
Ok onto the actual book itself.  You may remember the shocking revelation of Lyra being the famous Eve herself (well shocking to me) in book 2.  Mrs. Coulter kidnaps Lyra shortly after that.  Now in The Amber Spyglass we see that Mrs. Coulter is keeping her drugged and asleep in a cave.  Mrs. Coulter claims she has denounced the Church out of love for Lyra and she is now doing everything she can to keep Lyra safe; drugging her is just a way to keep her from running off into danger.  Can we believe Mrs. Coulter?  I found myself asking that very same question over and over again as I read the book.
At that very moment in another world…………., Dr. Mary Malone meets some unusual friends.  They have their own take on who or what Eve was.  They too have their own unique look on Dust, or Shadow Particles, or Scepters, or as they call them, sraf.
Lyra, being the reincarnation (or something as its not exactly explained) of Eve, will be faced with a temptation just as Eve was.  Except the author said it would come from a certain someone, but it came from someone else……..
In The Amber Spyglass, Pullman brings up yet another philosophical issue – the land of the dead.  Iorek Byrnison, the king of the armoured bears, believes bears do not go to the land of the dead because they have no daemons.  Will and Lyra believe people are made up of 3 parts – the physical body, the daemon (soul), and the ghost.  They come to this conclusion because as the physical body remains buried under ground and the daemon vanishes, but some part of them still remains in the world of the dead.
Through other minor characters, the author talks about how heaven doesn’t actually exist; there is only the world of the dead.  I once watched a Criminal Minds episode (yeah another tv reference) and Dr. Spencer Reid tells Morgan

“logic dictates that if you believe in [god or the devil], you have to reconcile the existence of the other.”

Is that true?  If you believe in good, do you also must believe in evil and vice versa?  Or is evil a manmade construction like a friend of mine says?
I’ll probably get in a lot of trouble for saying this, but personally I don’t think there is any such thing as evil.  There are bad deeds and inhuman acts certainly, but none are committed just for the sake of being “evil”, whatever that word means.  Am I evil because I find it funny when someone slips and falls in a puddle of mud or do I simply have a different (possibly more crude) sense of humour than you?  Even the most heinous serial killers do what they do because it fills some need of theirs.  One that the public rightly doesn’t accept and doesn’t understand, but in their mind it’s justifiable.  Predators kill and feed off their prey, but nobody calls them evil.
Perhaps you are wondering why after such a lengthy review already, I have yet to even mention the title object.  This is because the amber spyglass (the object, not the title) actually doesn’t show up that often in the book.  Its role and even usefulness pale in comparison to the golden compass and the subtle knife.  The spyglass itself doesn’t even make sense.  Its only purpose is to be able to see Dust particles.  What good does that do?
Anyways, the whole book is a build up to one big, final battle against the authority.  In Pullman’s books, the authority is not the creator.  Based on the whole theme of the books, you can probably already guess who wins.  Ending was kind of anticlimactic though.  I think in another time and in another world, Mr. Pullman and I would have made quite good friends.

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One Response to >Philip Pullman – The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials book 3)

  1. >Great review Phillip. I hope you posted this one to Amazon (or a shorter version of it).

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