Saturday, February 09, 2008

His Dark Materials Trilogy

Book 1 - The Golden Compass: The action follows 11-year-old protagonist Lyra Belacqua, accompanied by her daemon, from her home at Oxford University to the frozen wastes of the North, on a quest to save kidnapped children from the evil 'Gobblers,' who are using them as part of a sinister experiment. Lyra also must rescue her father from the Panserbjorne, a race of talking, armored, mercenary polar bears holding him captive. Joining Lyra are a vagabond troop of gyptians (gypsies), witches, an outcast bear, and a Texan in a hot air balloon.

Book 2 - The Subtle Knife: The intrepid young Lyra has passed through a shimmering portal in the sky and finds herself in a beautiful, haunted otherworld--Cittagazze, where soul-eating Specters stalks the streets and wingbeats of distant angels sound against the sky. But she is not without allies: twelve-year-old Will Parry, fleeing for his life after taking another's, has also stumbled into this strange new realm. On a perilous journey from world to world, Lyra and Will uncover a deadly secret: an object of extraordinary and devastating power. With every step, they move closer to an even greater threat--and the shattering truth of their own destiny.

Book 3 - The Amber Spyglass: he Amber Spyglass brings the intrigue of The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife to a heartstopping close, marking the third and final volume as the most powerful of the trilogy. Along with the return of Lyra, Will, Mrs. Coulter, Lord Asriel, Dr. Mary Malone, and Iorek Byrnison the armored bear, The Amber Spyglass introduces a host of new characters: the Mulefa, mysterious wheeled creatures with the power to see Dust; Gallivespian Lord Roke, a hand-high spy-master to Lord Asriel; and Metatron, a fierce and mighty angel. And this final volume brings startling revelations, too: the painful price Lyra must pay to walk through the land of the dead, the haunting power of Dr. Malone's amber spyglass, and the names of who will live - and who will die - for love. And all the while, war rages with the Kingdom of Heaven, a brutal battle that - in its shocking outcome - will reveal the secret of Dust.

I have enjoyed reading The Golden Compass and eagerly embarked on the next journey in The Subtle Knife. The commentaries I've read about Philip Pullman's distaste for Christianity in the various forums -- not apparent in the first two books -- became glaring in last one, The Amber Spyglass.

In page 393, through the speech of Dr Malone who happens to be a former nun who renounced God, uttered the following words: "Ah, but I knew about them (she's talking about angels). I used to be a nun, you see. I thought physics could be done to the glory of God, till I saw there wasn't any God at all and that physics was more interesting anyway. The Christian religion is a very powerful and convincing mistake, that's all." Carry on reading and you'll see more of this. The chapter on Authority's End is particularly disturbing where Lyra and Will see the passing of the ancient of days.

I was curious to see what the trilogy is about seeing all the hype around The Golden Compass. The first two books are harmless enough but the the last one literally killed the fun out of reading it. I like the idea of armoured bear-king who is a skilful metalsmith, the alethiometer which can reveal truths, children in Lyra's world have daemons in the form of shape-shifting animals until they grow up, and so on and so forth. I like the mulefa, friendly and smart creatures portrayed in the last book of the series, the mini-spies known as Gallivespians and the various other beings. I can even tolerate the witches. It's just too bad that Mr Pullman has to 'spice it up' with contempt for Christianity.

Words were taken from the Bible and additional words were added, I suppose for literary effect. Enoch is said to have become a powerful angel. Everything reads like things gone terribly wrong. I am of the opinion that Mr Pullman has no respect for the religion of others. I am an open-minded reader but I also believe that respect must be given to what others consider sacred; for example, the Word of God. Another thing that troubled me is the portrayal that lying is good.

This series is an eye-opener albeit not in a good way. It's a disappointing end to a wonderful start.