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The Amber Spyglass: His Dark Materials
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From the very start of its very first scene, The Amber Spyglass will set hearts fluttering and minds racing. All we'll say here is that we immediately discover who captured Lyra at the end of The Subtle Knife, though we've yet to discern whether this individual's intent is good, evil, or somewhere in between. We also learn that Will still possesses the blade that allows him to cut between worlds, and has been joined by two winged companions who are determined to escort him to Lord Asriel's mountain redoubt. The boy, however, has only one goal in mind--to rescue his friend and return to her the alethiometer, an instrument that has revealed so much to her and to readers of The Golden Compass and its follow-up. Within a short time, too, we get to experience the "tingle of the starlight" on Serafina Pekkala's skin as she seeks out a famished Iorek Byrnison and enlists him in Lord Asriel's crusade:

A complex web of thoughts was weaving itself in the bear king's mind, with more strands in it than hunger and satisfaction. There was the memory of the little girl Lyra, whom he had named Silvertongue, and whom he had last seen crossing the fragile snow bridge across a crevasse in his own island of Svalbard. Then there was the agitation among the witches, the rumors of pacts and alliances and war; and then there was the surpassingly strange fact of this new world itself, and the witch's insistence that there were many more such worlds, and that the fate of them all hung somehow on the fate of the child.
Meanwhile, two factions of the Church are vying to reach Lyra first. One is even prepared to give a priest "preemptive absolution" should he succeed in committing mortal sin. For these tyrants, killing this girl is no less than "a sacred task."

In the final installment of his trilogy, Philip Pullman has set himself the highest hurdles. He must match its predecessors in terms of sheer action and originality and resolve the enigmas he already created. The good news is that there is no critical bad news--not that The Amber Spyglass doesn't contain standoffs and close calls galore. (Who would have it otherwise?) But Pullman brings his audacious revision of Paradise Lost to a conclusion that is both serene and devastating. In prose that is transparent yet lyrical and 3-D, the author weaves in and out of his principals' thoughts. He also offers up several additional worlds. In one, Dr. Mary Malone is welcomed into an apparently simple society. The environment of the mulefa (again, we'll reveal nothing more) makes them rich in consciousness while their lives possess a slow and stately rhythm. These strange creatures can, however, be very fast on their feet (or on other things entirely) when necessary. Alas, they are on the verge of dying as Dust streams out of their idyllic landscape. Will the Oxford dark-matter researcher see her way to saving them, or does this require our young heroes? And while Mary is puzzling out a cure, Will and Lyra undertake a pilgrimage to a realm devoid of all light and hope, after having been forced into the cruelest of sacrifices--or betrayals.

Throughout his galvanizing epic, Pullman sustains scenes of fierce beauty and tenderness. He also allows us a moment or two of comic respite. At one point, for instance, Lyra's mother bullies a series of ecclesiastical underlings: "The man bowed helplessly and led her away. The guard behind her blew out his cheeks with relief." Needless to say, Mrs. Coulter is as intoxicating and fluid as ever. And can it be that we will come to admire her as she plays out her desperate endgame? In this respect, as in many others, The Amber Spyglass is truly a book of revelations, moving from darkness visible to radiant truth. --Kerry Fried

The Amber Spyglass brings the intrigue of The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife to a heart-stopping end, marking the final volume of His Dark Materials 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, come a host of new characters: the Mulefa, mysterious wheeled creatures with the power to see Dust; Gallivespian Lord Roke, a hand-high spymaster to Lord Asriel; and Metatron, a fierce and mighty angel. So, too, come startling revelations: 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 uncover the secret of Dust. Philip Pullman deftly brings the cliff-hangers and mysteries of His Dark Materials to an earthshattering conclusion--and confirms his fantasy trilogy as an undoubted and enduring classic.

From the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews:

  • The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials, Book 3)
    Lord Asriel is forming an army to face a foe that has not yet been stood up to named "The Authority." Because of his forceful destruction between the fragile balance between his own world and others, there have been plenty of new changes among the worlds. These changes cause many unbalances which will cause unlikely situations happening among very different people. Will and Lyra are separated, and there even becomes more complications with the Subtle Knife (a tool that will uses to cut windows into other worlds) There will be new friendships made, and even more unfortunate unveiled but the girl with the Golden compass is the only one who is fit to show the proper path.

    With the release of Hollywood's version of the first book in the series The Golden Compass, I was overwhelmed to finally finish this breathtaking tale. "His Dark Materials" trilogy is a must read anyone interested in fantasy novels. There have been many harsh words about the series because of its "Standing up to the church and Authority." I find these comments from my friends very displeasing because they have not even read a page of the book. The story clearly plays out what the church is doing, and how it has become corrupt. (Abducting children for experiments to just name one) There is many other things to take in hand about the series, and how it takes place in a different world quiet parallel then our own, and its quite crazy to get up and hands over a novel. I completely did not mind reading the tale for just being a tale, with its heart warming storyline and characters. With the creative mind of Pullman you will be swerved off into a complicated twist, leading you to follow very different characters who all come together at the end in a fantastic clash that you will remember for weeks to come. Pullman has a wonderful imagination that will have you picturing creatures from other worlds and on the edge of your seat with excitement. The plot has blown me away with not only predictable outcomes, but with twists that kept the reader guessing till the last page. The character progression of the story is extremely strong. Pullman does not disappoint with an excellent. Job portraying human nature, be it with love, or hate. The trilogy will stay close to my heart and will be reread again in the future. There is however only one problem I have with the book. When I read it I found that I would become highly interested in one character, and be displeased to turn the page into another chapter that would take up the progress of another character. This was only displeasing, but at least gave me something to look forward to in future chapters. The Amber Spyglass sits up on my top 10 book list, and will probably stay there for years to come.
    ...more info
  • Wha?
    Mrs. Coulter was such a wonderful character in the first two books, because as a reader you truly hate her, and can't wait to find out what happens to her. Then in the third book she has a personality shift ... is it real? Another lie? And then Pullman doesn't let us see her demise, we merely hear about it second-hand, as if it were of little importance. Wha' happened?...more info
  • Where'd the story go?
    Everyone that seems to love this book, also loves to bash anyone that didn't care for it. "Oh you're just offended because you're religious." Well, I'm tired of those same people saying religious people are "closed-minded" and "can't think for themselves". I consider myself religious but am not a part of organized religion (which I have some problems with myself). Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books, but could only make it through half the Amber Spyglass before being bored out of my mind. Am I still able to rate this book objectively? I think so. All of the characters seemed to change personalities in this book. The story became disjointed and confusing. I also agree with others: "why did they want to kill this god of theirs?". Some things should be kept mysterious in fantasy books, but the reason for the entire main plot of the book?? It makes the reader start to not care about the characters which never, ever endears one to a series. Maybe Pullman should find someone to write a different third book: perhaps an alternate ending with all of his alternate universes....more info
  • Boringer.
    Now I know Pullman had no idea what he was doing when he started this trilogy. This book runs on fumes, and it's made even worse when the author introduces ideas only to discard them lazily. Like the guy who goes after our main characters. Father Gomez, I think his name is. The book keeps returning to him like he's important to the story, but he winds up not being important at all.

    And then there's Iorek Byrnison, the bear. He shows up for a while, then disappears. I mean, come on. And don't get me started on the ending. I just don't get the significance of the angels and the ghosts and the daemons and the witches and the mulefa. They're all here, but they don't gel in this mess of a book.

    Oh, yeah, and I still didn't give a crap about the characters. It's hard to relate to them when they talk like old people. Show me a kid who talks like Lyra and Will and I'll show you a monkey who craps gold....more info
  • A solid conclusion
    Oh, the ending was so sad!! Really, I loved the story and I am glad that finally learned what Pan ended up as - which was the whole reason I began reading this series! I was surprised by how much death it involved - and the fact that there wasn't really a happily ever after, but a sort of a hint at it... If there is a companion novel written, I imagine I would read it.

    As for the religion thing, it did get preachy in its own way in this book... which did detract from the story overall, I felt. Still, it was exciting to read. All in all, I think Pullman's books aren't really for young children, but they are certainly entertaining for teens and on....more info
  • Pullman is ANTI-CHRISTIAN
    As the trilogy progresses, the profoundly anti-christian message becomes more and more pronounced. Pullman himself states that his intention in writing the trilogy was to turn young people away from christianity. On his own website, Pullman states ""I don't know whether there's a God or not. Nobody does, no matter what they say. I think it's perfectly possible to explain how the universe came about without bringing God into it, but I don't know everything, and there may well be a God somewhere, hiding away." In addition, he goes on to say ""Actually, if he is keeping out of sight, it's because he's ashamed of his followers and all the cruelty and ignorance they're responsible for promoting in his name. If I were him, I'd want nothing to do with them."

    The sympathetic characters in the books repeatedly voice anti-religious sentiments. For example, in THE SUBTLE KNIFE, the hero John Parry, states:
    "We've had nothing but lies and propaganda and cruelty and deceit for all the thousands of years of human history. It's time we started again..." as he encourages Will to take the knife to Lord Asriel in his fight to destroy The Authority and build the Republic of Heaven here on Earth. Will is the keeper of the subtle knife, "the one weapon in the all the universes that could defeat the tyrant. The Authority. God."

    The bottom line is that Pullman, and the Hollywood filmmakers who have chosen to enrich his bottom line, has the right to his views and beliefs. But let's put all the cards on the table, and not disguise a profoundly anti-religious body of literary work as being either a story appropriate for children, or harmless fantasy....more info
  • Too obvious and preachy
    For what it's worth, I'm agnostic and not religious.

    I found this book a disappointment. In the last book of Harry Potter, Snape looks into Harry's eyes as he dies. You find out later that he loved Harry's mother, and Harry had his mother's eyes. Therefore, the scene of Snape's death is very touching because the reader realizes that Snape's last wish was to look in his beloved's eyes. Rowling's books were great that way -- she did not spell everything out for you, yet you still understood the motivations of each character.

    Pullman takes a different approach. He's not going for any subtlety here -- he rams his views down your throat. Whereas the earlier books in the series were more about fantasy and plot, there are long sections in Amber Spyglass where he preaches his own ideas. B-O-R-I-N-G. If the earlier books did not exist, this book would have been panned by the critics. It sacrifices character, plot, and everything else for Pullman's views on religion.

    ...more info
  • The Wheels Fall Off The Bus **SPOILERS**
    Argh! This book makes me angry!

    His Dark Materials started off as a promising tale in The Golden Compass. I liked Lyra, liked Iorek, found Mrs. Coulter fairly creepy, and in general enjoyed the world created by Mr. Pullman.

    I became nervous in The Subtle Knife, because Lyra lost some centrality in the narrative for the (in my opinion) less interesting Will... the other characters I'd grew fond of only came in sporadically, and weren't presented as well as before... and also because the story had a rapidly expanding scope that I was worried the author might not be able to handle (what with travel between the dimensions, and a war against "the Authority," et cetera). But, I maintained hope, knowing that middle volumes often feel like there's something missing. I trusted that things would come together in the end.

    I couldn't have been more wrong. Far from coming together, the narrative swings wildly out of control, until it winds up without a coherent plot, sympathetic characters, a sensible theme, or anything really to salvage it from disaster.

    By this third volume, Lyra's world has been completely left behind, as has Citagazze, and Earth, and we are left in realms that seem desolate, and devoid of interest. Characters we've cared for before come on as cameos, but not truly as themselves, and leave quickly. Instead of even developing strong new characters, we're just given eccentric alien races that seem to have personalities imprinted on them by virtue of the "species" they happen to be; none of them are worth a damn, or elicit a moment's sympathy. The 'Mulefa' -- Pullman's Ewoks -- are ridiculous in their conception and offer nothing whatever to the narrative, except that they give Pullman a chance to inject more strangeness, which seems to be a premium to him. Possibly worse are the Lilliputians, I mean Gallevespians, I mean Lilliputians, and yes I get it, Pullman -- they're a very proud and fierce people; I promise to remember that, if you stop repeating it every other paragraph. Maybe worse than the Lilli...Gallevespians are the Harpies, who combine the "species is my identity" concept with Pullman's special genius for dramatic, senseless character change.

    Iorek ambles into the story for no reason other than to remind readers that yes, this story has something to do with The Golden Compass, and by the time he ambles back out I wonder why I ever cared about him to begin with. Mrs. Coulter is absolutely destroyed -- it's as though she never had a character at all, and so Pullman feels free to make her say anything, do anything, without damage. Lyra, too, becomes a mere poppet, doomed to the most cliched and unrealistic description of love I've ever yet read (including a Danielle Steel novel)!

    The war against the Authority was never well-developed in this story, and so it's fitting that the ending should be so inconclusive and muddled. Who won? Who lost? Who can tell? Who cares? The plot events leading up to the ending are contrived and borderline non-sensical. I understand that, generally, it's unwise to try to read too much sense into fantasy epics, but still... Alright, so Pullman's world subscribes to the nigh-infinite dimensions theory, that every choice spawns a universe going in either direction, or something absurd like that. Fine. Then, are we given to believe that there is only one (say) Roger? Or one Lyra? Or are there infinite-many, as seems to be suggested by the dimensional theory? Lyra's world lacks cars, or any number of basic technological advances (as seems to make sense), but can devise a bomb that can detonate hair, trans-dimensionally, just by having a sample on hand...? Actually, what this bomb really does is blow up any vestige of suspension of disbelief. Lyra and her daemon can't willingly separate (it's a hard and fast rule in this universe) until they can, and with little ill effect. The author has no respect for any rules, natural, supernatural, or even those of his own devise.

    Speaking of respect, the author also has no respect for the reader -- that the reader might reach his own conclusions about anything -- and instructs us on how we're supposed to feel about things by repeating them endlessly. Lyra's method of "defeating death," in allowing the spirits of the departed to "become one with everything" and essentially ceasing to exist, or whatever, is good. How do we know? Because Pullman continually tells us how it leaves Lyra feeling good, or how the dissolving souls look happy, and so on.


    I could go on, and probably for a while, but what's the point? I was hoping for more -- much more -- from this series. The first book was pretty good. Never brilliant, but pretty good, and that's usually enough. Overall, there was a chance for something special, but it's all dissolved, thrown away, and mocked in this final volume.

    It's as though a Specter has drained the life from the husk of what was once The Golden Compass, and has returned this tedious final entry, without fun, hope, or life....more info
  • i dint understnad the Christianity connection clearly.........but none the less a pretty sad end to a ever so mesmerizing world.
    ok this finale book is a bit toooo long and maybe not understandable..............
    will kids undertand this book clearly..........
    i was a kid when i read it.........
    i understood it but i couldnot implicate its meaning behind the christianity thing.............
    the ADAM AND EVEn and the Serpent thing.........
    maybe i need to study the book again........
    but still a HEAVY and HUGE book finale with some surprising twists and sad conclusions.................more info
    This series was SO bad! I can't believe I managed to force my way through it. The Golden Compass was a decent enough movie, but this is one of the rare cases where the movie is better than the book.

    First, the plot is extremely confusing. He keeps opening up random worlds, and going into detail about Dust (which in itself makes no sense), and throwing random foreign sounding words into the mix just to convince us that he's dealing with something not of our world. A lot of them are even italicized!

    Second, the overall anti-religious message is very poorly thought out and crushed into the storyline: "Organized religion is bad." It's not new, and it's not even done well.

    Third, the writing is downright horrible. Most writers tend to get better as they write more, Pullman seems to have snuck past his editor and submitted something that he wrote during a week awake on crystal meth.

    Don't buy this book. Don't buy this series. I'd suggest that you spend a few weeks hitting yourself in the head with a hammer and consider yourself having made a better choice!!!...more info
  • The Amber Spyglass-Audio CD
    Pulman's are some of the best audio tapes out there. He has an entire cast of readers, and reads most of it himself. There are musical interludes between chapters, and they are incredibly easy to follow. I have taught gifted children with the Golden Compass, and have read the others with my own child. A hearty THUMBS UP! to Pulman's audio CDs. ...more info
  • Heartbreakingly Lovely
    I was enraptured, I practically drove around just for an excuse to keep listening. The theme of Lyra & Will's love is so beautiful, and so heartbreaking. And I was deeply touched by Pullman's portrayal of death -- it happened that I was listening to this as my dad was dying, so I'm sure that lent poignancy to my experience.

    By the end of the story I was crying, even sobbing - could make for dangerous driving!

    My kids & wife & I listened to the first 2 books together and I continued to this one myself. I'd read the books, but found the audiobooks to be far more compelling -- the story came alive, and the detail of the writing was so vivid (I guess I did a lot of "skimming" when i read the printed book). Amazing cast, excellent acting, and the production is so well done - usually I find audiobooks with a "cast" to be slow, this flowed.

    I wish there was more!...more info
  • Very Disappointing
    Very disappointing ending to a good series. I really enjoyed the first two books. However, I found myself being bored with the third book and basically forcing myself to get through it....more info
  • A not-so-subtle ax to grind
    I thought His Dark Materials started very strong in the first book of the trilogy and ended here with a whimper. It is ultimately disappointing because Pullman really seems to have an ax to grind and it interferes with his otherwise brilliant storytelling. This became really apparent in The Amber Spyglass and his target was specifically Christianity (not Islam, Judaism or any other faith).

    Ironically, what he attacked has little to do with the Christian faith at all. In a nutshell, Pullman focuses on a substance he calls "dust" which contains the essence of human self-awareness. He also correlates original sin and the human condition to man's first exposure to dust. Metaphorically, dust came into the Garden of Eden and man became self-aware. In his stories the Church is obsessed with destroying dust so that humankind can return to there pre-awareness state of ignorance (ignorance is bliss?). The over-arching conflict in the whole trilogy is the battle of wisdom against ignorance. For those who know anything about Christian theology, it immediately becomes obvious that Pullman is being somewhat disingenuous in his attack. If he really wanted to go after Christianity, he'd deal with substantive Christian precepts, not his philosophical conjecture that the Church yearns for Eden before the serpent. I almost get the feeling Pullman went to parochial school and got his knuckles rapped one too many times by a particularly gloomy nun.

    Pullman has created a vibrant "metaverse" in his trilogy. It's a world where an infinite number of universes exist side-by-side. A "subtle knife" was constructed that allows the bearer to cut holes in the fabric of these universes and move from one to the other. In the third book, The Amber Spyglass, he introduces us to the lamest of his worlds - his vision of an Eden in distress. The heroine of the trilogy, Lyra, saves the metaverse from falling back into ignorance and despair by re-enacting the role of Eve and the temptation. She simultaneously comes of age, attracts dust, falls in love with a boy who also comes of age, they fall together and love conquers all.

    Many people have criticized the trilogy because "they kill God in the end". Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, this is where Pullman really does Christianity a favor. The worlds of his metaverse are filled with creation's wonder. Lyra is granted, by grace, abilities she wouldn't have otherwise. There is an intelligent and loving essence that pervades everything. In a nut-shell, very God-like. This triumphs in the end. There are two entities that don't survive:
    (1)The first angel who evolved from creation who fraudulently claimed he was God. He was ancient and kept captive by his evil lieutenant who was ruling the "Church" in his name. He is released from his bondage and misery and gratefully disperses into the world and becomes one with the whole.
    (2) The evil lieutenant who displays many all-too-human characteristics such as a lust for power, hatred and lechery (the last being his undoing). He is killed by the parents of Lyra who sacrifice their lives in the process.
    ...more info
  • Fantastically creative, profoundly heretical, thought-provoking
    I read the second and third books of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy back to back, so I don't think I can really comment separately on The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass. I realy enjoyed the first book, The Golden Compass, finding it very creative and an exciting adventure. Finishing the trilogy, I realize that I didn't know the half of his creativity. The adventure kept on moving, keeping me gripped to the end, but the ideas he explores are bold and provocative. What happens when we die? Do we have souls? Does God exist, and is He good? I'd heard that these books were considered heretical by some, by I didn't realize the extent of it. From the point of view of organized Christianity, these books are profoundly heretical, far more so than the Da Vinci Code or Angels and Demons, even more than Satanic Verses is heretical for Muslims. The organized church in his book is a corrupt puritanical and power-hungry organization, with names like the Magisterium, the Consistory Court, and the Oblation Board making it a thinly veiled analogy of the Catholic Church. (The fictional church is based in Geneva, so it has Swiss Guards. Just how thin can the veil be?) His account of God, angels, and creation is revealed in the second and third books, and it is shocking. But what is most heretical is that he describes a world in which good and evil exist and people can be moral without needing a creator or an afterlife. Heaven is where we build it. All of this theology (or is it anti-theology?) is not dry philosophical prose, but is integrally woven into a fascinating fantasy of parallel worlds, intriguing characters, and a great battle between good and evil (though it's not always clear who is on which side until the end). One of the parallel worlds encountered is a very creative imagining of an alternate evolution. This trilogy is written as a fantasy for a youth audience, but like the latter Harry Potter books, deals with some dark themes that require a bit of maturity to appreciate. Unlike Harry Potter, where each of those books ended in a safe place, each of these books before the last one ends with things looking rather bleak. (In Hollywood's version of The Golden Compass, they had to twist the order of events to end on a more upbeat note.) But in the end, they really make you think about goodness and truth and self-sacrifice, and the meaning of life. I thoroughly enjoyed these books, but they are not for the theologically faint of heart. ...more info
  • Heartpounding, Relevant, Intense Emotion & Action
    This is the last in the Pullman trilogy. This was one of the most engaging stories I have ever read. It includes a trip across the river Styxx and hard, Harry Potter-like choices for the children heroes of the story, as well as the adult heroes. At every turn, massive sacrifices must be made. The actions and emotions are intense. If you fell in love with Will and Lyra in the previous books, you MUST finish the story.

    All the anti-church hoopla totally fizzles out altogether. Rather than having things really connect up in the end about church, spirit, and humanity, I sort of got a bit lost. There is closure for the main characters, but for me somehow the spiritual aspect did not get tied up like I thought it would. I may have to read it again. I found the whole series to be very relevant to our times, in this age of increasing integration of computers and the possibility of nano-bots and robotic surgery. He also makes a great general point--just because you can do it, doesn't mean you should, with respect to scientific developments. Pullman's work as a whole, though, was fantastic and very worthy of acclaim. Enjoy....more info
  • Stillborn fiction
    I read this trilogy because the minister at my church condemned it from the pulpit. Usually (at least in my church), that's a pretty good indication that a book might have some interest or that it might give a good expression of an interesting point of view---even if it is not the interesting point of view that I accept as true. In this case, this contrarian form of guidance proved useless. The minister was not correct, but his error was in making the book appear as something when it is hardly anything at all.

    Most people I know regard this book quite favorably. They suggest that it is "just fiction" and "just a fun book." From that point of view, it is reasonable to say that the author is a decent journeyman wordsmith, neither distinguished among professional authors, nor much worse than most. The editing of this third volume seems to have been very loose. It is paced quite slowly and more chaotically than necessary. It is, all things considered, less well crafted in its layout than the previous volumes.

    I demand more of a book than "good fiction." To be worthy of my attention during this short stay on Earth, any work of art has to express something useful and, if at all possible, profound. This book is clearly the fictional construct of an atheistic author. Perhaps he is, indeed, as someone else commented, the atheist answer to C.S. Lewis. If so, the atheists are pretty short of spokes-people.

    The book likes to repeat unhappy sayings about the Church of its world, about the corruption of the clergy and generally the need for a better institution. If that theme were carved on the pages in the literary equivalent of bass relief, then we could have fun together. Even as an avid church goer, I think we have seen no more urgent time for restructuring and purification of the Church since the time of Thomas Aquinas. So, we could have had fun. We could have agreed, but this aspect was sketched as a cartoon---hardly worth mentioning.

    More of the philosophical effort of the book goes toward denouncing the author's idea of the unseen spiritual forces that lie much more toward the heart of religion. He makes the Creator God into some sort of extraordinarily pitiful God, perhaps suffering from some version of Alzheimer's. He makes the high angels, who serve before the throne of God into lustful bullies. It is not just irreverent, but ludicrous. Einstein was fond of saying that we cannot solve a problem from the same frame of mind that gave rise to the problem. We cannot understand the higher wisdom of deep mysticism from a cartoon caricature. It is so absurd that a grown person should be ashamed to put such a thing in print. It's just plain rubbish, and that's much too kind a phrasing for it.

    This book may be amusing if you wish to read it for just entertainment. It's message is a caricature and unworthy of the time a person might spend reading it (even if you read very fast indeed).

    The song "Shenandoah" or the fourth movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony are, indeed, melodies. However, because they strike generation after generation as lyrically beautiful and hauntingly expressive, it would be wrong to say they are "just songs." They are masterworks of music for the ages. That's what I want. My associates who claim this is "just fiction," are quite right. It is really "just fiction." It does not rate as highly on the scale of memorable art as some of the worse German drinking songs, and it certainly makes no comparison to "Im Himmel es Gibt Kein Bier."...more info
  • a bittersweet conclusion to a marvelous series
    The final book in the _Dark Materials_ trilogy is bittersweet. There are no loose ends as plot points, characters and clues are tied together, although things don't end quite the way I had expected (or wanted) them to. I hesitate to go into further explaination for fear of spoiling the story; suffice it to say that readers will not be disappointed with the way the trilogy is concluded. What struck me most was the number of allusions to literature in this book - many more than the previous two in the series.

    The most obvilious similarity is with Milton's _Paradise Lost_: the idea of a menachean battle between angels is not new - that Pullman is criticised with claims of an anti-Christian bias seems to demonstrates an ignorance of this fact. Yet the allusions do not end with Milton. I found connections with Homer (as Lyra journeys to the Land of the Dead), with Swift's _Gulliver's Travels_, even with Dante. While Pullman is no Dante (or Milton, for that matter), I was impressed with his retelling of these stories and of his new take on an old theme.

    Much of these connections, of course, will be lost on younger readers - this is fine, as it is very well told with plenty of action and suspense to keep younger readers interested. For those with broader experience, the connections will surely not be missed. Regardless of whether there is an agenda in the stories, they are imaginitive and captivating. Highly recommended....more info
  • A Bang into an Adolescent Whimper
    Despite Pullman's never subtle dislike of Christianity, I find these books compelling. Pullman is a wonderful writer, gifted with language. I managed to swallow his anti-Christian rhetoric because of his writing skill and because his critique of Christianity stands on the very worldview it attacks.

    That said, I was weary of the evermore explicit anti-religious diatribes by the end of this final book. The characters make little speeches about the perils of authority, the evils of the Church, the "mistake" of Christianity, and the need for a Republic of Heaven instead of a Kingdom of Heaven. The story could've ended with a bang but trickled on needlessly into the whimpers of adolescent love. On the whole, however, the trilogy has strengths which manage to outweigh these weaknesses. A thoughtful and open-minded reader (exactly what Pullman claims to want) should manage to enjoy a good story while discovering the Christian truth Pullman unwittingly voices....more info
  • Don't Raise the Bar If You Can't Maintain the Height
    Magical! Provocative! Inspired! Genius On Paper! Crap!

    I was totally swept away into the worlds of His Dark Materials, and then half way through The Amber Spyglass, I lost it.

    (WARNING! This will contain spoilers!)

    It was as if Phillip Pullman set down his pin and let a much more incapable person finish up. So many story plots were left unfinished, untouched. There is SO MUCH stigma and story and expectation about the subtle knife and how it is a "god killer", but it is just dropped and becomes pointless. The authority gets taken out by a breeze!

    What ever happened to the betrayal of Asirel? He kills Lyra's friend, in a most cruel way, and then goes on a holy crusade of sorts... And Mrs. Coulter, in The Subtle Knife, seems to be bent on killing Lyra, and if I'm not mistaken plans to do so, then in the Spyglass she is trying to protect her... Make up my mind for me!

    Lyra's "choice" and Eve like fate, due to Mary's temptation, which is a huge plot point in the first two books is almost totally passes over in 2 paragraphs, and is nothing as dramatic as the other books seem to make it out to be. I thought Lyra was "destined to bring about the end of destiny," and that she was going to be the new Eve. Pullman seems to have an interesting interpretation of the story of Eve at any rate.

    The obvious solution to Will and Lyra's problem of staying together is not even discussed. If the angles can deal with the specters that have been created every time a window is opened (which is also a week explanation), why can't they deal with the few specters that would be created for Will and Lyra to remain together?

    There are several more instances where this book falls short of the bar raised in the first two in the series, but for the sake of going into a full out rant, I will simply say this, Pullman should not have raised such a high level of expectation. I burned through the first two books because I was totally enveloped in the story, and I found myself begging for more, but what I got was a total disappointment, and if there were any kind of legal precedent for suing an author for my money back for the cost of the book and the length of time it took me to read the story I would....more info
  • good audio book
    interesting story with a full cast of voices. Pullman takes a long time to finish up the narrative, but it's probably necessary. no bad music in this volume, but the poetry at the beginning of each chapter is hard to get when read quickly out loud. it adds nothing to this audio version. that part would make more sense in print....more info
  • Where'd the Story Go?
    Throughout junior high and high school, I heard constant mention of the "His Dark Materials" trilogy but never got to read it myself. Years later, I finally picked up the books and breezed through the first two in less than a week. The third book in the series, however, was far more difficult to read.

    At first glance, I was surprised by its size: "The Golden Compass" and "The Subtle Knife" are both condense, well-written stories with less than 400 pages apiece, but "The Amber Spyglass" is over 500 pages long and definitely not as well-written as its predecessors. Many parts of the story dragged, and many of the major characters (aside from the two stars of the series, Lyra and Will) played significantly smaller roles than in the previous two books.

    To add to this, many of the mysteries and secrets set up in the first two books are not fully explained in the third book. For example, advertisements for "The Amber Spyglass" claim readers will discover the startling secret of Dust. This never happens. I'm okay with a few unsolved mysteries but so many loose ends are left untied here that I was disappointed.

    I also had a problem with the romance created between Lyra and Will. (Sorry if I'm spoiling this for readers, but anybody who's read the first two books should see it coming.) The story does have a coming-of-age subtone but Pullman treats Lyra and Will's romance as a complex, intimate, adult passion that is too rare among young teenagers to be believeable here.

    Overall, the series is worth reading but don't expect the "astonishing conclusion" as promised by promotional advertisements and teasers....more info
  • A rousing tale, but the underlying message is disturbing
    In his third volume of "His Dark Materials" Philip Pullman brings his epic to a world shattering climax. The Specters are wreaking havoc not just in the world of Ci'gazze, but also now in other worlds. The Church, to prevent another Fall of humanity, hatches a diabolical and misguided plot to prevent it. Lord Asriel's forces are gathered and the Angels of the resistance and those of The Authority gather from the far reaches of Creation for a battle that will affect everything and everyone. Add into that a scientist who will lead the two most crucial people, who unknown to almost everyone else will decide the fate of God and man, into a new era.

    Lyra and Will race through this story at break neck speed their audacity, tenacity, love for each other, and their faith are inspiring. In the tale-spinning department "The Amber Spyglass" does not disappoint. I stayed up way to late reading this to find out what would happen next. However, I was as disturbed by the implications for Pullman's depiction of God as I was entertained by his characters. Like "the Chronicles of Narnia", "His Dark Materials" teaches a world-view lesson. Pullman's world has no definite Creator that the characters can identify, and paints Yahweh (the God of Christianity and Judaism) as an angelic usurper much like Satan. This is a quote from Pullman's website, "Question: His Dark Materials seems to be against organised religion. Do you believe in God? Answer: I don't know whether there's a God or not. Nobody does, no matter what they say. I think it's perfectly possible to explain how the universe came about without bringing God into it, but I don't know everything, and there may well be a God somewhere, hiding away.
    Actually, if he is keeping out of sight, it's because he's ashamed of his followers and all the cruelty and ignorance they're responsible for promoting in his name. If I were him, I'd want nothing to do with them." This book, unlike the other two in the series, is not subtle in promoting a mystical agnostic world-view. For example, a main character who sums up much of the story says, "The Christian religion is a very powerful and convincing mistake, that's all."

    Mr. Pullman is entitled to his point of view, and he has a point. People who call themselves Christians have done some heinous things in the name of God and Christ. The questions he brings up in his books are valid questions that need to be addressed by those who have faith in Jesus. However, parents need to know the message promoted by this story b/c book one is so wonderful, book two keeps you interested and reveals a bit about the underlying assumptions behind this work of fiction, and book three reveals what Mr. Pullman wanted to say all along; Christianity is false and a mistake.

    So, because I have a strong love for Jesus and His Church I am sad to say I do not recommend this book to any but the most discerning and mature of readers; which is not the audience marketers aim at when selling this book....more info
  • His Dark Purposes
    Philip Pullman shows glimmers of brilliance as a writer. His characters are engaging, his worlds are vivid, his prose is delightful at times, and he occasionally produces lush and beautifully drawn descriptive paragraphs. His "science" is goofy but inventive, and without it his story couldn't work. He also demonstrates a good understanding of what appeals to an adolescent reader. I enjoyed the first volume, though my interest plateaued in the second volume and dropped like a stone in the third.

    Philip Pullman is one of a growing group of authors who market their own controversial adult ideas and themes as juvenile fiction/fantasy. While I affirm his right to have, and to express his view of the world, Mr. Pullman's method of garnering an uncritical and captive audience for his message is despicable. Pullman is a skillful and sometimes powerful writer who understands his audience well; sadly he uses that skill and knowledge to entice, seduce, and manipulate the immature reader.

    Here is a summary of how the Pullman method works:

    The Golden Compass is a compelling action adventure of a young, smart, defiant, and spirited pre-adolescent (12-year old) girl. There are dark characters, ugly episodes and wicked happenings in this volume, but spunky Lyra is up to the challenge. And, she has cool friends (noble gypsies and armored bears, among others) to help her.

    In The Subtle Knife we meet Lyra's male counterpart Will. By the end of this also dark and rather convoluted part of the story we like Will a lot, too. And we hate the bad guys, although sometimes it's hard to tell just who the bad guys are. Will finds himself possessing a knife that only he can use; a knife that allows him to open windows into other, sometimes parallel, worlds.

    Now that Mr. Pullman has set his stage (and the child has a significant investment in the story), he force-feeds the unsuspecting reader his world view in The Amber Spyglass. Yes, there is some foreshadowing of what's coming in the first volumes, but until we get to the third volume we keep hoping that these are literary red herrings thrown in just to keep us off balance. Alas, no such luck.

    In short order Mr. Pullman informs us that:

    - The God of Judaism and Christianity is a fake, a liar, a dictatorial despot, a draconian authoritarian intent on making everybody miserable. Mr. Pullman's definition of "god, the Creator, the Lord, Yahweh, El, Adonai, the King, the Father the Almighty" is that he is the source of everything that's wrong with the world.
    - The church is run by self-serving, power-hungry dupes and mercenaries who ensure God's tyranny is carried out. Everyone else of faith is a discounted as a closed-minded simpleton who wouldn't know what to do without being told.
    - The health of this world and all of Pullman's "billions and billions" of other worlds is dependent on invisible, sentient dust, reminiscent of the Mitichlorians behind The Force of Star Wars lore. This dust is the product of man's gaining wisdom, a "natural" process that Pullman places in direct opposition to man's knowledge of God.
    - The "good guys" in this world are the secular naturalists, the amoral, the animals, the witches, and the rebellious angels who have set out to help overthrow and destroy God, and
    - Elite, self-actualized young men and women of character (like the reader, of course) possess the power to destroy God, and should destroy God because, after all, it's the right thing to do. With the assurance of Lyra's and Will's feelings that if we do destroy God then all will be well with the world and we will be happy.

    Harry Potter, meet Bertrand Russell and Ayn Rand. And don't forget Jean Genet, for flavor.

    Along the way Pullman gives lectures on:

    - The moral relativism of infanticide (it's bad to kill children if you are aligned with God, but its O.K. to kill children when necessary to further a "good" cause (i.e. deposing God, or whatever)),
    - The nature of homosexuality (though angels are nonphysical spirit beings that doesn't prevent them from being, and stereotypically behaving like, homosexuals), and
    - The pervasiveness of the supernatural (pretty much all of us have some kind of "spirit being/guide" counterpart that can help us do magical things, assuming we are just "special" enough, by virtue of birth and fate, to tap into this other self)
    In other words, Pullman uses the first two books to build a platform from which to deliver his elitist-humanist/post-modern/New Age message.

    There are several passages in the volumes when Lyra or Will actually ask a tough question (What happens when we die? Where do we go? Why are we here?). To these questions a more mature, more worldly adult character always sagely answers: "it's not time for you to know that now." Pullman glosses over his answers to these questions as he finishes his story. As it turns out, Mr. Pullman subscribes to the philosophy of despair: we have no purpose other than to do what we think best, and when we die we're just dead. End of story. Which is fine from Pullman's perspective because with God in power Mr. Pullman's future is likely to be, well . . . . . Hell.

    Spoiler Warning (though if you are a parent you will definitely want to know this): The long-anticipated climax of this 1,200-page book never materializes. In the end, it turns out that destroying God isn't such a big thing after all, and certainly doesn't solve all of the worlds' problems. Only when God is gone does Pullman come clean that the real reason the worlds are dying is because of what men have done to the universe, and now the children will have to devote their lives to fixing the mess. In this unexpected extension of the story, Pullman now has our two (now newly adolescent) heroes take a big step in repairing the world by falling in love, immediately followed by a carefree afternoon of sensual intimacy. Pullman omits a clinical account of what happens that afternoon, but whatever it is, it is magic: suddenly the relentless decay in the worlds is halted. Does this make any sense? No. But it helps to tie off a major loose end in the story, and provides Pullman a way to repeat an earlier theme to his young readers: that without God we are free to engage in sex without any restraint or guilt. Because with the death of God we are now free to be our own God. We can define our own morality, or lack of it, constrained only by what an open-minded society sets as limits in the new Republic of Heaven.

    Once finished with the books I went online; perhaps I was reading too much into this children's book. I wasn't surprised by what I learned.

    Mr. Pullman:

    - Is a self-described atheist.

    - Is listed as a member of the British Humanist Association (the goal of which is "an end to the privileged position of religion in law, education, broadcasting and wherever else it occurs")

    - Is an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society (The society campaigns for: 1) the disestablishment of the Church of England, 2) the withdrawal of state subsidies to religious schools, 3) the end of tax exemptions for churches, 4) the abolition of the blasphemy law, 5) an end to the public funding of chaplains in prisons, hospitals and the armed services)

    Is His Dark Materials simply the anti-Narnia tome that Pullman says he set out to write? Perhaps. C. S. Lewis' Narnia stories are allegories of good and evil, principles and the lack of them, the nature of man and the nature of God, love, forgiveness, sacrifice, pride and humility. Pullman offers nothing more than shades of evil, ego, and seduction; God is dead, and man has no need for forgiveness, for Pullman's superman is intrinsically good and there is nothing to forgive. On the other hand, one could argue Pullman simply has a vendetta against God in general and against the Church of England in particular, and uses a book marketed at children to further his goal of revenge.

    In interviews, Mr. Pullman has claimed neither he nor his book is anti-religious. This is as an odd and dishonest position to take; akin to as if Lewis had said his Chronicles of Narnia has nothing to do with Christianity. True, Pullman is careful not to say anything about Allah in his primer on atheism, but one suspects that this Englishman's reason for the omission has somewhat more to do with cowardice and less to do with tolerance. Pullman assumes that in a politically correct publishing world he can get away with being anti-Semitic and anti-Christian. Leaving one to wonder: if a public speaker boldly and loudly teaches that the Judeo-Christian faith is responsible for all that is wrong and hurtful and evil in the world, and that the only way to solve the problem is to destroy what it stands for (and destroy most of the believers in the process), what more is necessary to classify the ranting as hate speech? If the speaker substituted any other group (Muslims, homosexuals, persons of color) in the sentence above, would society be so tolerant?

    His Dark Materials is unabashed humanist propaganda written to delight a child's mind. But just as devious is the way the author chooses to misrepresent faith. Mr. Pullman uses the traditional images, phrases, words, and symbols of the Jewish and Christian faiths in his book, but infuses his own meanings into them to twist them into serving his purpose. He trusts that his target audience doesn't know enough to spot his deceptions, or is insecure enough to accept his definitions as plausible. Further, he makes several outrageous and false claims in the process; at one point Pullman casually purports Calvin to be an advocate for child killing, as if there were some documented and widely recognized historical basis for his comment. Just speculation on my part, but perhaps Mr. Pullman does these things and says these things because he assumes few will ever call him on them. And that if he tells his lies enough times in enough ways, the populace he so despises will eventually repeat his mantra as truth.

    While I cannot respect Mr. Pullman's condemnation of those who are aware of an authority higher than themselves, I could advocate a discussion of his thoughts on the subject if I believed he actually understood what he was talking about. Unfortunately, his own stunted and malignant grasp of the world view he opposes appears to have atrophied at about the age of his target audience. An audience better served listening to another voice.
    ...more info
  • 3rd time is a charm!
    Of all of the Dark Material Series, The Amber Spyglass was certainly my favorite. The creativity of the writer in all of the books within this series is excellent but the last books really takes the cake. For me, if a writer has to spend a great deal of time explaining the mindset of the characters, then they are not always doing their job within the rest of the story. Pullman does a great job spinning a yarn without the need to bloviate about the charters state of mind. The adventure speaks for it should be! ...more info
  • Good Read, Sad Ending
    I confess I truly liked this trilogy. I enjoyed the story and would recommend it to those people who liked books such as the Harry Potter series.

    The three books together were compulsive reading with a tinge of sadness that it's now over, and the adventure has come to an end.

    Having said that I do have a gripe and that is to do with the ending. I just don't buy the idea that Lyra & Will would simply walk away with the ending that we are presented. These kids were given some hefty challenges, faced some nasty characters and came out trumps. And then we get the ending we did. No sorry, to ask 12 & 13 year olds to calmly swallow, what I would call a cold, callous adult logic, didn't wash for me. If they were so wholly in love, then it would take mths, years if at all, for them to come to a conclusion that definitive. Most I think, in the absence of any other solution, would take the 10 years as a life time to enjoy and relish (and who knows what you can think of in 10 years). But still I'm not the author and I have the feeling the ending was conceived long before the last chapters were ever crafted.

    I would agree with some as to the title of the 3rd book. The amber spy glass has little impact on the story. When compared to the 1st two books their titles were significant objects within the books themselves (on a scale of 1 to 10 they would be 10s). The amber spy glass as an object that impacts the story would rate at best as a 3 or 4.

    But as I said I did enjoy the 3 books immensely, so if you are looking for a void to fill, I would recommend this trilogy. However if you are looking for a feel good, rosie `happy ever after' type ending, you in for a shock. The romantics may even require a tissue or two.

    As a conclusion, I was interested to see that they didn't put the end of book one in the first film. Why I can only speculate. I'm now interested in seeing how they conclude the last film, and how true to the book they will remain.
    ...more info
  • Young adult fiction?
    Pullman is an excellent writer. His stories are wonderfully told. The characters are engaging, and the plot certianly clips along. He has a powerful imagination.

    However, he is dealing with very heavy subject matter here to be calling his books "young adult" fiction. I can totally see why organized religion has a problem with his books. Organized religion, in this trilogy, is the enemy/villain. God himself, and his cadre of angels, are the characters that the protagonists fight against (and defeat). While I think these books can be fruitful reads for adults, as they stimulate thought on topics not traditionally entertained (much like Sophie's World, which I really enjoyed), I would not want my, say, 12-year-old kid reading this stuff. It's hard enough trying to teach your child to comprehend the immensity of the world, God, faith, good/evil, without Pullman undoing all you've tried to instill.

    Sooooo, if you're interested in theology, and you're over 18, read these books. If you're part of the backpack set, though, you might want to talk with your parents about them first. ...more info