Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman

Into this wilde Abyss,
The Womb of nature and perhaps her Grave,

Of neither Sea, nor Shore, nor Air, nor Fire,

But all these in their pregnant causes mixt
Confus'dly, and which thus must ever fight,
Unless th' Almighty Maker them ordain

His dark materials to create more Worlds,
Into this wilde Abyss the warie fiend
Stood on the brink of Hell and look'd a while,

Pondering his Voyage; for no narrow frith

He had to cross.
- Milton's Paradise Lost, Book II

The Amber Spyglass is the final book in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. He got the name for the trilogy from Paradise Lost, and supposedly the three books are influenced by Milton's classic work. I can't comment on that aspect since I have not read Paradise Lost. However, quite often this book put me in mind of The Inferno by Dante Alighieri.

The story picks up right where The Subtle Knife left us, in cliffhanger fashion. Lyra has been kidnapped and Will is trying to find her. For the most part it closely follows Lyra and her friend Will, two tweens on a multifaceted quest that changes drastically throughout the course of the book.

The plot of this book is much more complex than that of the first two. However, while the story is complex, it is also very clear. Not only does Pullman write clearly, but he also writes well. For example:
"She took a deep shuddering breath. She pressed her hands and legs against the rough planks of the platform, and having a minute ago nearly gone mad with fear, she was now suffused with a deep, slow ecstasy at being one with her body and the earth and everything that was matter."
As with the first two books, Pullman does an excellent job with battle scenes.

Although Pullman is a somewhat vociferous atheist, this trilogy focuses heavily on religious themes such as God, hell, and the afterlife. Granted, he has his own unique take on these themes. Also, Pullman often makes biblical allusions with his choice of words, and in a few instances he uses specific biblical characters, like when we find out that Metatron, an angel, is Enoch from Genesis.

I had some questions while reading the first two books -- things that appeared to be minor plot holes -- but Pullman was able to clear those up in this final book. More importantly, Pullman managed to end the series well.

I loved all three of these books. They were well-written, incredibly original stories.


Nihil Novum said...

More tags, please.

Carlton said...

You're always pushing, Brent, aren't you? Always pushing. Well, one of these days someone is going to push back.

Brooke said...

I agree about the quality of Pullman's writing. It's hard to find YA fiction that has an exciting/appropriate plot and writing that isn't watered down. I saved his books to hand down to my younger siblings when they are old enough.