1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
Five stars for audacity, April 12 2004
Many have characterized this book as an 'atheist' tract. That is nonsense. Atheism denies the existence of God, whereas God certainly exists in the book. Of course, he is portraid as an impostor who, by trying to hide his imposture, becomes the root of all that is evil. But that does not make the book atheist; we can call it 'demiurgic'. We can also call it 'luciferic' ('satanic' is a bit too harsh) because we are supposed to cheer for those who rebel against God and end up killing Him.
So top marks to Pullman for courage. Writing such a book, especially for a children/teenager audience, is an impossibly dangerous taks, yet he achieved a fantastic commercial and critical success. Good for him!
I appreciated many things about the book, most of them previously pointed out by other reviewers -- hence the 5 stars.
There are also many things I didn't like about the book. A work of such scope is bound to have many holes and raise many questions, I understand that. But I consider this a major question which should have been dealt with: what is the relation between the Authority and the Church? This is important for two big reasons.
First, if the Church is a genuine representative of the Authority then it cannot be blamed for its actions in trying to protect and preserve the Authority. The actions of the Church, even though harsh at times, would be justified. Just like Lord Asriel's killing of Roger is justified by his bigger mission. If the Authority himself is evil, then the Church is, or may be, as much a victim of manipulation as anyone else.
Second, if the Church is not a genuine agent of the Authority then killing the Authority is pointless. Killing the Authority did not even stop the leaking of Dust anyway; in fact the leaking of Dust was caused ultimately by the war against Him: by the Knife and by the Church's bomb. After Lyra's return to Oxford the Church is still in power, but some vague reforms are brewing. But the Authority is dead, so the Church had become illegitimate. A weird situation.
I think this question, of the relationship between God and Church, is so big that another book is required to sort it out. In fact, by going gnostic rather than atheistic, Pullman gets himself into a bit of a difficult position because he accepts the main claim of the Church as the representative of God on earth. I'm curious how this will work out.
Finally, I didn't care much for the mystic romance between Lyra and Will. Romantic love seems to be becoming the official religion of the 21st century, with all the ensuing nonsense. If one is rational enough to dismiss all religion as a mistake based on fear and prejudice rooted in tradition, why not dismiss romantic love as jealosy and infatuation triggered by raging hormones?