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Showing 11-20 of 35 reviews(2 star)show all reviews
on January 30, 2001
I really wanted to like "Amber Spyglass" - especially since I had so much time and emotion invested in the first two books. Sadly, the third book is a complete train wreck which dissolves in philosophical gobbledygook, glaring logical inconsistencies, continuity errors, and "cheats" as the author introduces new rules at the last minute to tie-up his loose ends. The overall feeling is that Pullman must have written the first two books without having a clear idea how he was going to wrap it all up, or what he really wanted to say. As a result, we have characters saying things like "When you said (something in Book Two), you really meant exactly the opposite, didn't you?", or doing something absolutely impossible and saying "I'll tell you how I did that someday, but the time isn't yet right." Oh, brother. That's not a character speaking - that's a desperate author speaking. It's telling that after reading all three books in the "His Dark Materials" trilogy, I still don't know what that title means. Who is the "His" referring to? What are the "Dark Materials?"
I could get into more specifics, but I don't want to include "spoilers" for anyone who's going to read this book; obviously some people have enjoyed it...if you're not a critical, thoughtful reader, maybe you'll be one of them. For anyone else - don't waste your time.
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on January 12, 2001
While this series started out with an intriguing theory about the nature of matter and awareness (I honestly loved The Golden Compass), unfortunately the author's underlying hostility to religion in general and the Church in particular intrude, and this results in a story that does not achieve the quality of "trueness" for which it purports to strive. Parents and other people in authority are nearly universally portrayed as venal, obsessive, selfish or self-centered, manipulative and unworthy of trust. There are what can only be deliberate errors of fact in portraying Christian doctrine, and one of the heroines is a former nun who decides there must be no God because she can't have sex. The author is clearly talented and it saddened me to find his message so viciously hostile to many people's genuine experience of truth. If you are a person who has experienced the truth of God you will likely be offended by the book; if you have adolescent children, at the very least you may want to discuss the books carefully with your kids if they read these books. I will say I was sorely disappointed to reach the end and find the book was in no way "true." I have read a lot of books by non-Christians, including atheists, that at least reflected truths of existence, quite profound ones, and I have found them rewarding to read and thought-provoking even when I didn't agree with their conclusions. This author seems determined to deliberately lie to the reader, and the thought that impressionable and instinctively rebellious adolescents might be influenced by this without a chance to "debrief" worries me--and I don't believe in censorship!
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on November 8, 2000
Well, I loved the first two books in this trilogy, but The Amber Spyglass was slow going. Dr. Mary Malone's story (and even more the Father Gomez bit) added very little to the book and were generally sections I just wanted to get through to get back to Will and Lyra. In attempting to bring in so many of the characters of the last two books, Pullman only gives us brief and unsatisfactory glimpses of most of the secondary characters. Also his substitution of Truth and the telling of stories for any sort of spiritual life seems not only forced but rather incongruous with many of the decisions his own characters make. I kept expecting Pullman to end the book by pulling together many of his various themes and threads but instead he brought out an overly sentimental (and very false-feeling) ending. As opposed to some of the other reviewers here, I would have had no problem with a sad and sacrificial ending if the sacrifice had seemed worth something. Allowing the dead to lose all their individual consciousness as their molecules become one with the world sounds ultimately merely dull, and saying your "dust" will somehow find the dust of the others you loved in life is only more sentimental puffery substituting for a belief in some kind of existence beyond death--if you're going to challenge religious beliefs, at least have the guts to stick it out the whole way. The dead would be better off sitting around and telling their stories to each other.
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on November 2, 2000
As a seventh and eighth grade English teacher, I was thrilled to discover "The Golden Compass" four years ago. I was even more thrilled to read "The Sublte Knife." I was even more excited by the prospect of the third book. Pullman's world was brilliant, his story was moving, and his themes were provoking. My students and I spent almost three years waiting for the third and final book, constantly bemoaning the constantly changing publishing date. Finally, I read the book.
WHAT A DISAPPOINTMENT. Pullman is a great writer. He continues to provoke. But what happened to his plot? What happened to all that preceded the final book? Why did Mary make the amber spyglass? What was really significant about the visit to the world of the dead? What about those characters, such as Iorek, Serrafina, and Lord Asriel, once so brilliantly and deeply conceived? What happened to their complexity? Like much of the plot, they just pop up, fill a space, and then disappear. Sure, those characters and creations developed in the previous books make appearances in "The Amber Spyglass," but their appearance and explanation seem obligatory and even silly. For example, the Spectres, as fascinating as they were in "The Suble Knife," are really ridiculously explained and then brushed aside in "The Amber Spyglass."
I admire Pullman's courage in writing a book that challenges organized religion, and I agree with many of his themes. Unfortunately, he dropped the ball regarding his characters, his plot, and his overall vision.
I was so looking forward to teaching this trilogy in the future. Unfortunately, I fail to see any real merit to the series as a result of this extremely disappointing final volume.
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on October 30, 2000
First of all, The Golden Compass was the best children's book I read in the last ten yars. Unfortunately, Pullman not only fails to deliver on the promise of that book, his final work is more backfire than dud.
The wonderful characters introduced in the previous two novels end up reduced to two dimensional representations of their ultimate role in this atheist allegory. Worse still, they are not even rationally consistent with the characters of yore. Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter are the most disappointing, as there is no good explanation for why they should change so dramatically in this final book. Some of the other villains are implausibly irrational, sacrificing self and world for an ideology that could easily embrace more constructive interpretation. Even Will, Mary, Lyra, and Iorek become feeble echoes of their selves in the previous works.
The culmination of the narrative is predictable -- and a huge let-down. You can feel Pullman laboriously tying together all the loose ends even as you long for the vibrancy that brought tears of joy and sorrow in the first book.
Moreover, all of this appears to be in service to an atheist theology that will please no one: The Amber Spyglass is guaranteed to offend christians and most other theists with its total rejection of God. Is Pullman trying to be the stridently atheist C.S. Lewis of our generation? In any case, it is just strange that he has so strongly denounced God (either as top angel or as creator) in this work, and yet neither confronted nor mentioned the prophets of God: why usurp the myth of creation, and only mention in passing the teachings of Jesus, Mohammed, the Buddha, etc? It may make his argument appear a little stronger on the surface, but it leaves a lot to be explained.
I can't imagine this pleasing atheists either given its thick use of biblical imagery, the depiction of life after death, the presence of angels, the lack of any effort to refute or explain the spiritual teachers/prophets/redeemer mentioned above, and, of course, the fact that the whole thing is heavy handed and artistically weak.
I realize I will get slammed for this review by all the Pullman/Dark Materials fans -- but until I read this I was a Pullman fan too. I loved the first book, and liked the second a whole lot. I like the Sally trilogy as a fun but less ambitious undertaking. So, I am sorry Pullman fans. I wish he had written a different Amber Spyglass.
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on October 23, 2000
I have read and re-read the first two books of this trilogy over the past few years, waiting for this third and final installment with great anticipation. i could not be more disappointed. Not only does the book drag with too many characters and too many scenes (I felt the Golden Compass had not a wasted word), but the author's goal in the Amber Spyglass is disturbing and upsetting. It does not seem that Pullman has thought through the logical consequences of his a-theology. In fact, throughout the trilogy, I as a reader have been frustrated by the arbitrariness of the rules which govern the universe Pullman has created. Finishing the Amber Spyglass, we understand better the arbitrary nature of his realm, but Pullman does not really have a foundation for any rules at all. There is no rhyme or reason to daemons or the underworld or the consequences of travelling between worlds. There is no ground for his "reality" and so no way to believe in how his characters deal with the reality he has created.
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on January 14, 2004
perhaps there was too much expectation after the first two great books but my feeling is that there were too many loose ends that weren't tied up.
The very complex issue of religion was always going to be hard and I feel it was handled badly. For the impressionable young readership I think it is damaging. i was ill at ease throughout the book with where this subject was going.
Loose ends? After all the fuss over daemons Lyra and Will gave up there daemons rather too easily. Mrs sudden and complete change of character. Loved her in the first two and annoyed that I was indifferent to her in the last. Will touching Lyras daemon? Never happened in history just seemed a bit lame.
It really seemed to me like the author had written the book and then gone back through formulaically and inserted intriguing snippets that he could then close off towards the end.
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on April 25, 2001
Philip Pullman completes his "Dark Materials" series, and, sadly, there are few surprises. This last book ends as a preachy muddle, and most of the promised climaxes turn out to be anti-climaxes (the foreshadowed betrayal, the end of the Authority, etc.) As radical as Pullman fancies himself, this work also seems to keep trying to reconcile its anti-Christian impulses with Christian morality (dying to self for others, the value of truth, the gifts of the body and physicality). Pullman fashions a straw man of Christianity that actually much more resembles various Christian heresies such as Manichaeism or gnosticism, all the while espousing some of their tenets. For someone who has vocally criticised C. S. Lewis for a tendency to sermonize, Pullman surprising falls to the same temptation, blunting his craftsmanship in this final book of the trilogy.
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on June 20, 2003
I'm sorry but to all of those who say that one is close-minded to say this book is evil have never believed in anything good. I love harry potter and laugh at those who scorn it for evil because Harry Potter is on the good side whereas Lyra never knows which side she is on. Yes, that may be human but this dehumanizes hope for a higher power (God, Buddha, Christ, Nature, Whoever) that guides us in goodness. I especially disagree that because things are done in God's or the Authorities Name that they be God's wishes. Almost every war is over religion and yet that doesn't mean God is leading either side. We are humans and do what we want to be right and Pullman is saying that we do what the Authority wants which isn't always the case. I started out loving Lyra and Will and now i feel cheated that they lead me to fight what is the truth.
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on November 5, 2003
Much as I enjoyed the first 2 of His dark material, I found the third one overly long, overly complex with parts too similar, in my view, to "Out of the silent planet". I totally lost interest in Mary Malone's doings and there were just too many parallel stories and plots, I became impatient with it all. Lyra's motivation to find Roger simply doesn't stand up in the face of what she has to go through (because she DREAMED about him?) and it becomes implausible and unbelievable. Overall disappointing and too ambitious.
I'm surprised at the outcry by the Christian readers though. What about freedom of speech?? Isn't someone ALLOWED to write against Christianity? You don't have to agree but please let writers write what they will. I don't believe Pullman's books will corrupt anybody!
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