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The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
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's review
Jan 17, 2008

did not like it

** spoiler alert ** This book was twisted. The plot was very contrived and the characters have lost the remaining appeal that they had in the first 2 books. The "redemption" of Mrs. Coulter and Lord Asriel is utterly unconvincing. Pullman makes an open mockery of God, whom he depicts as a weak, timid, helpless old being manipulated by a twisted, tryanicial angel. No, Lyra and Wil don't kill God in the end, but Pullman does. The story culminates in the predictable recreation of Adam and Eve's experience in the garden, with the conclusion that Satan had it right all along.
The problem with Pullman's "Republic of Heaven" ideal is that he puts too much faith in humanity. History has proven time and again that men are incapable of building and sustaining a truly benevolent society. We need God in order to build heaven. (The true God, not a warped idea of Him as seen in many religions today). The only thing worse than religious oppression is Godless oppression.
Pullman is right that men have corrupted the truth, and this is manifest in many false teachings in religions today, but he is wrong in concluding that this is God's fault, or that the very idea of God is false, and that God himself is a corrupt invention of man. There is a God, He is good, and there is a true way of worshipping him that affirms humanity.
Pullman is also right that human passions have wrongfully been suppressed by many religions. But he is wrong in suggesting that there should be no higher authority to set bounds on human passions. Our passions are God-given, and God desires that we enjoy them. He teaches us, not to deny ourselves of these passions, but to deny ourselves of selfish and harmful (to ourselves or to others) expressions of these passions. There is an appropriate bounds. True religion strikes the right balance between the full expression of human passion and approprate self restraint.
Finally, Pullman is also right about one thing in the Garden of Eden: it was a good thing, ultimately, that Adam and Eve partook of that fruit. It is in fact what God intended to happen. There was nothing inherently evil in the fruit itself. The sin was in doing so at Satan's urging.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
March 1, 2002 – Finished Reading
January 17, 2008 – Shelved

Comments (showing 1-10 of 10) (10 new)

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Jenny "There was nothing inherently evil in the fruit itself. The sin was in doing so at Satan's urging."

I always believed the sin was in eating the fruit after God had told them not to, but I see Mr Pullman and your point. :D

Rachel Excellent review! My thoughts exactly.

Rachel I agree about the fruit. It wasn't that the fruit was evil. It was doing so after being told not to. Not following Gods rules.

Kate The old angel wasn't god, it was the Authority. God had died already of old age. At one point it says in the book that the bible referenced god growing older, and the book makes the leap and said he died. The Authority was an angel that took the place of god to keep the Clouded Mountain running and the angels all doing what they're supposed to. Metatron was the Authority's Regent, but was keeping the Authority alive despite his advanced age because that's where his power came from. I think the point to be taken was that angels and other beings as such are still mortal, but on a different life span. Pullman didn't kill god in this book, he just presented a different take on how things are run.
Personally I'm not offended by any perceived religious or anti-religious undertones, I am offended by the lazy plot and boring characters.

Spider the Doof Warrior Uh... Have you ever READ the bible? It's rather warped and cruel to be honest. God kills way more people than Satan did.

Stella I find it sad that so many people let their own opinions affect the way they choose to rate books like this. As if anything that conflicts with your own personal opinion is pure crap. You can CHOOSE to BELIEVE whatever you want, but in reality, for all you know, Satan did have it right all along. A truly intelligent opinion is not biased, and your offense from the series is a prime example of how the oppression of organized religion has tainted YOU.

Chris Whybrow Excellent reveiw! Completely sums up my thoughts!

David James I agree with Kate

Caitlin sing it Stella!

message 10: by Chris (last edited Mar 31, 2015 09:04AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Chris Whybrow Stella wrote: "I find it sad that so many people let their own opinions affect the way they choose to rate books like this. As if anything that conflicts with your own personal opinion is pure crap. You can CHOOS..."

You have a point there. I think I personally ought to clarify something.

I am Catholic. I belong to a religion that has often throughout history been corrupt, oppressive and violent. It's also a religion heavily criticised by 'His Dark Materials'.

Is that why I hate 'The Amber Spyglass'?

No. Not really. I hate it because it's disappointing and dull. Philip Pullman could have, by focussing more on the conflict between Lord Asriel and The Authority, made a book about how fundamentalism and organised religion can corrupt and control people. He could also have made an interesting war story and got some decent world building in there too.

Instead, he wrote almost five hundred pages about two kids and an ex-nun wandering around doing almost nothing.

That's why I hate 'The Amber Spyglass.'

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