50 books to read before you die discussion

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Book Discussions - 50 Books > The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials #2)

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message 1: by Mayra (new)

Mayra (kaligurl_7) | 371 comments We decided to continue the trilogy so this is the discussion for book 2 of His Dark Materials. I have read this one before, but if any of you would like to lead the discussion let me know.

Happy Reading.


message 2: by Mayra (new)

Mayra (kaligurl_7) | 371 comments I came across this when looking for discussion questiones and i thought i would share

The author of this book, Phillip Pullman, has used a famous piece of English literature for much of the structure of this story. Do some research on the phrase "His dark materials" and find out about what it means.


message 3: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisadannatt) | 743 comments I thought Shakespeare or Milton... Wiki to the rescue!

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.

— Paradise Lost, Book 2, lines 910–920


Maybe I'd enjoy these more if I read Paradise Lost first.


message 4: by Buck (new)

Buck (spectru) I have His subtle knife on my library list. there are quite a few ahead of it, so unless it breaks in line, it will be quite late in the month before I get to it.

I don't think I could handle Milton, Lisa.


message 5: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisadannatt) | 743 comments Buck wrote: "I have His subtle knife on my library list. there are quite a few ahead of it, so unless it breaks in line, it will be quite late in the month before I get to it.

I don't think I could handle Mil..."


It's with Marcel Proust on my 'list' of books to read when I am smarter....


message 6: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisadannatt) | 743 comments Buck wrote: "I have His subtle knife on my library list. there are quite a few ahead of it, so unless it breaks in line, it will be quite late in the month before I get to it.

I don't think I could handle Mil..."


It's with Marcel Proust on my 'list' of books to read when I am smarter....


message 7: by Buck (last edited Aug 17, 2014 06:43PM) (new)

Buck (spectru) I've just started this - the first three chapters. It's been a few weeks since I finished the first book and I'm fuzzy on how it ended, on how Lyra got into this other world with Will. In the first book I had trouble sorting out the motivations of the villains. The second chapter of this second book takes us back to the world of the first book, and I still have that same trouble. It seems that their motivation is simply because they are the villains.

Well, I'm sure it will all become crystal clear soon... and then foggy again by the time I get to the third book.


message 8: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisadannatt) | 743 comments The third book explains their motivation- of I remember correctly


message 9: by Mayra (new)

Mayra (kaligurl_7) | 371 comments I read the 1st book when the movie came out but never watched the movie. Then i went online and read a summary bc i was going to read this one. I started the 3rd one last week but i cant remember what happened in the 2nd one. So im right there with you Buck.


message 10: by Buck (new)

Buck (spectru) While I really like science fiction, I have no affinity for fantasy. It sometimes irks me that they are so often chained together. There is sometimes some mixing, some overlap, of course, but that's not inherent. They really are two distinct genres. I sometimes have trouble with the suspension of disbelief where the supernatural is involved.

The Subtle Knife is fantasy. It has some elements that I have to take with a grain of salt. Having said all that, The Subtle Knife isn't half bad. Pullman weaves a pretty good story and some of the things about The Golden Compass are clarified. The world of Lyra, Lord Asrial, and Mrs Coulter in The Golden Compass is in fact a separate reality that exists alongside our own, not just a fictitious world. In The Subtle Knife, we are introduced to a new main character, Will, who lives in our reality and who stumbles upon a window into a different world and there meets Lyra. It's a world in between each of their home worlds. Will acquires the subtle knife, a knife of great powers. It can cut anything easily and can cut windows between the worlds. So Will with his knife and Lyra with her alethiometer (the golden compass from the title of the first book) become compatriots and co-conspirators in adventure. With the help of the witches, they embark on a quest whose mission is unclear. The story weaves its twisted path, gains intensity, and has a strong finish with the bad guys nipping a their heels. It ends in something of a cliffhanger with Lyra missing in action and Will's mission having been defined.

After reading The Golden Compass, I wasn't all that keen on continuing the trilogy. I enjoyed The Subtle Knife more than The Golden Compass. I'm ready for the third book.


message 11: by Buck (new)

Buck (spectru) The controversy of religion surrounding His Dark Materials interested me. In The Golden Compass, the Church is portrayed negatively. It is, however, not the Church of our world. The Vatican has been moved from Rome and doctrine is dictated by the Magisterium. The Magisterium is the evil power driving the plot in The Golden Compass. In The Subtle Knife there is less mention of the Magisterium. Only at the end does the religious element enter the story. There is an impending war, the greatest war in history. The combatants are the forces garnered by Lord Asrial, Lyra's father, including angels and witches, against the forces of The Authority (God) including the villainous Mrs. Coulter, Lyra's mother. All the good guys in the story, Lyra, Will, and others are aligned with Asrial and fear Mrs. Coulter.

The analogy is clear. The coming war is a redux of the rebellion against God by angels in heaven which brought about the expulsion of Satan. The implication is that Asrial is Satan and that Asrial (Satan) is good, and The Authority (God) is evil. We also learn that Lyra is Eve and Mrs. Coulter is determined to prevent the second fall.


message 12: by Buck (last edited Aug 22, 2014 08:13AM) (new)

Buck (spectru) The story in The Subtle Knife keeps our attention throughout; it never lags. Seeing the relationship between Lyra's world and Will's world (our world) was very helpful for me in grounding the setting. In The Golden Compass it wasn't comfortable for me to accept the plethora of supernatural aspects, daemons, witches, ghasts (a sort of goblin), sentient bears, prescience, etc. In The Subtle Knife, the role of daemons, manifestations of a person's soul, becomes more comfortable as do the witches. I did feel that there was some gratuitous fantasy, primarily in the Specters, amorphous evil beings, invisible to children, who sucked the awareness out of adults except for Mrs. Coulter, who was able to control them.

The Subtle knife finally grabbed me near the end. Aeronaut Lee Scoresby meets Stanislaus Grumman, who is actually John Parry, Will's father, an explorer who had disappeared a decade earlier. Together they abscond in Scoresby's balloon, pursued by the minions of The Authority in zeppelins. The action reaches a peak in Scoresby's heroic last stand against the pursuing soldiers. He receives multiple wounds but succeeds in killing all the soldiers and destroying their zeppelin. I was a little dismayed that this scene, in which Scoresby and his daemon had so bravely vanquished the bad guys so that Grumman could escape, is ended by the author with "and then they died." It seemed such an inadequate ending for an effort of such bravery and sacrifice.

At the end of the novel John Parry, a.k.a. Grumman, is murdered by a rejected lover, a witch, just at the instant that Will realizes that he is his father. Grumman's daemon dies with him. It's left to our imagination how Grumman, who is from Will's world, acquired a daemon.


message 13: by Rachel (new)

Rachel (rachelkisley) Did I read an email that Amber Spyglass would be the book for September? I read the first two a couple of years back and didn't get round to reading Amber Spyglass, so would be interested to join the discussion as it would give me a much needed kick up the bum to finally finish the trilogy!


message 14: by Mayra (new)

Mayra (kaligurl_7) | 371 comments Rachel im with you. Yes it will be one of the 3 bks we will b reading this month


message 15: by Rachel (new)

Rachel (rachelkisley) That's great :) where can I find the discussion?


message 16: by Mayra (new)

Mayra (kaligurl_7) | 371 comments Under Monthly Group Reads... i just started the discussion thread


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