What the…?

I finished „The Amber Spyglass“ yesterday. For those of you who don’t know that book, it’s the third (and last) part of the „His Dark Materials“ series by Philip Pullman.

And it’s a desaster.

For one thing, if you asked me why it’s called „His Dark Materials“ I couldn’t possibly give you the answer. Because I still don’t know. I don’t know who „He“ is, nor why they’re dark and I can only guess that the materials are that which is called Dust, sraf, Shadows and possibly something else in the book. Just don’t ask me.

Let me also say that I loved the first book, liked the second book a lot (although I had the impression that the story was starting to fall apart somewhere in the second book) and I expected at least something remotely average (and possibly good) from the third.

There are a few things that bug me the most about the third book, so here we go.

For one thing, the author doesn’t care about being, you know, clear. It’s all so mystical and strange and not explainable. I have no problem with mystical and strange, but I like to have a proper explanation about WHAT’S GOING ON every once in a while. Because it helps and I believe that it’s also only fair to your readers. It’s all so confusing.

Then I don’t have a problem with an author weaving in his religious worldview into a book. I know (at least that’s what I read) that the Narnia books contain a lot of pretty old-fashioned Christian ideology and it’s okay. But it just doesn’t work here. Mostly because the author just focuses on what ideas he doesn’t approve of instead of actually telling what he believes in. It’s a complete mess. So, God is dead, huh? Okay, fine. But then I have a few questions: Who was God, actually? The fragile old creature who dissolved into air on that one page? And who exactly was fighting then? And why? And what role did Metatron have? And were all the Angels on one side or were they divided? And why?

And what was it all about that freaking Dust? And why was it flowing away? And was it flowing away only in that one world or in every world? And why was it bad? And what did it mean? And why did it stop flowing away? I guess I know why, but if it was just because of that (I won’t include spoilers here)… THE HELL? WHY?

I honestly can’t say if I’m too stupid for that book or if I’m actually too clever. All I can say that I felt it was full of plot holes, lacking a lot of explanations and I got the overall thinking the author himself didn’t actually know what he should do about the story he had begun. I still don’t know why Lyra was supposed to be that damned important. Up to when they were in the land of the dead she actually did things that seemed important and brave, but that was it. Nothing she did later on seemed especially important to me. She was mending nets and cuddling with her boyfriend, for Pete’s sake.

Another thing and then I’ll stop ranting. Promise. There were a lot of moments in the book where it felt like the author just randomly decided what a creature was capable of or not. And there’s a mini-spoiler here: When the dead left the land of the dead through the hole that Will’s knife had cut, they disappeared into the air. Lee Scoresby and Will’s father nevertheless decided they weren’t ready yet and needed to fight a bit more. Did I just miss something here or why didn’t they disappear when they were fighting alongside Lyra and Will? Didn’t that fight take place in another world as well? There were other moments like this that just seemed to lack of logic or at least consistency. It’s fine to make up all these weird creatures, but please give me an idea about what they can do and what they can’t and friggin‘ STICK TO IT. Because I don’t like it when every scene is resolved by a strange Deus Ex Machina just because you decided that it should be so.

Anyway, the first two books were good. Really. Especially the first one. Just know that when you read them there’s nearly no way not to read the third book, because that’s where the story ends and at least some of the questions are answered (although as you might have noticed not to my satisfaction).

I also have read a lot of praises for the third book, so once more tastes can vary and I guess it’s good that they do. I just didn’t like it. I thought it was confusing and inconsistent and just plain chaotic. The story never seemed to go anywhere. So there.

Now decide for your own. Or tell me what you think. Maybe I was just too stupid to understand this book, but I honestly doubt that.

3 Responses to “What the…?”

  1. caitlin Says:

    horray! i love when you do reviews of books i recomend! especially when you feel the same way about them as i do! there were things i loved about the third book. i loved the scientist. i loved the seed-pod creatures that rolled around on their wheels. but all in all it’s awful. i think we need to write some really compelling fanfic to replace the third book.

    i’m interested on where you read good reviews- because everyone i know ranged from not very impressed to absolutely appalled. if only the begining of the story wasn’t so superb! i love the golden compass with all of it’s levels of meanings, and i love the concept of a world with daemons. i just wanted to figure out what that dust stuff was all about.

    pullman hates narnia, btw. but even the worst of the narnia books (silver chair, in my opinion) are better than the amber spyglass- i think it’s because lewis loved his beliefs and that made them naturally interconnected, and pullman just has hate of a set of beliefs, and forces them into the story. i really understood what authors mean when they talk about characters taking control of the story when i read these books. because i felt like somewhere along the line, pullman grabbed a tight noose around his characters and made them do what HE wanted them to do.

    my other big complaint is the forced relationship at the end. lyra’s like, what., 13? that’s WAY too young for her to be so romantically involved. i’m not a prude by any means, but 13 is NOT old enough to be touching each others daemons. plus, she’s such a spunky tomboy, i don’t think her character would have those sorts of feelings for will unless pullman made her.

    so i’m backing you up- i don’t think you’re the stupid one.

    but, if i can take the end of this to plug some good books….

    i’m currently obsessed with „how i paid for college: a novel of sex, theft, friendship and musical theater“ by marc acito. i had amazon mail it to laura and she read it in one sitting, laughing aloud, just like i did.

    how i live now by meg rosoff is a fabulous, haunting little book that makes me worry about the war.

    and i’m still intranced by ron koertge, but i don’t know if i should recomend boy girl boy or the arizona boy or margeaux with an x. because i love them all.

    finally, because i feel compelled to put a grownup book on here, i read mystery by peter straub on ch’s recomendation on my cruise, and really enjoyed it.

    whew! what a comment! i’ve written shorter emails!

  2. josh Says:

    I read the first book when it just had been printed. I waited around forever for the second and third.

    I don’t get what most of the things you’re griping about are for. the book made perfect sense to me and that series is one of the most amazing that I can think of, if only for the fact that it was showcased alongside Lord of the Rings in my uberconservative christian high school.

    I didn’t see the same plot holes and inconsistencies that you did and I thought the series as a whole was unfuckingbelievable. ::shrug.::

  3. Here Be Subtlety… overflowing with awesome » Blog Archive » It’s Called Research or About John Boyne’s ‘The Boy in the Striped Payjamas’ Says:

    […] I usually don’t rant about books. If I didn’t like it, I put it away and mark it off as experience. The thing is that when you read as much as I do you’re bound to have a few bad seeds in the mix and I rarely even have some. I guess that’s a) because I’m pretty forgiving and 2. because I’m usually good ad picking books that I like. Or it’s the last book of Pullman’s Dark Materials series. Then I openly rant about it on my blog. Because that was just too much to take and not say something. […]

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