Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials, Book 3) by Philip Pullman

The Amber Spyglass
(His Dark Materials, Book 3)
by Philip Pullman
narrated by Philip Pullman
Multicast performance
Produced by Listening Library
Approx 12 hours

I have finally finished the series of "His Dark Materials" by Philip Pullman. I set out on this reading adventure intrigued by the protestations from organized religion when the movie came out. I saw the movie and didn't see what the hubbub was about. So then I thought well maybe it was in the book and they left out parts from the movie to keep the religious right from protesting. After reading the first two books I still didn't see what the big deal was. Basically the series was just another fantasy young adult series that borrowed from many mythologies to create a very creative well told story. With this third book in the series I still wonder why all the fuss, but can see where closed minded individuals who believe "their truth" to be the only truth worry that the series may instigate the young masses to form thoughts on their own. Okay, that was a bit harsh, but I still just don't get it. Yes the third book does see the death of a deity known as "The Authority," but it also sees the death of a fallen angel by the name of Metatron, and yes, this book is Philip Pullman's way of writing a book that promotes an alternative to organized religion, but, the general idea of good triumphing over evil and everyone can make a difference and we must fight for our freewill doesn't make people become evil.

I was very pleased to find the books available in audio book form and especially once I found that the audio book featured a multi-cast as well as being narrated by the author himself. There are many characters in the book and the multi-cast helps to move the story along for the audio book with out the listener having to try to battle with trying to figure who is talking or thinking at the moment. The added bonus of having the author narrate the books helps to uncover intentions of the author himself.

This book may be a bit difficult to summarize because of the many events happening to close out this trilogy so I will touch a bit on the main events, but I will not give up the surprise ending.

Book two, "The Subtle Knife," left the listener with a cliffhanger. Lyra's mom, Marisa Coulter, captured Lyra and Will had just learned he had a task to help Lyra's father, Lord Asriel. Before he goes to the battle of the worlds with Lord Asriel, Will insists on finding and rescuing Lyra. Mrs. Coulter has Lyra in a cave to protect her from the Magisterum, the church/government that rules in Lyra's world. The Magisterum has sent out an assassin to kill Lyra before she can yeild to original sin.

Will has used his knife to escape an attack from the archangel Metatron. He is escorted by 2 angels one flies ahead to tell Lord Asriel of Will's plan while the other stays behind to assist Will. Upon hearing the news, Lord Asriel dispatches a small army to the cave where Lyra is being forced drugs to stay sleeping so she will be undetected, to counteract the zeppelins from the Consistorial Court. He also sends two Gallivespian spies, the Chevalier Tialys and the Lady Salmakia, to protect Lyra. Gallivespians resemble humans, but are approximately four inches tall and they ride dragonflies.

During this time Will runs into Iorek Byrnison, the bear king of the armoured Panserbjørne, who are migrating south to avoid the Arctic melt caused by the effects of Lord Asriel's bridge. Three forces — Will, Iorek, and Balthamos; Lord Asriel's army; and the army of the Magisterium — converge on Mrs. Coulter's cave, where Will is able to wake Lyra with a special powder that he sprays up her nostrils. He is cutting a window into another world when Mrs. Coulter turns and looks directly at him. For a moment, Will is reminded of his own mother; as a result, his concentration falters, and the knife shatters, having been unable to sever his affection. Because the window he has cut is open, Will, Lyra, and the Gallivespian spies manage to escape to another world.

Will and Lyra delay even further their trip to Lord Asriel's by going to the world of the dead. Will and Lyra mean to keep promises to Will's father and Lyra's friend Roger. In the world of the dead Lyra must leave her Daemon on the shore and is separated from her daemon. They soon discover the dead must be released from the abyss and Will uses the Subtle Knife to cut an opening and release the ghosts into the world. Once in the world the ghosts are freed and their atoms are free to mix back into nature.

The major battle begins between Lord Asriel's army and the army of Metatron. Ending with Lyra and Will reuniting with their daemons and Lyra's parents sacrificing themselves to destroy Metatron.

While all this is going on Dr. Mary Malone has stepped through a window from her own world (assumed to be the readers' world/Will's world) into another window into a stranger world. There she meets elephantine creatures who call themselves Mulefa and use large seedpods attached to their feet as wheels. These creatures have a complex culture, intricate language, and an infectious laugh. Although from completely different worlds, Mary and the Mulefa establish a rapport which results in Mary's acceptance into Mulefa community, where she learns that the trees from which the seedpods are gathered have gradually been going extinct for about 300 years. Mary uses the tree sap lacquer and accidentally constructs a telescope (the 'amber spyglass' of the title) that allows her to see the elementary particles known as Dust. Dust adheres to all life-forms that have attained a level of intelligence associated with building civilizations. She sees that Dust is flying away in large streams rather than falling on and nourishing the trees on which the Mulefa mutually depend.

After the battle Will and Lyra are reunited with Dr. Malone and soon learn their ultimate fate as well as the fate of all the worlds. Here is where I'll stop because the end of the book is a bit of a surprise, but I will tell you it is a very beautiful to end this magical tale. Spread the word to all your friends, "This series is a fun romp through fantasy and mythology with a lesson to learn."

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Gil T. @ 8:17 PM Comments: 0

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

"The Subtle Knife" Book 2 of "His Dark Materials" by Philip Pullman

"The Subtle Knife"
Book 2 of "His Dark Materials"
by Philip Pullman
Multicast performance
Produced by Listening Library

Continuing in my quest of trying to figure out why some folks are up in arms about the "His Dark Materials" books I gave this audio book a listen. To be honest, I'm still not seeing what the fuss is about. There are some minor mentions of organized religions stifling independent thought, and maybe towards the end of the book something that may be a threat to some religious zealots, but still the series seems to be just a fun adventure. Especially more so in this book as the main characters are travelling to alternater worlds/dimensions.

The story begins with Will Parry killing a man after hiding his OCD mother with a friend and setting off to find his father. The man was searching for information on Will's father. In his efforts to escape the police, he discovers a portal that leads to Cittàgazze, a city in another world. The city looks recently deserted, and Will chooses a house to find food. It is here that he meets Lyra Belacqua and her daemon Pantalaimon, who came here after entering the hole in the sky that her father, Lord Asriel, created at the end of "The Golden Compass."

In Will's world Lyra uses her alethiometer to instruct her what to do. She is told to find a scholar in Will's world who is experimenting with dark matter, which is equal to Dust in Lyra's world. The scholar, Dr. Mary Malone, has created a computer to communicate with dark matter trying to prove her hypothesis that dark matter is intelligent. Lyra uses the system to communicate with the dark matter as she does with Dust through the alethiometer. This proves to Dr. Malone, who lost funding for the project and was about to be shut down, that she was on the right track. During this time a man from Lyra's world steals the alethiometer and recruits Lyra and Will to steal the Subtle Knife in return he'll give back the alethiometer. The knife can cut through any material and more importantly cut through the veil between worlds allowing the user to travel between worlds.

This story branches out in from there following the witch Serafina Pekkala, who was separated from Lyra during a battle in "The Golden Compass,"and is searching for her. She discovers that the Magisterium and Lyra's mother, Mrs. Coulter, have learned of the prophecy surrounding Lyra and plan to destroy her. She calls a meeting of the witches council. The witches vote to band together and join Lyra's father, Lord Asriel, in his fight against the Magisterium.

The Aeronaut Lee Scoresby ventures out to find the explorer Stanislaus Grumman, who is rumored to know of an object that gives protection to whomever holds it. That object is the Subtle Knife.

The book follows the separate adventurers as they travel and fight their way back together to leave a huge cliff hanger as the end of the book. Along the way people die and get hurt, but in order to leave you with something to read I'll leave it at that. Trust me this one is just as good, if not better, than the first book in the series and will leave you wanting more. Again religion is not yet threatened and the concept of free will is emphasized. So read away my friends.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Gil T. @ 9:30 PM Comments: 0

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

"His Dark Materials, Book I: The Golden Compass" Written by Philip Pullman

"His Dark Materials, Book I: The Golden Compass"
Written by Philip Pullman
Read by Philip Pullman and Full Cast
Produced by Listening Library 2004

Back in 2007 I was intrigued by the Movie based on this book "The Golden Compass," and had to go see it. What intrigued me most was that churches were protesting this fantasy story. Anytime organized religion says a movie is dangerous or in any way harmful, I have to go see it. I'm one of those folks that cannot fathom that arts and entertainment can warp a mind so badly that it will cause one to harm oneself or others. Art may reflect life but I don't think that art can bend life to its will. So began my journey into the worlds created by Philip Pullman.

After watching this wonderfully imaginative movie I couldn't figure why all the fuss. After discussing it with some folks I heard that the producers of the movie cut out much of the obvious anti-religion material discussed in the book. Well....that meant I now had to read the books. I got the books and was prepared to read them, I'm talking about the actual physical books here, with pages and all, but I ran across these audio books being narrated by the author and a full cast of performers and had to give that a listen. After all who better to read a book than the author. His voice could add emphasis to areas he wrote where he felt it was more important. Thus giving his intentions rather than something that could be misunderstood. I'm glad I did. The production was very well done with a cast of voices that fit into the characters voices perfectly. There are no sound effects or incidental music like some full cast production audio books, but that's what made this a better experience.

To answer the question about what has this book got to do with religion, well the book does not say at any point that religion is bad, merely that organized religion is power hungry and that could be a bad thing. Two simple examples as to how religion could be too powerful are "The Inquisition" and Reverend Jim Jones. Without getting into a debate about religion let's just say that religion CAN be used for bad as well as good.

In this book the religious negativity comes in the form of the church wanting to reclaim original sin and harnessing the potential power held within. After all without original sin we could all live in the Garden. However the evil way the church tries to harness that power is to create zombies out of children so they may never be touched by original sin. In this book original sin is represented by Dust. The Dust seems to settle on adults but not children, at least not until the child reaches puberty and their daemon settles on a permanent form.

In the world created by Pullman all humans have a daemon. The daemon is best described as the human soul taking and animal companion form. For children the daemon can shift it's shape into any animal form but once the child has hit puberty the daemon settles on one shape for the rest of the human and daemon's life. The daemon's form seems to reflect somewhat the soul of the person but that would require more research on my part to fully explain, in fact any aspiring students looking to write a thesis on these books could look into that aspect. For right now just understand the daemon's are best explained as being an outward expression of the soul. They can comfort the person during times of stress and can help with many tasks. The daemons also have the ability of speech.

"The Golden Compass" (originally titled "The Northern Lights") introduces us to the main character of Lyra Belacqua, supposedly orphaned and left in the care of the academic staff of Jordan College, Oxford. Lyra's "uncle" Lord Asriel is researching Dust in the north and finding the link between Dust, the soul, multiple universes, particle physics and the Northern Lights. The church does not want Asriel to continue his experiments and investigations. When Lyra discovers a plot to kill her uncle she warns him and saves his life. She then finds out, by hiding in a wardrobe, about Dust through a lecture given to the academ by Lord Asriel.

Lyra's journey begins when children start to go missing. These children vanish without a trace and when one of Lyra's good friends, Roger, disappears she feels the need to find him. The children all tell stories of the disappearances but most stories circle around the "Gobblers" who take the children and do all manner of unspeakable things to the children including eat them. The truth is actually more sinister.

Before Lyra can begin her search she is taken in by Mrs. Coulter. But before she leaves Jordan College the headmaster gives Lyra an alethiometer. Resembling a golden, many-handed pocket-watch, it can answer any question asked by the user. Although initially unable to read or understand its complex symbols, Lyra takes it with her to Mrs. Coulter's. Lyra learns that Mrs. Coulter is the head of the General Oblation Board, a.k.a. the Gobblers, and that she is the one abducting the children. Lyra is to be used to abduct more children. Upon finding this information Lyra runs away. She is then rescued by a group of Gyptians, a nomadic folk who live on boats. The Gyptians take Lyra to meed the King of the Gyptians and discover that Lyra has more to her life's mission, but cannot be told of her mission. Leaving the outcome to freewill.

In an adventure that leads Lyra to meet with Witches, Armored (intelligent) Bears, and seeking to rescue her uncle, Lord Asriel, from his imprisonment by the church, Phillip Pullman creates a novel of epic proportion that in this audio book form is an exhilarating listen.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Gil T. @ 9:59 PM Comments: 0