Friday, 14 June 2013

The Amber Spyglass

The Amber Spyglass
Philip Pullman
London, Scholastic, 2000, 548p

This is the final novel in the His Dark Materials trilogy. It has taken me longer to read than the previous two for a number of reasons, but not least because it is the most complex and philosophical of the series. 

The Amber Spyglass is the climax of a conflict that have been building throughout the trilogy. We rejoin Will, seeking to be reunited with Lyra after their separation at the end of The Subtle Knife. Together, they are a great power, a team built on friendship and understanding. Together, they are confident they can do what they have to do, even if they are not yet sure what that is.

As readers, the journey we go on with Will and Lyra is dangerous and fascinating. We explore unimaginable worlds, where strange creatures roam and dark forces overwhelm good. We see the world of the dead, where the ghosts of many species wait in misery for who knows what. Lyra and Will bring light to these worlds, striving to do good. For the ghosts, they open up a window to allow them to escape out to nature, becoming one with the world:
"All the atoms that were them, they've gone into the air and the wind and the trees and the earth and all the living things. They'll never vanish. They're just part of everything."
Suddenly, for the characters and the reader, death seems less scary, more hopeful. This is the sort of hope that I can relate to. 

Pullman has been challenged by some religious groups for the atheist themes in his novel. As a piece of teenage fiction, some of the subjects explored are difficult for young people to understand - even I struggled in places. He is an intellect and proud of it, littering his pages with references to literary greats, from John Milton to William Blake (causing me to dig out my old Blake anthology - what beautiful poetry!). But beneath his anger against organised religion, Pullman creates a beautiful world, where hope and humanity are victorious over greed and power.

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