Friday, February 14, 2014

The Amber Spyglass

The final novel in Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy is entitled The Amber Spyglass. The story continues on directly from the point in the story at the end of the second volume, The Subtle Knife. As the story begins, 12 year old Lyra has been kidnapped by her mother Marisa Coulter, who has been consistently marked by her evil nature and her self-serving ways. Yet now we slowly begin to see a change in her heart. She has kidnapped her daughter to keep her away from those who would do her harm, including the leadership of the church. Lyra has been marked for death due to an old prophesy that she is the new Eve. If the church can kill her before she is tempted, they believe they can eliminate the stain of original sin from all of humanity. Just when the competing forces of the church and her father Lord Asriel converge on her location, her fellow traveler Will arrives and rescues Lyra by taking her into another world using the portal-opening knife. There they are led to believe that they need to journey to the world of the dead for Lyra to make amends to her friend Roger and for Will to visit with his father. However, once there, the impact they have benefits every being that has ever existed.

At Lyra and Will follow their destinies, the multiverse and all of the Earth equivalents are in turmoil. Windows between the different worlds have been opened allowing physical creatures, spirits, and energy fields to pass through. At the same time there is an ongoing battle between the heavenly Authority, those loyal to the one who calls himself God, and the forces led by Lord Asriel. The story is a bit dark and blasphemous as God and his heaven are nothing like religion has proclaimed. In fact, while we had come to see Lord Asriel as a power-hungry megalomaniac, there are very good reasons why legions of angels have joined his war against the established heavenly authority. Nobody is turning out to be who we thought.

Ultimately, the story is about the beautiful relationship between Lyra and Will and how their love begins to heal the brokenness of all of creation. However, balance in the universe can only be properly restored when all of the windows between the different Earth worlds from the multiverse are sealed and each creature is returned to the world from which they came. Unfortunately, Lyra and Will are not from the same world and they need to fall back on strength that they did not think they possessed to make the hard but necessary choices that will lead to restoration. In truth, there were so many story arcs ongoing, Pullman struggled to come to the finish line here. While the plot line involving the main protagonists was basically sewn up, several others that were developed at length were essentially set aside without the necessary closure. Also the scene with the tempting of Eve, was so subtle and unambiguous, it left me perplexed as to how this amounted to any sort of temptation for Lyra. However, I still found this trilogy entertaining and enjoyable. I also think that it will give you something to think about if you are a person of faith.