Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Subtle Knife finished; The Amber Spyglass started

The Amber Spyglass, Deluxe 10th Anniversary Edition (His Dark Materials, Book 3)(Rough-cut)Having finished The Subtle Knife, I hardly know what to say about it. It's extremely good. Just like The Golden Compass, I read it fast and enjoyed it a lot. Just like The Golden Compass, it's a young adult novel that respects its audience rather than talking down to them.

Just like The Golden Compass, there are definitely elements in which the Church is challenged. I feel reluctant to mention that, because it's the kind of thing that may turn people off to the book (of course it's easy to forget, especially for those of us that live in Alabama, that many people are turned off by books that promote the church). I still think it's a very good story that I would recommend to people whether or not they are Christian, because 1. good storytelling should be available to everyone, and 2. you can take it. Seriously. The challenges to the Church are not that bad, and if they cause you to question things that people have done in the name of God, things people still do in the name of God, would that be such a terrible thing?

Of course, I also want to reserve judgment until I finish book 3, because the books leave you wondering what the outcome will be.

But this isn't why I don't know what to say. I don't know what to say about it because discussing the plot gives away so many elements of The Golden Compass, and the moments of revelation in this series are so stunning, it would be a shame to spoil any of them.

So, what's safe to say is - Lyra learns more about Dust. She travels between worlds, but the reasons for the different worlds are supported by current theories of physics (which makes it a lot nicer for me than, say, popping through paintings). She meets a boy named Will, and before long he's just as important as Lyra. There are more witches, which is a good thing. Someone dies, and it's heartbreaking.

Overall, small questions are answered and big questions remain, and it's sometimes difficult to tell which adults are good or evil, although I suspect that anyone who is decidedly for Lyra is good, and anyone who is against her is evil. There is one adult whose loyalty to Lyra is not clear, and everyone keeps trying to guide her to him, but I'm just guessing that based on his past action, he's no better than the adults that are clearly against her.

See what I mean? I can't tell you anything specific about these books without spoilers. Read the books! Don't watch the movie! They are page turners, and they are exceptionally well written. You won't regret it.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Golden Compass finished; The Subtle Knife started

The Subtle Knife, Deluxe 10th Anniversary Edition (His Dark Materials, Book 2)(Rough-cut)I really liked The Golden Compass.

It’s kind of impossible to talk about it without mentioning Narnia, and if you know about me and my reading list you know that I did not like the Chronicles of NarniaThe Golden Compass felt like an anti-Narnia, which is also how many critics have seen it. I knew this going in, but I didn’t read it with the intention of seeing the relationship to Narnia, and it’s not like it matches up one for one with the Narnia series or anything. It’s more like the story kept doing things well that I always wished the Narnia stories had done better.

There’s only one child-hero, Lyra, and she acts exactly like a normal human child; one of my big complaints about the Narnia stories is that all the good kids are too obedient, too responsible, too resilient in the face of trial and tragedy. The Narnia kids become an obvious – and unrealistic – caricature for the way C. S. Lewis thinks kids ought to behave. Lyra, on the other hand, is very realistically portrayed, in a way that reminds me of Huckleberry Finn more than anything else. She lies. She fights. She disobeys, she gets ferociously angry at times, and she is quick to unleash her anger on anyone, child or adult. But at the essence of her actions is a basic sense of what is right, which she feels strongly and naturally. It demonstrates the same native sense of morality that Huck Finn exhibits when he chooses to help Jim to freedom, even though he knows it is a crime and believes that this crime will damn his soul to hell.

Perhaps the only difference is that Lyra would decide that doing the right thing could never damn a person's soul, and therefore anyone who thought it would must have gotten it wrong.

She demonstrates a personal moral sense that is missing from the Narnia series; Lyra has no need to consult with a god-lion in order to choose her actions. But she is also a believable character in a way seldom seen in children's adventure stories; instead soldiering through hardship without complaint or reaction, Lyra feels the difficulty of her journey but finds strength in her tenacity and courage. It was incredibly entertaining, and I can't wait to finish the next in the series.

That next book is The Subtle Knife, which I have started. Where The Golden Compass takes place in another world, The Subtle Knife begins in our world. See what I mean? Narnia.