Thursday, December 01, 2011

The Amber Spyglass

Julia Eccleshare hails heretical fantasist Philip Pullman in his final part of the Dark Materials trilogy, The Amber Spyglass: If anything, The Amber Spyglass is more intense than its predecessors. The climaxes are bigger; there is a fresh fire in the writing; and there is a wonderful new cast of characters - notably, a pair of gay angels. Above all, Pullman pursues his central philosophical theme with even greater passion. In his world, the temptation and fall are not the source of all human misery but the end of repression by what he calls "the Authority" and the beginning of liberation and freedom of thought. What's more, it is Lyra and Will, two children on the threshold of growing up, whose embrace of knowledge saves the world, overturning the traditional view of childhood innocence.

For those who don't know Pullman's Dark Materials, it is a single story published in three volumes - an exhilarating and poetic mixture of adventure, philosophy, myth and religion enriched by a heady brew of quantum physics. It is heavily influenced by Milton and Blake, but also by Swift, Goethe, Norse legend and Greek tragedy.

Central to the story are Pullman's life-affirming belief in free will and the power of scientific rationalism and his deep dislike of hierarchical religion and the repression it sanctions. The first two volumes have already been dismissed as "the stuff of nightmares" by the Catholic Herald. Pullman won't be drawn into a theological debate, insisting that he is not setting down an argument or writing a philosophical treatise but telling a story.

The complete review here.
Read an extract here.

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