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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 23 January 2003
In the final volume of his excellent "His Dark Materials" trilogy Pullman's narrative opens on to sweeping vistas of his imagination which dwarf all that went before. This is both the main strength and the principal weakness of "The Amber Spyglass". Whereas the previous books were tightly controlled and focused with many unanswered questions this book, in attempting to answer those questions and more besides, is inevitably sprawling. The sheer daring of Pullman's prose is surely to be applauded and the whole section in the underworld is as darkly satisfying as anything I can remember though less sinister then the other books for being so explicit.
It is in this book that Pullman's true purpose in writing is revealed and the trilogy in many ways occupies the space of allegory rather than true fantasy. And is all the better for it. I myself am Catholic and found the anti-church diatribes a little wearing at times. However the moral heart of these books are secure and there is little doubt that theocracy, bigotry and fanaticism are indeed evils. What is curious for such an avowedly atheist book is that it is in many ways profoundly religious and much of the wonder of it lies in its theological and metaphysical speculation.
Although the conclusion of the books is itself highly acceptable the actual execution is unfortunately a little limp. It is when Pullman shifts from allegory to direct preaching that he falters and the narrative flags. That said this is one of the more thought provoking books I have read in a while and when so much adult fiction deals with such mindlessly superficial subjects it is always refreshing to read something that tackles matters of importance. It's a damn good read too.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 19 March 2004
The third part of this wonderful series "The Amber Spyglass" does not let the reader down.
The final part takes us through many worlds each being somewhat familiar...yet completely different to our own. The wonder of this series is the invitation you are given to think about life and the world on several different plains and not see evereything as black and white....encompassing contrasting genres of science and religion in a universe filled with metaphor. There is a coaxing to read between the lines if you can handle what you might find.
If you read the first two in the series you will have developed a sense of familiarity with the characters, the main being Lyra. Throughout the first two novels we witness this rebellious little girl suffer pain, fear and heartache which she battles through growing in strength, courage and intelligence. Part 3 heralds an older Lyra who, at the same time as continuing her battle for a safe world and essentially trying to get home, is experiencing new emotions and coping with the knowledge that her existence must shortly change for ever.
The Amber Spyglass offers more war, struggle, self discovery, growth and love. Ending the trilogy in a way that leaves the reader inspired, enlightened and a little bit afraid for the world we know and the possibilities of worlds we don't.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The third part in the trilogy, again I had read this about 10 years ago and I remembered that I struggled with it a bit back then, didn't find it as interesting as the other 2 but still loved the series. I hoped since I have changed since reading that maybe I would appreciate this one more this time round.
I did not!
In fact I found it hard-work, tiresome and slow. I skim read quite a lot of it.
Lyra has been taken by Mrs Coulter, Will is desperate to get her back, Mary has gone through into a new world and various other people and groups are fighting various battles.
I really enjoyed the scenes with Lyra and Will in, even apart, their journey is linked and makes you want to read on. The appearance of Iorek Byrnison and Lee Scoresby is also a welcome release, they are by far my favourite characters. And I found myself enjoying the book when it was focused on these characters, but as soon as it drifted to some of the others i lost interest. It seems to be a lot of back information and padding that holds no particular relevance to the story. I found I didn't care - these were the bits I skimmed over.
Pullman's writing is still magical and can still pull me in and love the world, but this one just had too much waffle!
Mary started out interesting but all the talk of particles and dust movements with her climbing trees and communication with those strange creatures just lost appeal to me, I wanted the book to get to it's point.
If this book had been about 150 pages shorter I think I would have really enjoyed it, but as it was there was just too much and I couldn't make myself care.
As I said, it does have it's moments of brilliance and I did really enjoy parts of it, but overall I struggled a bit, reading it became a chore and I nearly gave up more than once.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 15 March 2004
I know it does sound sad, and most customer reviews just say "yes, it's great, it's the best book I've ever read" and that sort of thing. In this case, though, I think it probably is.
The intricacies of the plot, the characters and the ideas are incredible and enveloping. The story is fast-paced and multi-faceted. The emotional involvement is second to no other book I have ever read. It is a very sad book in parts, but also very uplifting. It made me believe in love, and life, and all those sorts of things.
You may not be as emotionally malleable as me, and so may not find youself affected so profoundly by the book as I have been, but if you enjoyed Northern Lights and The Subtle Knife, then there is really nothing to do other than to read this one and be astounded. If you haven't read those two titles, then be very aware that this is a trilogy and that it will make much more sense if you read them first.
Above all else this book highlights the dizzy heights that Philip Pullman's story-telling can take you. It is a classic book in a classic trilogy. What more can be said?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 20 May 2008
Some of the reviews of 'His Dark Materials' seem to show disappointment that a promising Potter-esque fairytale concludes with a fractured essay on existence. For me, it has the opposite effect. 'Northern Lights' was OK, but it never really grabbed me. I kept going because I trusted that the series would eventually say something, and it did.

'The Amber Spyglass' is a wonderful meditation on the nature of life. It is healthily anti-theist without ever making its message obvious and preachy. The chapters concerning Mary Malone's stay in a bizarre parallel world could have been an irritating diversion, but they're the most beautiful, convincing passages of the whole trilogy. If they ever get round to filming it, they'll have a tough job converting it into a family-friendly Christmas movie.

Easily the most satisfying book of the three.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on 8 December 2006
If you don't want to know how His Dark Materials ends, look away now...!

No book is perfect. In this trilogy, the author throws his net so widely that there are almost bound to be some loose ends, inconsistencies, and so on. I doubt whether such things greatly detract from a reader's enjoyment. But the feature of this book which really "gets" to readers is its ending.

In this trilogy, the author has created a universe (or universes) in which anything is possible or conceivable. We, therefore, naturally expect a happy ending. Pullman could easily have provided one. Instead, he has created an ending which is at least bitter-sweet if not downright sad. Readers have been both moved and disturbed by this and, as I think the ending is the book's finest feature, I would like to offer a comment or two.

The love between Lyra and Will is carefully prepared but it nevertheless comes as something of a shock because it occurs so very late in the novel. Pulman has been accused of making an unnecessary assault upon the readers' heartstrings, even of gratuitous sensationalism. I disagree for three reasons. Firstly, the love is an important part of the plot because it actually has a physical impact upon the environment in which it happens. (The author does not explain exactly why this happens - one of the "loose ends" referred to above!) Secondly, the love between Will and Lyra is of an emotional rather than of a gratuitously sexual nature. Many readers, it seems, fail to grasp the distinction. But isn't it possible - especially when young - to be helplessly in love with someone without necessarily wanting to have sex with them? Likewise, is it not possible to lust after someone you don't like very much - like Lord Asriel and Mrs Coulter? Finally, the love element draws together a great many of the moral themes of both the novel in question and the trilogy as a whole. Love is seen not as some selfish gratification of individual desires but as a whole way of living, in which doing the right thing for the right reasons, especially in defiance of power and authority, becomes more important than putting oneself first and getting what one wants. The two protagonists can be seen, throughout the trilogy, as agents of Love opposed to the oppression of authority / religion. Their acceptance of their situation, and their affirmation of the value of life and existence, is thus all the more moving. It certainly haunted this reader for days after finishing the book.

A great conclusion to a great series. I can only think of one other author who offers so much to both younger and older readers and that is Lewis Carrol - a very different author but one whose books, like Pullman's, can be understood at many different levels.

Let us hope that when the book is made into a film, the producers concerned will have the courage to present the ending as Pullman wrote it. And let us all hope that Pullman is never so seduced by success that he yields to the temptation to provide a "happily-ever-after" sequel.

After all - Puccini made a whole career out of making people cry!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 17 August 2003
The Amber Spyglass is the best book in the trilogy, the characters intricate and perplexing, the ideas original and almost harrowing.
The problem is, obviously, that devout christians will be offended, well, I don't mind because I'm very anti-Christian anyway. The idea is that in a parallel world the Church (The Magnesium) is an all powerful body based in Geneva, intent on destroying "Dust" which they believe to be original sin. Actually. Dust is the particles of inquisitive nature, namely the intelligence adult human possess and children don't, and they possess Dust when they lose innocence. It is a compelling book on a grand scale, almost wondering if the church could become an all power body in our world, and perceive to destroy all.
Many Christians believe the ideas in this book are proposterous, and that Pullman's ego has run wild, but relentlessly, they will never come to the realisation that it is a warning in fiction. It is a masterpiece, which I may have implyed already, well worth the £6.99 I paid for it, and I would have paid much more for the book.
I wish not to make any plot spoilers, but simply to say that I highly recommend this book. It's well worth the money.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 17 November 2000
I won't just repeat what everyone else has said, although I'm glad to agree that the Amber Spyglass is the greatest book I've ever had the pleasure of reading. While doing so, I often had to pause and close my eyes to let the full genius of a specific moment sink in, or just to appreciate the awe-inspiring skill with which the story is assembled.
The point of this review, though, is to answer some of the criticisms I've read among the other reviews, namely from Christians accusing it of being a rally against Christianity. None of use are in the position to say whether or not it is meant to be such, but if you find yourself outraged while or after reading this book, try to think of it just as a story. Failing that, consider whether the God and heaven described in the book are anything like those in which you believe, and then just enjoy the book as the master work that it is.
I am not personally a Christian, but I fear that some people who are might miss the grace and beauty of this book, in which case it's not worth starting to read it, since you may just feel anger against it, instead of the joy and awe it clearly inspires in the rest of us.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 19 July 2013
The third and thankfully final book in the His Dark Materials trilogy completely failed to grip me, to the point where I had to give myself a reward of reading a chapter of another book after each chapter of this one. The Amber Spyglass sees Lyra and Will separated, as Will and the other diverse array of characters travel their separate routes towards a rather lackluster conclusion.

The writing style is awkward, with language that feels much more dated than I thought appropriate, and nothing that gave me an urge to continue. Similarly the plot seemed lost and wandering in circles for much of the book and it didn't feel like a self-contained narrative at all.

What I did enjoy was the world-building that Pullman does to create a world of diamond-shaped creatures, and particularly the society of the Mulefa. I previously found the worldbuilding to be the best elements of the first book in the series, and when creating another world here he is at his best.

Overall though I found it dry and tedious. My decision not to read the trilogy when it was originally popular was clearly the correct one, and I'm glad it's now over.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 13 August 2003
This book, quite simply, challenges all ideas of love, hatred, and religion. It forces the young reader to rethink the most controversial and important issues in society - what happens after we die? do we have a soul? are there 'other worlds' than the one in which we live? The reader is presented with new ideas and concepts which will not be easily forgotten.
This background of such vast ideas is told behind a story of two children. The reader sees Lyra and Will grow up, find themselves and find love, only to have it torn away. The final chapters of their story are written with absolutely heart-rending emotion. I find it one of the most emotive, and true, pieces of prose available to children today.
'The Amber Spyglass' is a beautiful, thought-provoking, brilliantly well-written book. Although the book deals with immense ideas and presents radical concepts to the reader, it remains accessible to the younger reader through the personal accounts of Will and Lyra.
I am a great admirer of Philip Pullman's work, and I count 'The Amber Spyglass' as a phenomenal conclusion to the best trilogy he has thus produced - 'His Dark Materials'.
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