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review 2016-09-01 00:57
God will be cut
The Subtle Knife - Philip Pullman

Pullman continues to turn C.S. Lewis upside down and backwards in the second volume of His Dark Materials trilogy. Children travel to other worlds through invisible portals, but in these worlds witches are good and churchmen are wicked, and the ultimate enemy is God. The talking armored bears of The Golden Compass are sorely missed in this volume; instead we get the Specters of indifference that drain the will to live out of adults. Very reminiscent of Harry Potter's Dementors, but Pullman beat Rowling to the idea by about two years. That is a lot of nonsense talk about dark matter and angels and the I Ching, but Pullman is a master storyteller and I still have no idea where this story is going.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-06-11 09:09
His Dark Materials trilogy - Philip Pullman
Northern Lights - Philip Pullman
The Subtle Knife - Philip Pullman
The Amber Spyglass - Philip Pullman

To be perfectly honest, these books have been sitting on the bookcase I use for most of my TBR books for quite a while and I've never got around to even starting them. I've always liked the idea of series (well, trilogies at least) where I can go from book 1 through to book 3 without the annoyance of waiting for stuff to be published, though now I understand a little more about the reasons why that might not be all that easy or work that well. 

Anyway, this series is pretty popular and there are probably folks out there who think it's the best thing since sliced bread. Sadly, however, I am not one of them, though I fully accept that if I'd read these books when I was a teenager myself, I might well have been smitten. Instead, by the time I was partway through The Amber Spyglass, I was just wanting everything to be over and wondering if it had been such a bright idea to read them at all; I'd invested so much time on the previous books I felt duty-bound to at least skim my way to the finale. 



There is, after all, a heck of a lot of plot in these books. I'm not completely certain that I got my head round what was going on with the concept of Dust, which crops up right at the beginning of Northern Lights - there's a lot going on about the difference between children and adults all the way through these books, from the mutability of people's accompanying daemons before they hit puberty, through to the attraction to adults of the Spectres we meet for the first time in The Subtle Knife


Northern Lights is all about Lyra, the abduction of her friends and the eventual role she plays in freeing them from becoming the victims of a scheme to do something or other about Dust. In The Subtle Knife, the character of Will is introduced - unlike Lyra, who comes from an alternate world where people have daemons (animal-shaped entities who seem to act partly as an external conscience and partly as a support mechanism), Will is from our world and stumbles into an alternate one by sheer accident. He then ends up as the bearer of the knife of the book's title, a tool that allows him to pass between those parallel worlds. Finally, in The Amber Spyglass, Lyra has initially been kidnapped by Mrs Coulter and Will stages a rescue, before they make a detour into the world of the dead in search of Lyra's friend and Will's father. 


In hindsight, I think I enjoyed the middle book best, though it does spend a lot of time setting things up for the events of The Amber Spyglass - new characters are introduced and a lot of not-very-much seems to happen in real terms. I can't say I particularly warmed to Lyra, she comes across as a bit of a special snowflake pretty much all the way through the books and, to be honest, Will isn't a great deal better. In some ways, I think the author does a better job with the supporting characters, which is not always a good thing if you're trying to make your reader give a crap about what happens to your protagonists! Anyway, that's 3 more books off the TBR pile and into the charity shop bag... 

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text 2016-05-31 20:12
Books read (or not!) in May
The Silver Tide - Jen Williams
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 2: Squirrel You Know It's True - Marvel Comics
The Girl from Everywhere - Heidi Heilig
Occupy Me - Tricia Sullivan
Northern Lights - Philip Pullman
The Subtle Knife - Philip Pullman
Way Down Dark (Australia) - J.P. Smythe

Books started: 12 (including the two I'm currently reading)

Books finished: 7

Books not finished: 3


Genre breakdown: All SFF, all the time. 


What progress on Mount TBR? I've ticked off a couple from the list, though sadly some of them didn't get finished for one reason or another - one I just wasn't in the right mood for, so I've stuck it back on the shelf and will try it again another time. 


Book of the month: It's a tie between The Silver Tide and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 2: Squirrel You Know It's True.

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review 2016-02-24 17:41
Review: The subtle knife
The Subtle Knife - Philip Pullman

If you like fantasy, the idea of witches, angels, shamans, specters, gods and so forth, you'll probably like this book. Somehow all of these characters are merged into this story and more interestingly, it includes scenes similar to the present day which connects the efforts of physicists who are trying find out the extra-terrestrial life and what is beyond our galaxy. 


I might have sounded too serious, but it's not like that.  The story is centered around two children around the age of 12. One, a boy, lives in our world and the other, a girl, in another world. The boy lost his father when he was still very young. Since then, his mother appeared to be mentally retarded which is how the present day would diagnose the case but in the other world, it is more than what we think it is. 


Accidentally, the boy finds an entrance to the other world who meets a girl who has the key to where his father is. The girl is in search of a material called Dust while the boy wants to protect his mother and find his father. Thus, they help each other out and face many challenges along the way. And the concept of world travelling is slowly revealed throughout the story. 


This book is in fact, the second book of a trilogy - His Dark Materials. Yes, I started in the middle of the trilogy, the second book and I just cannot choose what to read next first! XD On one hand, I want to know what happens next. The angels knows what's really happening between all the worlds but the character of angels seems a little heretic to me? or maybe just unconventional. Are they on the bad side or the good side? On the other, I simply want to know what happened before. There are so many characters that came up each with their own background. Still, many questions unanswered.


It's not so bad reading the second book. It left me hanging.. wanting to read more. :) 



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review 2016-02-14 00:00
The Subtle Knife
The Subtle Knife - Philip Pullman Who else has seen The Golden Compass and wondered when on earth they would finally shoot the damn sequel? The movie was produced by New Line Cinema, who also made the LOTR- and Hobbit trilogy happen. The cast was great. The CGI was up-to-date. It had everything going for it, yet still failed in the Box Office numbers. I remember seeing it in the cinema and thinking that it wasn't the greatest movie ever, yet still, I would've loved to see what would happen next to Lyra and Philip Pullman's world of worlds.

There are many theories on the how and why the series failed as a movie adaptation. One of them is the heavily cutting down on religious aspects which are so important in the books. Apart from the Church (or Magisterium) being all powerful in the first book, I didn't remember it to be very present. However, looking back at my review of it, my last paragraph stated:

"Without revealing too much spoilery stuff, I thought the end conclusion (of this part that is) and reference to the bible was a bit odd. I read reviews here mentioning Philip Pullman is an atheist and the ‘His Dark Materials’-series is an attack on Christianity and/or God himself. Even if that were true, I refuse to look for clues while reading the rest of the series. This is a story and should be read as a story. Period. Now, on to the next one!"

Yeah...I didn't need to look for clues at all in 'The Subtle Knife'. I have never experienced so much atheism thrown into my face like a yucky porn scene gone wrong. I mean, sure, you can still look at it as a children's book when you are a child yourself, probably. But anyone past the age of 12 can probably tell you there is a not so hidden message in this one.

The general plot was good. It's a unique kind of fantasy. There are no elves, gnomes, goblins or wizards in this one. The magical elements were also quite different from what I'm used to. There is magic, yet it comes more in the form of physics and shamanism. Being surrounded by physics-lovers for the past five years, plus having started to study it myself as a BSc Environmental Sciences student, I was really intrigued to read about the parallels between dark matter and Pullman's 'Dust'. Then there's a knife which can cut through the fabric of spacetime. Or well, something close to it. So fascinating!

If you've started to snooze off here, you can wake up again. There are plenty of action scenes, which require some imagination due to the aspects mentioned above, but oh my! Imagine you're on the run from some eerily evil people and you can just cut yourself a window to a parallel world. You will have to make sure to close it again by hand before the others can follow you through it, though. Yoikes!

Then there are the creepy Specters as mentioned in the synopsis above. I'm guessing it's a metaphor for the death of innocence after reaching adolescence, but when you're just looking at it with a blank mind, it's downright scary. As soon as you reach a certain point in growing up, your soul is going to be sucked right out of you. And then you die...

If that thought wasn't depressing enough, here comes the atheism! Nothing wrong with atheism in itself, but to write a children's book in which some of the main characters are going to attempt to kill God with the help of some fallen angels...it was a little too much for me. There's a long scene in which the Latvian witch queen flies high up into the sky and travels with the angels there, who are on their way to create an army to destroy the Authority/God. This is where I was like, mkay, this is some pretty deep shit. Wikipedia mentions that "Pullman's publishers have primarily marketed the series to young adults, but Pullman also intended to speak to both older children and adults." I think they should've probably aimed it towards adults primarily or cut out the heavy religious scenes for the children.

To sum things up, I liked the first book more and can tell anyone else who hasn't read part two yet that you shouldn't expect any armoured fuzzy polar bear action in this one. It's way more intense, not just religion-wise but also when it comes to the number of deaths. It's like George R.R. Martin took over in that aspect. Holy shit! (pun intended)

It's hard to rate this one because of the mixed feelings I encountered, but because I gave the first book 4 brownies, I'll give this one 3. I can still recommend as well. Just don't use it as a bedtime story to read to your children.
I'm very curious about what the third book will be like and how it all comes together in the end.
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