More than two years have passed since my review of the first book in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, begun with The Golden Compass. The second book is called The Subtle Knife and it has been sitting on my shelves for a few months. With the first review, it was difficult to address the story first because the underlying philosophies literally jumped off the page at me. This book is not much different in that respect, although I must admire Pullman as a storyteller. He spins his story better than the Left Behind authors have told theirs.
To summarize the philosophic themes quickly: The worldview is somewhere between pantheism or panentheism. A large push exists to destroy the “Authority” (God). This second book also pushes trascendental meditation as a way to contact the global consciousness in or around all of us, which does appear to predestine events (oddly, at one point there is talk about ending predestination?).
In this book, we find the main character, Lyra, in an alternate reality from her own (multiverse theory). It isn’t long before she bumps into a boy named Will from our reality whose father was researching Lyra’s ‘Dust’ years earlier. This ‘Dust’ is called, in our world, by the name “Dark Matter.” The plot line and various characters maintain that it begins to settle on and around people at puberty.
Throughout the adventures of Lyra and Will, we learn that Lord Asriel (Lyra’s father) is intent on restaging the luciferian rebellion against God, but it is left up to the reader’s imagination to determine how the original rebellion occurred. A scientist in our world learns how to communicate with the Dark Matter, and is told by it that she must “play the serpent.”
Given the way that Lyra and Will are finding themselves impressed and drawn towared each other, and the way that all things pleasurable are condemned by the Magisterium (church), my expectation is that Pullman is going to make their fall about the relationship between them.
Before I close, there is one other idle wondering. The book’s name comes from a special (“Subtle”) knife that is able to cut through anything—whether it is matter or immaterial. This is supposed to aid in overthrowing the Creator but all that was demonstrated in this book was the ability to cut holes between realities. For some reason all of the holes that were cut were into the same reality (our own from the middle world), but there are clearly other realities that have been opened in the past. Odd.
Stay tuned for the final installment. Eventually.