Tuesday, April 15, 2008
The Subtle Knife
I am not a fan of forwarded emails. They frustrate me, because they usually come from the same group of people, people I like a great deal but who never send me a normal "hey, how's it going?" message. Just "Support our Troops" or "Tell every woman you know she's special" or "Microsoft is running a test and if you send this you could get a check for $1,000!" When I see the letters FWD in the subject line, I usually simply delete it.
I lost track of the number of emails I received telling me about the Anti-God movie The Golden Compass and the need to boycott the movies and the books. It was well over ten. Ten people wanted me to send that email on to everyone I know, telling them the same thing. Don't see this movie! Don't read these books! Alert! Alert! Alert!
Nothing like calling attention to something like a planned boycott. I haven't seen the movie, because I'm cheap and it's not something I'd take my kids to or something I'd be prone to see anyway, but as I had already read the first book in the series, enjoyed it and hadn't found it to be Anti-God, I was curious to read the next to see what the fuss was all about.
I don't know if the emails worked and I read with a bias, but I did not enjoy this second book. Not because it is Anti-God...which it really isn't, but more anti organized religion and organized religion's version of god, but because the writing is bad.
Dialogue - choppy.
Descriptions - cliched. (how do I get that little accent marking over the e?)
Storyline - totally falters.
I felt enormously disappointed in the direction of this book. Lyra, the young female protagonist in search of dust and her father, all but disappears in this second story. She still plays a part, but now as the sidekick to Will, a new character who is a giant "young adult fiction" stereotype (in search of the father he never knew while protecting his mother from bad guys and seems to be gifted in the combat department). I don't remember the writing being bad in the first book. I thought it descriptive and unique and thoughtful. Not so, in The Subtle Knife. Pullman changes gears and loses focus. There is a lot more going on and none of it is developed well. I stopped caring about the characters and their goals.
I think these books had great potential. There could be a lot to discuss with adolescents (not young children...at all). The nature of the soul, the natural man, the costs and benefits of religions. All appropriate things to discuss with youth ready to question and discover on their own.
Pullman takes that conversation away with his lack of metaphor. It becomes impossible to argue, "I think the dust means this." or "what do you think The Authority is for Pullman?" when he throws his opinion at you with real life Christian beliefs. It's inappropriate and unfair. Write a fantasy or a satire or a parable if you want to. Other authors have done it...and done it well.
I won't be reading the third book.