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From: "David Lebling" <dlebling@ucentric.com>
Subject: (urth) _His Dark Materials_ (Skirting spoiler territory)
Date: Wed, 25 Apr 2001 09:53:39 

I thoroughly enjoyed the first book, enjoyed the second, and finished the
third. That seems to match Mr. Ansley's and Mr. Bishop's experience. (My
evaluation of C. S. Lewis's space trilogy is similar.)

The segments with the bears and the witches in the first book were truly
excellent. The bear civilization was well-realized and very bearish. The
witches reminded me of the witches in the Kalevala, which is a nice change
from the usual witches one meets in fantasy. The concept of the daemons was
well-done and well-elaborated, with some unexpected but well-thought-out
twists in the later books (e.g., why do _we_ not have daemons?).

Unfortunately, starting even in the first book, but getting worse in the
second and still worse in the third, Pullman lets his fantasy get out of
control. What many authors of fantasy forget is that if anything is
possible, nothing is interesting. Eventually so many rabbits are pulled out
of so many hats that the dramatic tension in the story just vanishes, and
all you are doing is following the plot to see how it works out. (The SF
equivalent, I suppose, is the "inventing a space-drive using the contents of
your junk drawer" story, or any Star Trek episode).

I will say that the resolution of the problem of the "subtle knife" itself
was appropriate and how it ties into the ultimate fate of the protagonists
was excellent (not going to spoiler here, those who have read it know what I

Unfortunately much that came before, especially in the third book, was more
or less gratuitous. I wouldn't want to go much more deeply into the details
for fear of igniting all the spoiler alerts, but the part of the story that
parallelled Milton was resolved so easily, considering the build-up and the
stakes, that I just didn't buy it. I will say that thinking about it
carefully, Mrs. Coulter's behavior makes more sense, but not as much sense
as it should, and the sense it makes doesn't make me like her any more than
when I first met her.

As an aside, I bought _The Golden Compass_ when it first came out in
paperback, but was unable to get past the first few pages, which I found
amazingly slow moving and uninteresting. Then it appeared on a reading list
for my daughter, who is 12, so I gave it to her to read. She asked me
questions about it, but I hadn't actually read it yet, so I borrowed it back
and read it, finding that after those first few pages it picked up really
quickly and was in its own way a page-turner. Then I read the other two
volumes in rapid succession. She's working on _The Subtle Knife_ now, and
has found both books relatively hard going. My still-younger daughter, 10,
is reading _The Golden Compass_ now. Mr. Pullman autographed our copies.

    Dave Lebling
    aka vizcacha

*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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