August 31, 2011
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The Amber Spyglass: Milton’s Attorney

by Philip Pullman

The conclusion of the great fantasy of our time. These books are richer, more coherent, and far braver than Harry Potter. In a sensible universe, Lyra would share the spotlight – and no doubt she does in Lyra’s Oxford.

Pullman uses his scope to terrific effect; Lyra grows up in the course of the book, and the changes are organic – not simply new concerns and responsibilities but subtle shifts in attitude and speech.

Unlike so much modern fantasy, these are books of ideas, not merely stories of good people who faced extraordinary challenges. These books argue bravely that the world is a grand combat not between good and evil, but between wisdom and stupidity – and that the pieties and institutions that clothe themselves in the banner of goodness, religion and sentiment, inhibition and self-denial, are in fact the forces of stupidity. Milton was of the devil’s party but did not know it; Pullman makes the case.