Review: The Subtle Knife, by Philip Pullman

I recently finished this one, the second book “His Dark Materials” trilogy:

It was okay, but I must say it was a bit of a grind, and I lay much of the blame on the writing style. It may simply be since this is ostensibly a children’s book, it’s supposed to written this way, but it left a foul taste in my mouth. Far too much is spelled out rather than merely implied. In writer-speak, it has way too much tell and not enough show.

The other aspect of the writing that bugged me was the point-of-view. It seemed to be a meld of third-person omniscient and third-person limited, meaning that sometimes we knew everything about everyone, while sometimes we only knew about things from one person’s point of view. The way he switched back and forth between those two forms (as well as blithely switching which character’s POV we were in) bugged the shit out of me. However, I’ll confess that some of this might be because I was also doing a copy-edit pass on some of my own work, and I was on the lookout for point-of-view errors, and if Pullman had chosen the point-of-view limitation I work with, then this book would been a virtual abattoir of red-pen corrections.

So, getting past my issues with the writing itself, how was the book? Well, the plot advanced, we met new people as well as saw old foes, and we learned more about the mysterious “Dust”. On that stuff, the payoff was decent, but it also suffers the problem of the middle book in a trilogy. The first book hooked us, and now we’re filling in the extra details we need as we build towards the climactic third book, and unfortunately, much of that filling-in is a little boring.

I’ll probably finish out the trilogy later this year, but I’m in no rush. Supposedly, the final resolution of all the mysteries is some controversial statement about the Judeo-Christian concept of Original Sin, and I’m curious about what he has to say. And yet, after grinding through this one, I’m tempted to reach for the Cliff Notes on book 3.

But NO SPOILERS in the comments, okay?