[BE WARNED, THERE ARE SPOILERS.]
I'm feeling pretty underwhelmed. I was going to go to bed when I started the third part of the book but then realized I had less than 100 pages left to go and thought I'd just as soon get it over with. But I didn't keep reading because I couldn't put it down... I kept reading because I wanted it to be done.
That isn't to say I didn't like it. I was just kind of bored with it by the time it was finished. I wanted to know how it ended, but not enough to cherish it and ponder it while drifting in to sleep, savoring the suspense until morning.
The plot was interesting enough, though it was fairly formulaic and really easy to predict. There wasn't really anything profound or unique about Lyra's character, and she plodded through the story dragging the reader on a leash. There was no subtle foreshadowing. Every time a new plot point was introduced I felt I was being beaten about the head and shoulders with a cinder-block with the words "HINT! THIS WILL BE IMPORTANT LATER! HINT!" engraved in it.
I really had problems connecting with the characters. I feel like Lyra is a superfluous character in this tale instead of the main protagonist, and I don't really care enough to take the time and try to get to know her. She's almost painfully one-dimensional. The emotion in her character is almost nonexistent. In fact, in the end when she's holding Roger's body I found her lack of emotion to be appalling. Her closest childhood friend was just slain before her by her own father and she's left to hold his corpse... Lyra should have lost her shit. Instead she watches as her evil parents make out awkwardly, she drops the stiff formerly known as Roger, and then walks into the next adventure. No mourning, no trauma, just moving ever onward.
I also had a problem with some of the language. I couldn't read Lyra as being British. Whenever I read her dialogue I always got southern belle. Yeah, I don't know either.
I get that this may have been the whole "fate" thing, but it kind of bugs me that Lyra just magically knows how to use the alethiometer. She didn't really have to study it or tinker with it or fret over it like Harry had to with his golden egg. She just needed to use it and BAM! Suddenly she could. There was no triumph in riddling it out. Out of the blue she could read the darn thing, and... well... la de flippin' dah.
Faith tells me that some of the other things about this book that irritate me will be explained in the second, but I don't know if I want to read it at this point. I hate that we busted out Genesis in the last 20 pages. It's not like Genesis is a complicated piece of text that should probably be examined phrase by phrase instead of just glazed over or anything. It felt like Pullman had a crisis when he was writing the last section of the book and decided he didn't want to be Catholic anymore, damnit! And he was going to prove it to the world! SO THERE! Yeah. That's what it felt like.
I also hate some of the grammar in this book. I know you don't care, but I had to say it.
I really hate that I couldn't picture the setting when reading this book. It's so hard for me to dive in when I can't get my bearings. There were so few descriptions. It was like Eragon all over again. I didn't know Lyra was blonde until 200 pages in. I still don't know how old she is. Somewhere around 11 years old, apparently. There are cars, but we fly via zepplin. We use gas, and there's London, but there are also Arctic deserts where people cut holes in their skulls for no readily apparent reason. I just don't know.
I really hate that we have a group of people named "gyptians" who aren't Egyptian, but I'm somehow expected to not make that correlation even though we have Oxford, London, and a handful of other recognizable places in Pullman's world. There's a freaking aeronaut from Texas. If this is supposed to be a fantasy world, and not our real earth then get creative, Pullman! Don't have names like "Benjamin" and "John" when you're talking about the exotic river people who are most emphatically not from the Nile, thank you very much.
What did you think?
I think the film will be much better than the book. I think a shortened plot will suit this story well. I think that the visual medium will help capture the imagination better, because I had such a hard time getting a handle on the world and the senses. Plus, the idea of seeing ginormous CGI polar bears wearing armor and kicking the crap out of each other is pretty exciting, if you ask me.