Mark Reads ‘The Subtle Knife’: Chapter 3

In the third chapter of The Subtle Knife, Lyra comes to learn just how difficult her journey to find Lord Asriel and Dust is going to be. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Subtle Knife.

Well, this isn’t going to be easy.


I actually enjoy that Pullman is setting this up to be an awfully complicated situation because….look, Lyra has just walked into a parallel universe with absolutely no plan at all, aside from going to a university she hopes exists. That’s it. That is her only plan. We know that Lyra is an adventurous, tenacious young girl, but the problems exemplified at the end of chapter one are blown wide open now. Lyra has no clue what she is doing, and if it weren’t for Will Parry, things would be a whole lot worse than they already are.

At the very least, though, she’s trying. She makes her own omelette the next morning, burns it, and feels nothing but pride for having done this herself. (I like that Will declines a Lyra Omelette, choosing to have cereal instead.) It’s very Lyra, when you think about it: she insists on finding a way to do things precisely her way.

I’m glad that Lyra and Will are so upfront with each other, too, because they don’t beat around the bush. It’s annoying to me when people are placed in bizarre situations in science fiction / fantasy and they don’t ask questions. These two, instead, quiz each other out of curiosity. Where did they come from? Where are they now? What did they experience when they moved into this universe? We know that Lyra spent days in some sort of fog. DAYS of fog. That alone sort of creeps me out. Where the hell are they where there’s fog for days and no other people?

On top of having to worry about that, Pullman starts seeding Lyra’s new major problem: She only knows the way of her own world. I like that there’s a huge basis on the meaning of words, and as someone who obsesses over such things in various ways, it’s actually rather exciting to see how language differs between the two of them. What is experimental theology for Lyra, who has lived in a world where the Church runs everything, is physics for Will. Anbaromagnetism is electricity. Electrum is amber. Words differ, sure, but that’s the least that these two have to worry about. Because despite that Lyra has been in this world for three or four days and has not seen a living soul anywhere, the two of them suddenly hear a child talking. And two basket-carrying kids, both with red hair and nowhere near enough alarm for what’s going on, come walking right up to Will and Lyra. To add to my utter confusion they ask, in procession, if Will and Lyra are from “Ci’gazze” or “Sant’Elia.” I thought maybe they were speaking with thick accents and these weren’t meant to be the names of other cities, but then, when Will asks where the grownups are, one of the kids replies:

“Didn’t the Specters come to your city?”

Great. GREAT. This is not going to be anywhere near easy. We learn that this city is called Cittágazze and that this parallel world has almost nothing at all in common with either Lyra’s or Will’s. As Will and Lyra learn more about this world from the two kids (Angelica and Paolo), it all just sounds like nonsense. There was a giant fog storm and when it cleared, the city was full of “Specters” and the grownups can’t go near them? I DON’T GET THIS. So, only children can’t see Specters? Is this like dæmons, I thought, but in reverse? Certainly that could be an explanation, but then that doesn’t make sense either. Angelica says that when the Specters arrive, they get to “run about in the city,” as if the grownups are too occupied to care otherwise.

“Well, when a Specter catch a grownup, that’s bad to see. They eat the life out of them there and then, all right. I don’t want to be grown up, for sure. At first they know it’s happening, and they’re afraid; they cry and cry. They try and look away and pretend it ain’ happenin’, but it is. It’s too late. And no one ain’ gonna go near them, they on they own. Then they get pale and they stop moving. They still alive, but it’s like they been eaten from the inside. You look in they eyes, you see the back of they heads. Ain’ nothing there.”

The girl turned to her brother and wiped his nose on the sleeve of his shirt.

“Me and Paolo’s going to look for ice creams,” she said. “You want to come and find some?”

Only if that ice cream comes with A FUCKING BILLION HUGS. oh my god OH MY GOD PLEASE TELL ME THAT THIS IS NOT REAL. That is one of the most terrifying things I have ever read. Oh christ, you all, Steven Moffat ain’t got SHIT on this. brb nightmares for the rest of my life.

So, as I understand it, Will and Lyra are in Cittágazze, and the children they just met live in this universe where grownups are always in fear of the Specters. Well, none of this is at all what I thought was going to happen in this book. Which makes me wonder….is Pullman actually going to take us into universes beyond these? I mean, I would adore that, but it might be hard to pull off and keep track of.

For the time being, though, Lyra and Will are concerned with dealing with the jarring experience of traveling between worlds. Will hears Pantalaimon speak for the first time, which has to be just one weird thing piled on top of another. Still, I have to admire how much Will is just willing to accept all of this without any sort of disbelief. I mean…true, he just traveled into a parallel universe. I suppose for him, virtually anything is possible at this point. But Will is a practical person, and he knows he’s got a task in front of him that needs far more attention than worrying about a talking dæmon:

He’s got to make it so that Lyra doesn’t stand out in his universe.

As I said in the opening, I’m coming to adore this set-up so much specifically because it is so complicated, and it must be said that Pullman’s attention to detail is what makes this all so mesmerizing. He doesn’t ignore the fact that it’s the little things that matter in this surreal situation. Lyra has come form a world where nearly every culture has variations from what she’s known, and it would have been disingenuous had Pullman ignored that small things, from showers to washing one’s hair to dressing, didn’t show us how Will and Lyra were so different. For Will, though, he’s leaving the safest place in the world in order to help Lyra, and he’s worried that her obvious anachronistic behavior and dress is going to give them up. Of course, he does threaten to kill Lyra if she messes it up, and she believes her. That’s nice. That’s a nice thing to say.

And so they set off to camouflage Lyra in the best way possible. Lyra, unsurprisingly, is a bit resistant to some of the things that Will suggests, such as the aforementioned hair washing, or having to wear trousers. The also get to see more of Cittágazze in the process, and Will is unsettled by how ancient it all seems, from the crumbling cityscapes to the odd patchwork construction of the buildings around them. They make it to the spot where Will climbed through into this universe, locating the “window” in the fabric of the world. Will instructs Lyra on how to cross over and a new problem presents itself: Lyra is not used to CARS. And I can’t believe I never once picked up on that during my read of The Golden Compass, but I don’t recall a single mention of a car once in that book. In my head, I’d just assumed this world was set in the past, maybe the mid 1900s or something; but at the time, I didn’t know this book was about parallel universes. Why would I have looked for such details?

Out of everything Lyra’s been presented with, this is certainly the worst of them all. Most of us have lived our lives with cars being a part of them, even if you’re someone like me, who has never owned a car in his life. Lyra, on the other hand, is spooked by the sound of cars themselves, as she’s able to hear them through the window. Will does his best to prepare her for the other side, instructing her how to get to the center of the city, assuming that she’ll make it through just fine. She pops through the window and Will peers through the window to see if she’s made it through all right.


In hindsight, it is eerily sensical for this to happen: Lyra has no concept of what cars really are and it stands to reason that she’d have no way to judge when it would be safe to cross the street and avoid them. It’s details like these that make it so easy to slip right into the story and immerse myself in this imagined tale, but at the same time, CHRIST LYRA CANNOT CATCH A BREAK. She has now traveled into a second universe, after already having to deal with some mysterious fog and days without good food or human contact, and as soon as she steps into a new world, she is hit by a fucking car.

Poor Lyra. Poor, poor Lyra.

Thankfully, aside from being bruised and scratched, she’s not seriously hurt. But, again, this chapter is about compounding difficulty. Lyra was hit by a car, and there are witnesses. They can’t just walk away, and if Lyra is questioned by anyone about the accident, how can they be sure that she’ll be able to conceal herself and not give away the fact that she’s not from this world? (I had a scary thought during this section, actually. Panatalaiman had take the form of a wasp, and I wondered what would happen if a police officer arrived and tried to swat Pantalaimon away and touched him and how revolting that would be to Lyra. But I’m glad that this doesn’t happen because THERE IS ALREADY ENOUGH GOING ON.)

Will decides to craft a story about Lyra being his sister and living “around the corner” so he can get them away from the accident as quickly as possible. I could not help but laugh at Will’s fake name, Mark Ransom, because it is so clearly a fake, but at least the kid is trying. They both manage to escape from this disaster by giving a convincing false address, and it makes me realize that, in a way, Lyra and Will do have this in common: they share an ability to be remarkably crafty when they need to be. In her own world, she’s like Will is here, and that adds another fascinating layer to this chapter, since we haven’t seen Lyra face this much awkwardness before.

Even though it’s a fake relationship to act as a disguise, I couldn’t ignore the fact that Will seems to take Lyra on as a younger sister. I’m getting the feeling that the bulk of this story is going to focus more on Will than on Lyra, and I’m honestly okay with that. I like that Pullman is exploring this new dynamic so completely. It’s hard being able to deny the sense of nobility that Will operates under as he gets money for Lyra and helps to get her to her ultimate destination. He doesn’t insult her or shame her when she starts to be overwhelmed by this world’s Oxford, either. He knows he is doing a good thing by coming back from his safe place to help her out.

But the chapter does end on Lyra and I feel like Pullman is driving home the importance of this final message. The experience of traveling to Oxford University in this universe does not provide the sense of calm or catharsis that this young girl was looking for. Instead, it’s all full of confusion and terror. She’s disorienting by seeing streets she knows that she has spent days exploring, and then seeing this pseudo copies filling her vision. Her plan has now unraveled, for if this is not the same world as hers, it stands to reason that maybe the people she needs aren’t here either.

This is going to be one hell of a journey.

As a note, we are doing a liveblog for The Golden Compass over on Mark Watches on Saturday. Join us!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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141 Responses to Mark Reads ‘The Subtle Knife’: Chapter 3

  1. Brieana says:

    Did they really go from talking about Specters to wanting some ice cream? That made me laugh.

    • Brieana says:

      Oh, also
      "I don’t recall a single mention of a car once in that book"
      After that Coulter woman stopped Lyra from being intercisioned, Lyra lied and said that some guys kidnapped her and threw her in a car.

      • HieronymusGrbrd says:

        I got the impression that Lyra's world never invented the use of gasoline as fuel, so the few cars, like the air ships, are propelled by "gas engines" using compressed or liquefied natural gas.

    • They're such kids. I can totally see a conversation happening like that. Hilarious.

  2. Kathleen says:

    I love how Pullman also distinguishes between Will and Lyra's method of lying to protect themselves.

  3. blis says:

    i laughed so hard when will wakes up and Lyra is all " I made omelette"

    • redheadedgirl says:

      And Will is like, "….I'll have cereal, thanks."

    • Darth_Ember says:

      I made u a omelette… but I burneded it. 🙁

      Haha, sorry, it just appeared in my head as a lolcat type thing.

      • blis says:

        haha. Its just awesome because Lyra had an omelette, for the first time ever the night before, and than she goes on ahead and makes her own the next day. It was burned and probably had pieces of eggshell in it, but that doesn't matter. She just did it. In my mind, I see it as "Yeah, see i can make omelette too" that is yet another reason why Lyra is amazingly awesome. Also, it happened the chapter before, but i also love her attitude about having to wash the dishes.

  4. Becky_J_ says:

    Right now I am three chapters into the Amber Spyglass (because I tried to read along but failed, OK ) and you know what my bookmark is? A flow-chart that has arrows from Anbaric to Electric, from Electric to Electrum, from Electrum to Amber, and from Amber to Anbaric. Yep. I know I'm cool.

    Also, how awful would it be to be in a world that almost looks like yours, but is still completely alien? I would much rather be in a completely different world. It would be so…. discombobulating.

    • hpfish13 says:

      I would love to respond thoughtfully to your comment, but I'm distracted by how happy I am that you used the word "discombobulating!"

      • flootzavut says:

        Me too!

        My nephew used to give answers yes or no to more or less any question (he was 3 ish I think), you could ask him all sorts of strange things and he would answer yes or no but very thoughtfully. Then one day I asked him, "Are you discombobulated?" and he tipped his head to one side and said, "I was…"

        It seems to be a much more common word in the States… it always makes me chuckle.

  5. Mauve_Avenger says:

    "And I can’t believe I never once picked up on that during my read of The Golden Compass, but I don’t recall a single mention of a car once in that book. In my head, I’d just assumed this world was set in the past, maybe the mid 1900s or something; but at the time, I didn’t know this book was about parallel universes. Why would I have looked for such details?"

    I hadn't noticed it before that point, but someone in the Golden Compass reviews pointed out that there might have been a motor vehicle mentioned pretty early on; one of the teenage boys Lyra asks about kidnappings says that his aunt sells chips out of a van.
    After that I paid more attention to it, and there was a mention of trolley cars and taxi cabs in the chapter when Lyra runs away from Mrs. Coulter's apartment. I think it was said that she didn't know the rules of dealing with London traffic, so she just ran across the street hoping not to get crushed.

    Also: I saw your Twitter reply to the people and freaked out, thinking "spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers no." I don't think I even registered that the username was @Twittàgazze and not Cittágazze. I guess I have a weird sense of time frame for this novel, since I thought the name of the city would be revealed quite a few chapters later than it really is.

    • Tory says:

      Pretty sure all of those words–van, trolley car, taxi cab–could still apply to a place where horse and carriage is still the norm–taxi cab started with horses, not cars, and you could definitely still have traffic with horses and carriages, especially in a big city. That, or a place where cars were new or uncommon and there wouldn't have been nearly as many of them or going nearly as fast as she would have seen on the Oxford ring road.

  6. Brieana says:

    I like your Friends reference.

  7. cait0716 says:

    The contrast between Lyra and Will is a lot of fun to explore. I really love the dynamic between them.

    And I like that Lyra gets hit by a car immediately upon entering our world. I mean, poor Lyra. But like you said Mark, this was obviously going to happen to someone who appears in the middle of the street and has no experience with cars.

  8. George says:

    OMG Spectres! Just when this world seemed so good, Pullman introduces us to some creepy shit!

  9. cait0716 says:

    oooh, I like the sceptors == dementors connection. I hadn't thought of that before

  10. Brieana says:

    And we'll be seeing these vehicles soon enough on Saturday.

  11. Araniapriime says:

    I totally second the Specters = Dementors similarity. I read this after I read Harry Potter and I was like OH NOES NOT MORE ANTHROPOMORPHIZED SUICIDAL DEPRESSION! I IZ UNPREPARED!

    • Viyamusic says:

      It's pretty similar, except that in HP the patronus can actually stop a dementor with Expectro Patronum but I don't think Lyra's daemon can stop the specters since 1) she & Pantalaimon can't see them and 2) her daemon shouldn't touch anybody as it's too closely linked to her.

      Also, there are plenty of people with "fake" sounding names that are perfectly real, like a girl I went to school with, Candy Fudge, and her younger sister Neslie Fudge. No lie.

  12. Inseriousity. says:

    Lol I'd have never of even thought of pronouncing it like that.

  13. muzzery says:

    I love how complex Pullman makes the word connections; electricity sounding like electrum, which is actually amber, which in turn sounds like anbaric which is electricity in Lyra's world. DAMN.

    Also, I love this chapter, because Pullman is really exploring these unique dynamics in such fascinating and absorbing ways, and what makes it even better is there is such simplicity to the way he explores them, he dwells on the little quirks.

    • @sab39 says:

      In one of the earlier chapters discussions there was a comment thread between two commenters who were basically re-enacting the whole discussion between Lyra and Will up to the "anbar!" revelation. Someone even pointed out that anbar is Arabic for amber. I thought it was fascinating to see how the dialog in real life played out almost exactly the same as it did between Will and Lyra when they encountered the word difference within the book.

      The odd thing too was I wanted to say "SPOILERS!!!" but neither person had actually read ahead, so how could it be a spoiler?

  14. Brieana says:

    She got ya!
    I'll remember that for ze future.

  15. muzzery says:


  16. Kate says:

    Like other people here when I read about the Spectres I thought NO DEMENTORS! I really hope that isn't the case, that'd be too much creep there, thanks. I also got worried that the woman who ran Lyra down would stomp on Pan. D: Augh, this dimension has too much stress!
    A couple of things I picked up – Lyra and WIll share an identical look that Will remembers for some time – is romance brewing?
    Also, Lyra doesn't know how to wash her hair? I'd thought Mrs Coulter had spent some time teaching her that along with how to pick out the right clothes and do make-up? Is Lyra purposefully blocking out things Mrs Coulter taught her to distance herself?

  17. Lovelyhera says:

    My theory on specters – the description if the adults after being spectered sounds awfully like the effects of inter idiom doesn’t it? I figure something is eating the souls of the adults. This is pure speculation though.

    Also – I always Lyra as living in steampunk Oxford in the 1900s-1930s so there would be cars, but not gas powered monstrosities of today.

  18. Foxfire says:

    Hahaha oh god I did not even consider that parallel.

  19. Tilja says:

    I always imagined it that way. It's an Italian name, so my mind goes for an Italian pronunciation, where the "ci" would be pronounced as "tchi" (I'm refering to phoneme sounds here) and from there on follow the different phonemes of Italian language, where the vowels are strong. The first part of the name is actually the word "city" in Italian (accent on the second syllable) and the second word is "magpie".

    • cait0716 says:

      Interesting. And now I want to know why it's named Magpie City. What's the significance of the magpie? Pullman wouldn't do that accidentally, would he?

      • leighzzz31 says:

        Possibly in reference to the children that are left behind? They have to survive on their own, probably stealing things, like magpies do? That was my impression when I read the translation.

        • Heather says:

          I think it's actually a reference to things I can't talk about.

          • FlameRaven says:

            Yeah, it's a reference to [spoilers]. You'll see.

            • rumantic says:

              I've read this before and I can't think what you are talking about :S

              • Mauve_Avenger says:

                It took me a while, but I'm pretty sure it's a reference to (rot13) gur snpg gung gur Thvyq bs gur Gbeer qrtyv Natryv unf orra hfvat gur Xavsr gb fgrny sebz bgure havirefrf, juvpu vf jul gur pvgl jnf fb cebfcrebhf.

                • theanagrace says:

                  Wow. Just. Wow. I have never seen that before, and it is amazing. I am going to use that website for everything now! Even things that don't need it.

                • Emwiams says:

                  Afffff, I meant to hit comment, and actually hit report… I closed the box, but I certainly hope you don't get reported. This was an AWESOME way of discussing something without actually spoiling people! And That website is AWESOME. and I just want to type AWESOME in caps one more time…

          • leighzzz31 says:

            Oh, it totally is a reference to ~unmentionable~ things but at this point in the book it's safe to assume City of Magpies could have something to do with the children.

      • hazelwillow says:

        Interesting. No I don't think he would do that accidentally.

  20. Brieana says:

    This one came first. The first HP book was published in '97 which, I believe, was the same year that TSK was published.

    • Tilja says:

      Forget it then. My copies say they're both from the same year first publication. Cheating, lying books!

  21. Brieana says:

    And before HDM he was reading a book by a Mark[us].

    • theanagrace says:

      Soooooo, that could mean that there are Marks in parallel universes, writing books that he will love in this universe, and then the Doctor is flying around collecting them, and wizards are using memory charms to get us to recommend them to our universe's Mark?
      My brain just went to a weird place.

  22. Maya says:

    All the upvotes for the Friends reference.

    I totally named my high school flour sack baby Princess Consuela Bananahammock. No one got it.

    • theanagrace says:

      I'm not gonna lie, your comment and stella's original made me snort with laughter. I wish my husband would agree to naming a pet or a child that, but he's too practical, lol.

      • Maya says:

        I even told everyone that her short name was Phoebe and they STILL didn't get it. Most of the students in my high school suffered from a severe lack of taste.

        • Ah, I see. Not watching/liking Friends means one has a "severe lack of taste." Check.

          (files another self-description away for confession time. "Welcome to Hell! Anything to declare?" "Apparently I have no sense of humor, because practical jokes just make me cry; and I have no sense of taste, because I don't enjoy any post-'80s sit-coms. Oh, and I consider most reggae to be made of pure irritant, which I'm told means I'm bad person." "OK, you get Room 12, Floor 5, 3rd Circle. Oh! Unless you also dislike Christmas carols and U.S. patriotic hymns? That would get you demoted to the 4th Circle" "[KEEPS MOUTH SHUT]")

    • Tilja says:

      And all the upvotes to you for reminding me where the reference came from. 🙂

  23. Viyamusic says:

    It's pretty similar, except that in HP the patronus can actually stop a dementor with Expectro Patronum but I don't think Lyra's daemon can stop the specters since 1) she & Pantalaimon can't see them and 2) her daemon shouldn't touch anybody as it's too closely linked to her.

  24. hattyb says:

    Things like cabs and vans don't necessarily have to be motor vehicles – there were horse-drawn vans and cabs in the past. I always assumed that Lyra's world was closer to the Victorian era in that respect, so they'd have steam trains and the like but not cars. But then, you couldn't really have a steam-powered zeppelin – or could you? So many questions!

  25. majere616 says:

    Well, spirit animals are a very well established folklore trope.

  26. majere616 says:

    Except Specters are worse because, (as far as we know) THERE IS NO DEFENSE AGAINST THEM!

  27. George says:

    I have always thought they were kind of similar, although children aren't safe from the dementors!

  28. hazelwillow says:

    I love that moment, too. I like that the things that have changes between the worlds (caused worlds to "split off" as it were) are not obvious or simplistic. There's mystery there, in the many little changes and similarities. How does it all happen?

  29. PeacockDawson says:

    Anbaromagnatism is electromagnetism.

    Also, I think Mark Ransom is a perfectly plausible and convincing name.

  30. knut_knut says:

    "That’s nice. That’s a nice thing to say."
    Oh, Mark, you made me guffaw at work

    I'd like to take this moment to point out how much I love Pan
    “Well, you’ll just have to work it out,” he said. “Wash yourself all over. In my world people are clean.”
    “Hmm,” said Lyra, and went upstairs. A ferocious rat face glared at him over her shoulder, but he looked back coldly.

  31. knut_knut says:

    yes!!! Although, I always thought Specters were way more scary because at least with a dementor you can protect yourself and eat choclate! All kids have to become adults one day and THEN THE SPECTERS WILL GET YOU! I was sure they would come for me D:

  32. eleniel says:

    So here's the thing: I'm actually kind of wary when alternate universes come up in fiction. It's extremely easy for writers to use them badly, for lazy storytelling where literally anything can happen, but in a bad way where there's no suspense because there's no rhyme or reason to anything. For example, the reason a man touching Lyra's daemon in TGC made me gasp out loud was because Pullman had clearly set up the rules about what daemons are and how people feel about them throughout the book. The reason that moment is so horrifying is because the reader knows what it means. But often when alternate universes are introduced, the rules of the world(s) can be broken at any time and for any reason, completely killing any meaning or way of understanding and relating to what's happening in the story.

    On the other hand, it's also easy for alternate universes to end up extremely uncreative, where the characters end up in a world that's exactly like ours except for… whatever (to be clear, I'm not talking about alternate history stories where a sentence like that is the entire premise of the story, just when there are multiple alternate universes in one piece of fiction as we see in HDM so far). Like, there are near-infinite number of alternative universes and our protagonists JUST HAPPEN to end up in one that's just like ours but people ride dragons? (Or whatever.) In both cases the suspension of disbelief is broken because things are just too convenient for the author.

    All of which is to say, I think the book, so far, is doing a great job of walking the line between being too outrageous and not weird enough. The middle world that Lyra and Will meet in is super unsettling and intriguing. And the fact that they don't go directly to each others' worlds avoids seeming too convenient. I do hope, however, that we get some explanation as to why the window opened between this particular world (the one that Asriel's bridge just happens to also lead to!) and Will's (our) world. If that isn't explained eventually I will be a bit annoyed, but I'm definitely willing to wait and see on that.

    (Also, I know most people reading are probably either cackling at me or super annoyed because you know the answer, but please resist the urge to spoil! Thank you <3 )

    • t09yavorski says:

      Watching people try to work it out themselves is so much more fun that I dont think anyone has even considered spoiling.

  33. BradSmith5 says:

    Yes! Amen to the "not asking questions" thing! I loved all of the exchanges between characters here, and I would have torn my hair out if we had just gotten a bunch of awkward, boring dialogue. Like "Let's just say things are different where I come from!" or "You wouldn't believe me if I'd told you!"

    And Lossthief, I saw three different kinds of rare adverbs this time! Quick––grab the pokéballs!

    • Partes says:

      That is my ULTIMATE PET PEEVE in anything to do with other worlds/magic/time travel/the future! It's SO FRUSTRATING. It's like the authors forget that these people generally are around each other for days if not weeks. SHIT LIKE WHAT YOU CAN DO WITH MAGIC AND WHERE YOU ARE FROM WOULD COME UP, AND JUST TRYING TO AVOID IT WOULD PISS THE OTHER PERSON OFF, NOT MAKE YOU SEEM MYSTERIOUS. RAAAAH

      I apologise for my rage, but it's so fdsknjfdsh frustrating. I have so many feelings that I must clearly share.

      Also: Pokemon adverbs. Worst videogame ever… or best?

      • BradSmith5 says:

        Sweet! I got an "Angrily" from your post! Also a "Furiously" and a Ratatta!

        But no, you don't have to apologize. What is the worst example of this you've encountered? I mean, besides Twilight and the pages of "Oooh, I can't tell you what I am, even though every person reading this knows." 😛

        • Partes says:

          I have a rather helpful habit of blocking books I can't stand from my brain, and so can only remember books I didn't agree with that I've read over the last three months. But the worst example I can think of recently (and I am positive I will be crucified for this but OH WELL) is in 'Neverwhere' by Neil Gaiman.

          I love Neil Gaiman. He's an incredibly talented storyteller. 'American Gods' is one of my favourite books ever. But I'm half the way through this book and just feel like smacking every character across the face. (maybe spoiler here but not really) No one talks to anyone about anything. Any time the main character actually goes "Wait, what the fuck is going on" he's told to shut up and treated like an idiot. And to make things more frustrating, he only asks about the most unimportant shit! [definite spoiler, if you're planning on reading the book more stop here! No really, SPOILER] Why the fuck can no one remember you? Don't just accept it. Question shit. Don't accept a hand wave, this is your effing life. Argh. Okay. And now we're just going to act like these people didn't ruin your life. Alright. Whatever.[/End spoiler] I'm not sure if this comes around later in the book, but even if it does I'm still so pissed off at the fundamental lack of empathy and curiosity displayed by anyone in the novel that I'm not sure I'd accept even a rational explanation, as at the time it just felt so frustrating. Everyone is just such a giant dick when it comes to saying what the fuck they're up to, and instead of explaining why they can't say they just act like you have no right to ask in the first place, and I feel like that's insulting to me as a reader. Uuuuugh.

          I will be murdered for this, but I wanted to like this book. I really did. Alas.

          And don't get me started on Twilight. 😛

          One of the reasons I like this chapter is how the consequences of a lack of familiarity with this world are immediate for Lyra. She steps out of the window and it's like 'BAM, YOU ARE NOT PREPARED. Yeah, we have giant moving metal machines of death everywhere. Deal with it.' And all the changes really, really upsets her, which is what would happen if someone went through such massive culture shock. One thing I do like about Pullman is that he deals with small things like this rather than hand waving them for the sake of convenience.

          • cait0716 says:

            Neverwhere is the rare book that I haven't been able to re-read. I've read American Gods, Anansi Boys, Stardust, and Good Omens more times than I can count. I remember liking Neverwear the first time, but I think a lot of that was me wanting to know what was going on. The second time I picked up Neverwear I only made it halfway through, because I got so frustrated with the characters. So now it sits on the shelf collecting dust.

          • BradSmith5 says:

            Oh man, that writer sounds terrible. And I forget about GOOD books that I read, so don't feel bad! 😉

            I did feel like yelling a bit in THIS chapter, though. I mean, Will says that he's worried about Lyra's ability to fit in––and then he lets her go through the portal FIRST!? ALONE!? O_O

            • Partes says:

              He's really not, that's the frustrating part. He's written one of the best Doctor Who episodes in decades/ever and I've loved his other novels. It's just this one book which I find so damn frustrating, and it's only because I've enjoyed his other work so much that I'm forcing myself to continue. Still, different strokes.

              Hah, I think that was just because Will wasn't going to be with her anyway. "We're in the middle of nowhere with nothing except a motorway, and they won't be watching, so what could go wrong? Oh, those giant metal things that we find normal just hit her. Probably should have thought of that." I think it's another case of simply not understanding what the other person would find confusing.

              At least, that's my rationalisation. 😛 Plus, he's twelve. I can cut him some slack. When I was his age I'd have been scared I'd get girl germs or something, and probably wouldn't have wanted to go with her in the first place. Oh, how things change.

            • Kit says:

              Neil Gaiman is an amazing author, honestly. American Gods, Anansi Boys, Stardust, Coraline, The Graveyard Book, Odd and the Frost Giants, The Wolves in The Walls, The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish, Sandman, Good Omens, MirrorMask, The Doctor's Wife… Neverwhere is an oddity in his writing, and this is coming from someone who loves it. I think it suffers from having been originally written for TV and the concepts could never scan quite the way he wanted them to in that format. but when trying to translate them into the book (which is better for explaining things than the tv series, but, as mentioned above, still doesn't), it never quite reached what it could have been.

              • BradSmith5 says:

                Amazing, thanks. I may need Mark's help before I get around to reading any of those, ha,ha,ha.

      • sabra_n says:

        ARGH YES. Barring a confidentiality clause or security clearance issues, just spit it out, heroes.

  34. Darth_Ember says:

    Probably forcibly, and with her protesting every step of the way.

  35. I can see that "Ci'gazze" would be pronounced that way. Is the full name pronounced the same way?

    • Ryan Lohner says:

      I think I heard "Sitta" once, but I didn't have the book with me so I don't know what the pronunciations referred to (and I forgot there was an abbreviation).

  36. nanceoir says:

    As John Rogers so succinctly put it, LOST: You Uncurious Motherf*ckers. "Oh, hey, look, water!"

  37. John Small Berries says:

    "I could not help but laugh at Will’s fake name, Mark Ransom, because it is so clearly a fake"

    These people might take exception to that statement.

    I couldn't help wondering if it was a reference to the protagonist in CS Lewis' Perelandra trilogy, Elwin Ransom, who found himself traveling to other worlds (not parallel dimensions, but, well, The Amber Spyglass had some bits that reminded me strongly of those novels). Then again, Pullman apparently loathed Lewis, so perhaps it was merely a coincidence.

    • I was just making the same connection, and it was bugging me that I couldn't remember Ransom's first name. (Elwin? Really? Rings absolutely no bells at all.)

      Pullman having no love for Lewis might not stop him from choosing Will's fake name as a nod toward another well-known trilogy in the same sub-genre (that being "multiple world spec fic with religious messages" – not as tiny a sub-genre as one might think!). In both books, "Ransom" is the character's pseudonym. Wellll, in Out of the Silent Planet it's explicitly stated that "Ransom" is a pseudonym to protect the narrator's friend. Lewis seems to change his mind about that in Perelandra, where he makes great theological hay of the name in a way that only makes sense if the protagonist's name really is Ransom. Grrr, narrative inconsistency!

      • John Small Berries says:

        If it makes you feel any better, I couldn't remember Ransom's first name, either – had to go to Wikipedia for it. And it didn't ring any bells for me, either.

    • hymnia says:

      It's precisely because of his vocal dislike for Lewis that I think this is an intentional reference. Also remember that the first book in the trilogy began with a *child hiding in a wardrobe*. I think it's pretty clear he is consciously taking tidbits from Lewis's work and subverting them.

  38. notemily says:

    One of the library patrons where I work is named Margherita Champagne.

  39. Ellalalalala says:

    This pleases me greatly.

  40. Stephalopolis says:

    I DID IT!!! I FINALLY CAUGHT UP!!!! *throws party for herself*

    At first, when they were talking about the Spectors, I thought "perhaps they were seeing other universes in the fog, and thought they were ghosts?" But then they go on to tell us they sucked the living out of the adults and… yeah, my theory flew out the window.

    I agree- it's the details that are wonderful. Will leaving money, Lyra having to get clothes and washed to blend in (and the fact that she can't wash her hair). I am loving these scenes with the two of them together. And while I wish we had gotten a paragraph or two in Lyra's POV, I am really enjoying getting to know Will and what he's all about.

    Another love- no sugarcoating. Lyra doesn't just instantly know how to act or behave or anything. She stays in her personification and she gets hit by a car. Awesome.

    I'm sad that Will left the notebook behind because I get the sense we won't be back in World #2 for awhile, and I neeeeeed to know what the book says.

  41. Ellalalalala says:


    I wonder, would Voldemort have been so reckless with his soul if it had been a daemon? And would his poor mutilated daemon turn out like the flayed baby-creature in Harry's mystical King's Cross?

    That would totally ruin his street cred.

  42. Ellalalalala says:

    Ooh, what was it?

    My sister's best friend believed Hermione was Hermy-1 until the fourth book (and my unintentionally cruel, giggling response).

  43. Partes says:

    When I first read this when I was thirteen I instantly pictured the spectres and Dementors as the same thing, and to this day in my head my mental picture of them is the same. So creepy.

  44. Ellalalalala says:

    I really want to see the expression that Lyra and Will shared. A sort of stupefaction mixed with dawning realisation topped with a hefty sprinkle of WTF.

    I really REALLY wanna see how this pans (heh) out… MORE MORE MORE! Including Spectres. I need to know more about these Dementoid-thingies.

    Of course, he does threaten to kill Lyra if she messes it up, and she believes him. That’s nice. That’s a nice thing to say.
    Do you think he was being serious? I thought it was just a throwaway line… but then I threaten to kill EVERYONE IN THE WORLD several times a day.

    • Coming from Will? Deadly serious threat. Certainly Lyra is primed to think so, given what the alethiometer told her about him.

      • Ellalalalala says:

        Oh no, definitely from her point of view. But he doesn't know she knows. I guess just reading that line again imagining Will saying it in a sincerely aggressive way changes my perception of him slightly.

  45. luckyduck says:

    Because of all the Dementor/Specters and deamons/patronuses comparisons, I now think that Lyra and Will should visit Harry's world and explore Hogwarts. Who's with me?

  46. That is so, so very much better than the airport I went through that had a big "THIS IS A NO JOKING ZONE" sign at the entrance to Security. Seriously. I think maybe it was Baltimore, but I can't remember quite.

    In the Denver airport, over the steps leading down from Security to the underground train, is a sign that simply says, "GOT LAPTOP?"

  47. Partes says:

    I've actually read fanfiction on this. 😛

    <a href="” target=”_blank”>

    Enjoy the creepy.

  48. enigmaticagentscully says:

    "I could not help but laugh at Will’s fake name, Mark Ransom, because it is so clearly a fake"

    Out of interest, why does that seem like a fake name? Seems pretty normal to me?

    • Mauve_Avenger says:

      I had a classmate who had Ransom as his first name, so I'm not nearly as inclined to think of Mark Ransom as a fake name as the non-Ransom Mark apparently is.

  49. @ladylately says:

    It certainly explains why Mark loves books but apparently hasn't read anything ever.

  50. Jenny_M says:

    Nobody snuggles with Max Power! You strap yourself in and feel the Gs!

  51. KvotheCase says:

    Mark Ransom is okay. Their was a guy who used to supply art materials to my school who was called Ignatious Craven. Really. That was his real name.

  52. The Doctor can take them there, correct? (Please?)

  53. BradSmith5 says:

    Haha,ha. I just watched the trailer. "You have no idea what I'm capable of!" Perfect example.

  54. Billie says:

    I always thought that Mark Ransom was kind of funny, but only in the circumstances. Because I think Ransom, kidnapping, shady dealings, the men trying to find the leather case, Will doing murder, and I turn it into a detective, noir type story. But that's just me…

    This is one of my favourite chapters. Spectres scare me shitless but this chapter makes me want to know more despite all the fear. WHAT ARE THESE THINGS THAT WILL EAT MY SOUL??

  55. hymnia says:

    I feel the need to point out that the name Mark Ransom is probably a C.S. Lewis reference. Ransom was the surname of the protagonist in his Space Trilogy.

    Oh! And also, it amused me that the false name he gives for himself is Mark and the name he initially gives for Lyra is Lisa, because my brother's name is Mark and my name is Lisa (that's not what I go by now, but I did as a child).

  56. Ryan Lohner says:

    Paticularly since Pullman himself was the omniscient narrator.

  57. @Chiparoo says:

    So I saw a comment somewhere above that I cant find again, but noticed a few people are making similar comments. So, I will reply to comments ~with my very own comment.~

    People have been pointing out the differences in Lyra's and Will's world by explaining that Lyra's world is in the Victorian Era, or it's timeline is currently in the early 1900's, while Will's world is in the 1990's or so. I dont think that's true. In fact, my theory is that all the worlds are at the same year.

    I think the power the Magisterium has over Lyra's world has served to suppress that particular world's technological advances, much like the Middle Ages of this world. That is to say, it's not like there were no advances whatsoever, but it moved slower, and had emphasis on very different things. The progression of science in Lyra's world moves at the pace of the Magisterium's will, because the Church never lost it's near-absolute power in that world.

    I also think the presence of magic in Lyra's world would have had some influence on the progression of technology, although magic in her world isn't really accessible for everyone, so it wouldn't be that large of an influence.

  58. @Chiparoo says:

    I assume "Chee-got-zuh" is the pronunciation of the shortening of it: Ci'gazze, that the children initially use, while the real name of the city, Cittagazze is pronounced something like, "Chee-ta-got-zuh."

  59. t09yavorski says:

    I knew how to wash mine as a kid but I never enjoyed doing it myself.

  60. Emma says:

    I love that you've changed it to "you en't prepared" at the top xD

    Whenever I read these books I always start saying "en't" without meaning to in conversation, I can't help it, haha.

  61. Mmsljr says:

    I just have to say it makes complete sense that Will is crafty. Pullman gave him the perfect backstory to setup how his character reacts to stuff. With his mother's illness he has had to already deal with an "alternate universe" and how to cover up abnormalities. It is absolutely fantastic that he has done all this. (and the fact that he dealt with mental illness at all, especially in the way that he did, is a rarity in sci fi/fantasy.) I heart these books.

  62. tigerpetals says:

    I always think of Specters as Dementors, and never remember the actual name. Also, it is reminding me of spectacles. I think Dementors is a better name.

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