In the fifth chapter of The Amber Spyglass, we learn what Lord Asriel has been up to in the fortress he is building, and Baruch arrives to share the crucial information Asriel will need to defeat the Authority. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Amber Spyglass.
Is it okay to state that this might be my favorite trilogy of all time at this point? I mean….I honestly don’t believe there is anything left that could happen that could make me hate this. Every new chapter is just as exciting as the last, and the story that unfolds makes me feel nothing but joy.
CHAPTER FIVE: THE ADAMANT TOWER
I was wondering when we’d actually find out what Lord Asriel was doing, and in the process, I realize why this story works so well as a fantasy. I don’t know how Pullman could have told a story about many-worlds as is done here without the genre, but that’s not to say that having this be a fantasy is at all a hindrance to the story. But now I understand why it was so gutting that The Golden Compass film adaptation turned out the way it did: we are probably never going to see these last two books re-created on the screen. I’m not the kind of reader who feels that books should be made into movies. There’s only a few books I’ve ever seen adapted to film that absolutely worked in that medium, so I’m perfectly fine with the worlds in my head. The experience of a novel is simply hard to replicate on film, and most of the time, I’m perfectly content with film and literature existing on separate planes.
But SERIOUSLY. How amazing would it be to see Lord Asriel’s fortress done on screen in the right way? How riveting would it be to see Baruch fly into a cloud of mephitic vapors and remain the only angel to leave from it, flying on to the “fortress of basalt” that jutted out of the mountain? It’s not that the images in my head are incomplete by any means. I know I’ll always be happy with what Philip Pullman has given us, but GOSH THAT WOULD BE SO EXCITING. Maybe a graphic novel would even suit this, but I really enjoy how visual Pullman’s world building is, with its emphasis on colors and geography, of fully-detailed architecture and grandiose scale. This fortress is very much real in my head, and it’s because of Pullman’s writing that I’m able to feel this way.
For the record: This chapter also made me crave a mug of chocolatl as well. MMMM CHOCOLATE.
But honestly, we need to discuss Lord Asriel and the Gallivespians. We haven’t learned how Lord Asriel was able to send out the call to so many beings across the universe, but the introduction of the Gallivespians is another by-product of having multiple parallel worlds. We don’t even know where these tiny creatures come from, and I love that despite the weirdness of it all, no one in this fortress ever questions any of this. I suppose at this point that would be silly, but STILL. This is so awesome!
Like Mrs. Coulter, my confusion over Lord Asriel’s character stems from the fact that his actions seem to contradict each other. He is engaged in what we are told is a moral war, yet he had to commit the most heinous act in order to start it. I don’t know if I should despise him or pity him. At the very least, though, chapter five helps me begin to sort how I react to this man.
Right from the start, I knew that Lord Asriel was choosing to ask the strangest questions of Lord Roke, the spy captain. He has been hearing rumors and talk about Lyra’s importance to the future, but he does not seem at all interesting in how she is actually doing. He first asks what the Church thinks of her. Not where she is. Not if she’s safe. Not if she hates him for killing her friend. He’s clearly concerned about the right things! Lord Roke reveals to Lord Asriel what we already know: That Lyra will be faced with a choice in the oncoming crisis, and her behavior during that moment will affect everything. (I’m assuming this is directly referring to the witches’ prophecy of Lyra being Eve in the second war against the Authority.
When Lord Roke leaves, the first thing Lord Asriel says to his dæmon gives me hope that he has since realized the immense wrongness in what he had done at the end of the first book:
“She came to me on Svalbard and I ignored her,” he said. “You remember the shock…I needed a sacrifice, and the first child to arrive was my own daughter…”
YES. This is awful and you should feel awful for doing it. You betrayed your own daughter and murdered her best friend!
“But when I realized that there was another child with her, so she was safe, I relaxed. Was that a fatal mistake? I didn’t consider her after that, not for a moment, but she is important, Stelmaria!”
OH. HEY. HEY, LORD ASRIEL. Maybe you should consider the fact that you left your only daughter in the middle of the North Pole. That might be something more pressing than the fact that you can use Lyra in your war against God?
It’s clear now that Lord Asriel is not only unapologetic, but that people exist solely as objects of need for him. He needed a child. He was brought both Lyra and Roger, killed Roger, and left his own daughter behind. And now that she is allegedly so important to his war, he suddenly needs her again?
BOO TO YOU, LORD ASRIEL. I mean, I’m behind your war against the Authority in theory, but the method in which you are doing this is PRETTY FUCKED UP. She is your daughter. What are you doing?
The arrival of Baruch was exciting enough for me, but I was saddened that he was so dearly wounded, and it became obvious that this angel’s life is hanging by a thread. But the angel succeeded in finding Lord Asriel, and Baruch knows he must pass along this information as quickly as possible.
Oh my god, what Baruch tells Lord Asriel is MIND-MELTINGLY AMAZING. What he and Balthamos had failed to share with Will was the fact that they had discovered that the Authority considered “conscious beings of every kind [to be] dangerously independent,” so much so that “Metatron is going to intervene much more actively in human affairs.”
!!!!!!!!!! THE THINGS I AM FEELING RIGHT NOW !!!!!!
I mean, this revelation alone changes everything. Is Pullman about to speculate about a world (or worlds, rather) that are affected by a much more active God? God is going to finally start to intervene in human lives? Intervene how? OH GOD I WANT TO KNOW.
“The churches in every world are corrupt and weak, he thinks, they compromise too readily…He wants to set up a permanent inquisition in every world, run directly from the Kingdom. And his first campaign will be to destroy your Republic….”
SLAP ME IN THE FACE WITH A TROUT. Oh hell, this is just….this is filling me with an excitement I’ve not felt in a long time. God wants to gain more control!!! Does he want to return to a world that resembles what the Old Testament was like? Or something entirely new? I CAN’T EVEN THINK PROPERLY.
As Baruch begins to explain the subtle knife that Lord Asriel will need, elaborating on Will and Will’s demand that he not come before Lord Asriel until Lyra is found, I laughed at Lord Asriel’s shock that Stanislaus Grumman had a son, and that son is the bearer of the subtle knife. If something surprises Lord Asriel, then shit has most certainly gotten realer than we could ever hope for.
I was more shocked, though, by the gentle tone with which Asriel takes when he realizes that Baruch is dying from the choice to come here and deliver this information. It doesn’t feel fake to me, and it doesn’t seem like an attempt to manipulate Baruch. Baruch is going to talk either way, but Asriel actually seems disturbed and maybe a little touched that Baruch has done so much for him. He even compliments the speed in which Baruch arrived.
“It is the only gift I have,” said Baruch,” except the love of Balthamos, whom I shall never see again.”
And in an instant, my ecstatic fascination with this chapter turns quickly to complete sadness. Unlike the death of Lee Scoresby, I now knew that Baruch’s death was inevitable. It was just a matter of time, and there was no point in holding out any hope. Christ, and he’s never going to see the one angel he’s loved for THOUSANDS OF YEARS. UGH my creys y’all.
Even worse, we learn that Baruch’s brother is actually Metatron, once named Enoch. Baruch begins to share the reason he was cast out initially and became a rebel, telling Asriel that Metatron was a “lover of flesh” and “had many wives,” and I imagine that had Lord Asriel not interrupted him, he would have said that his homosexuality was the reason for his banishment.
Who knew I would one day read a book about gay angels banned by other angels? This book.
Unfortunately, Baruch never gets to tell Lord Asriel where his daughter is. A draft from the door opening in the room is enough to send Baruch’s form into chaos, and he disappears from existence. DAMN IT. I wanted more sassy gay angels.
It’s entirely indicative of Lord Asriel’s motivations that he is only briefly distracted by Baruch’s death before he immediately moves into action, setting forth a plan for himself and others to head out to rescue Lyra. But, again, this is not because he loves his daughter and he wants to make sure she is safe. Lord Asriel may be fighting a moral war that is necessary and noble, but he is seeking out his daughter only because he needs her for his own goals.
Goddamn, that is a depressing thought.
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