In the seventh chapter of The Amber Spyglass, Dr. Mary Malone discovers just how disorienting her trip into parallel worlds is going to be. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Amber Spyglass.
CHAPTER SEVEN: MARY, ALONE
Okay, so it’s no mystery that I deeply love and adore Mary. (Also, I almost typed out her full name there and realized that it basically spells out the name of this chapter. HOLY SHIT ~it’s a clue~.) Therefore, I am ecstatic that when Pullman finally gives us what is arguably the first “slow” chapter in The Amber Spyglass, it belongs to her. That’s because he lets her explore AN ENTIRE NEW PARALLEL WORLD.
Oh, there is so much here that is right and holy. Shall we?
Reasons Why Chapter Seven of The Amber Spyglass Is The Best Thing Of All Things
1) Mary Malone is a magical badass.
It’s left completely unexplained (and I like ascribing such things as “magic” because you can’t tell me otherwise), but Mary repels the presence of the Specters in Cittágazze. Do I care if it’s convenient? Nope. She’s Mary Malone. She is an amazing scientist and probably has all of experimental physics working on her side or something. Or the Specters are like OH SHIT IF WE EAT HER WE WILL EXPLODE.
2) We learn more about the symbols of the I Ching and Pullman writes another segment of someone reading Dust and it is absolutely nothing like the others.
That’s what I want: variance. If we’re inevitably going to have a trilogy where multiple characters have to do the same thing in their own way, I want something that doesn’t feel repetitive or rehashed. Is it a lot to ask? Maybe. But now that we know that Dust is essentially rebel angels and that humans can openly communicate with them, Pullman is able to make Mary’s session seem so brand new and exciting. Unlike the alethiometer or the Cave, the I Ching method of divination gives a person “enigmatic” guidance through the use of slightly ambiguous bits of poetry. Through this, Mary is able to determine that she should head towards some sort of mountain or summit for both good fortune and nourishment, as well as “openings,” which she takes to mean the windows into other worlds. What’s so fascinating is that it seems as if the angels use this method to communicate because it inherently means the user of whatever device is interested and curious about the world. They seek knowledge and self-discovery, and it is exactly what the rebel angels have needed all along to stage their war against the Authority.
I love this book.
3) Mary travels to a brand new world we have never seen like she’s going next door to a neighbor to borrow a cup of sugar.
I mean….right? Think about it: A computer in a lab hooked up to Mary through neuron sensors told her to walk through a window into a parallel universe and find Lyra and that dark matter is rebel angels and that she needs to be the serpent and all of this is the most ridiculous shit of all time and she just does it. Yes, she’s a tad reluctant, and yes, she experiences fear, but WHO CARES when you are this awesome? Sometimes, I just want to BE her.
4) Pullman gives a new world that is both nothing like our own and one just like our own.
And he does a hell of a job communicating this very concept. A lot of that is done through Mary Malone, who approaches her experience in this new world from the point of view of a scientist. She knows what is familiar to her while still acknowledging that things don’t necessarily have to work in the same way they do in her world. The only way to describe nearly everything here is to compare it to something else:
…and there were flowers like poppies, like buttercups, like cornflowers, giving a haze of different tips to the landscape.
Even the hummingbird that Mary interacts with is a bee to her until she takes a closer look. It’s the only reference she has until she realizes she has to stop putting things in her terms. That’s especially important when she meets the herd of mysterious grazing creatures right after this. Oh, yeah.
5) THERE ARE CREATURES WITH LEGS IN A DIAMOND FORMATION.
It’s so strange that I LITERALLY CANNOT PICTURE IT IN MY HEAD. I don’t think this would be particularly spoilery, but is there fanart for these creatures? I can’t work out what they look like because….seriously, there’s no precedent for their appearance. I CAN’T DO IT, please help me Internet.
6) This chapter is the “multiple worlds” idea of quantum theory in action.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Schrödinger’s cat showed up. NO OKAY, JUST KIDDING, LOL. But seriously, every world splits off from another with every path taken, and we’re looking at a world that probably split off from one a long, long time ago. Diamond-shaped leg formations? Seedpods shaped like discs? Trees twice as big as the California redwoods? Not nonsense, but reality. Gorgeous.
7) HERD. OF. WHEELED. ANIMALS.
Yes, they aren’t actual wheels grown on their bodies, but who cares about the details in this case? I mean…this is all so beautifully weird and strange, and none of it is written in a state of terror. Mary approaches these creatures with such an affectionate curiosity that it simply fills me with excitement. I LOVE THIS.
8) Oh, and Mary talks to the wheeled creatures.
I don’t even care to know the mechanics of how that’s possible. They repeat what Mary says by mimicking the phonetics of the words, but soon learn from what she says. THIS IS SO COOL.
9) Oh, and one of the creatures feeds Mary milk.
Okay, that might be a tad weird, but it was offered up! What was she going to do? I saw it as a rather touching moment, an act of diplomacy of sorts. Mary approached the mulefa, as she refers to them, with respect, and they seem to have returned that.
10) I’M SORRY, THEY LET HER RIDE ON THEIR BACKS.
I am so incredibly jealous!!!!! How awesome is that? The amount of trust they have so rapidly from their first meeting is astounding, and I mean that in a good way. Mary gets to ride one of the mulefa. WHY ISN’T THIS BOOK REAL.
Oh god, I never want this to end.