Mark Reads ‘The Amber Spyglass’: Chapter 26

In the twenty-sixth chapter of The Amber Spyglass, Will and Lyra lead the procession of the dead toward their ultimate goal of escaping this wretched world, but that idea is easier said than done. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Amber Spyglass.



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For once–FINALLY–we get to experience joy. And not the joy of exception, and not moments that are wonderful and then get crushed without mercy just seconds later. JOY. It’s made even better by the fact that things get REALLY close to being abysmal. (Does that count as a pun? I’m counting it.)

I think part of this stems from the fact that I thought I’d been given every sign that this wasn’t go well. We open chapter twenty-six with the bleakness of the trek towards whatever location the harpies say can be used to escape. The Chevalier’s dragonfly has already died from a lack of food, and Lady Salmakia’s is not far behind. I was totally taken back by Salmakia offering her dragonfly her own blood in order to survive. That is just such a touching and intimate thing to do.

What contributed to my opening statement about the sense of impending doom that I got was how what happens in this chapter almost feels like a good bye. It’s as if everything has come together in just the right way and just the right time, and I thought that it was inevitable that this would fall apart. The first such moment is the appearance of Lee Scoresby. God, the fact that I get to type that is huge to me, and if there was ever a way that Pullman was going to figure out how to bring back past characters, this was it. LEE SCORESBY, I MISS YOU DEARLY. And standing next to him? JOHN PARRY. a;ldsfkjas;dlfkjasd;flkj WILL OMG MY HEART IS BURSTING FOR YOU.

And then something happens, and I get the purpose of it, and I understand absolutely none of it. I know that I am missing a huge piece of this puzzle, so it’s not like I don’t understand what I’ve been give. It’s clear part of this was left out on purpose. But John Parry tells Will that he has to cut away the hair from where a lock of Lyra’s hair has been stolen. So it’s clear to me that the lone hair left in the bomb was Lyra’s, not the monkey’s. Therefore, I understand why this happens, and how it relates to the story at large. I do not understand HOW THEY KNOW ABOUT THIS. How do either of these ghosts have an outside connection to the world? Isn’t that why the world of the dead is so terrible? You are specifically disconnected from everything involving life. Are there ghosts who can escape? Do they have ghostly spies? IS THERE A FORM OF GHOST TEXT MESSAGING? (As soon as I typed that, I thought of Ghost Umbridge yelling DID YOU GET MAH TEXT?)

Again, I get why it happens, I’m fascinated by the outcome, and I DON’T GET HOW IT IS EVEN POSSIBLE TO PULL OFF. Why do I get the sense that this is not going to be explained to me? Well…wait, that’s not true, but I’ll get to that at the end. LET US TALK OF THE ABYSS.

I really love that word, and it has always creeped me out. I blame that on old horror and sci-fi films and stories. An abyss has always implied this endless pit of darkness, where mysterious, unseen creatures dwell and eat you. It might explain my obsession with the earth opening up to eat people. It just might. So there’s something about the presence of an abyss (perhaps THE abyss) here in chapter twenty-six that both frightens me and excites me. What would the purpose of one serve? Where would it lead to, if anything at all? What happens if something living or ghost-like falls into it? What happens if I shove KING JOFFREY INTO THIS HOLE? None of you understand my hatred for him I AM A SPECIAL SNOWFLAKE.

I am avoiding commenting on the abyss in any serious way because I do have a deep-seeded fear of things without ends to them, specifically: holes, the deep ocean, pools I can see the bottom of, cliffs, high mountains, the tops of skyscrapers without proper protection around them, and other such ridiculous things. Sometimes it’s a near-phobia, and for years I would hyperventilate if I had to travel across a bridge that spanned open water. It’s not so bad these days, but the feeling that Pullman describes here through Lyra is eerily accurate to what I have experienced in terms of my own fear of heights and how vertigo works for me. (To be fair, though, I chuckled at the thought that ghosts still had to obey the laws of gravity in the world of the dead. This truly is a shit place if ghosts can’t float and fear falling into a black abyss. THIS IS A SHIT GHOST LIFE.)

Harkening back to my open statements, I started to believe that ghosts would begin to plummet into the abyss as Pullman described the way it “seemed to pull the eyesight down into it,” which is a fairly accurate description of how vertigo affects me. It was inevitable, I thought, and I felt that this entire chapter would lead to something utterly horrible or, at the very least, extremely bittersweet. As the ghosts began to doubt they’d ever reach the upper world, I started worrying that they might shove Lyra in, but then I remember they can’t, and I wondered how my brain ever allowed itself to come to that conclusion.

But really, Will’s explanation of why he doesn’t like the abyss is the worst of it all:

“And I tell you something about that hole down there. It’s the same kind of thing as when I cut a window. The same kind of edge. There’s something special about that kind of edge; once you’ve felt it you never forget it. And I can see it there, just where the rock falls away into the dark. But that big space down there, that’s not another world like all the others. It’s different. I don’t like it. I wish I could close it up.”

WELL, I’M EXTREMELY COMFORTED BY THIS. Actually, I was truly comforted by the small side conversation that John Parry, Lee Scoresby, and Chevalier Tialys have about fighting the Specters since they don’t have dæmons. Um…could this please happen? I don’t understand how that is possible, but I just want to spend more time with John Parry and Scoresby. Is that so much to ask? Plus, Tialys says he only has a few more days to live, and his death won’t be as shocking if I know he can “return” to the action.

While I thought I had this much of the story figured out, I must say that Lyra’s “fall” took me completely by surprise. As soon as she slipped due to the vertigo, I thought that Pullman would take this all in a new direction, that Lyra would find out what existed in this black world of nothingness (if that is indeed what is there). I wasn’t excited to see her fall to her doom, but I also figured that Lyra would find some way to escape. Plus, Will was the only one there who had the physical strength to save her, and he is forced to watch her slide farther away from him. God, that is THE WORST. He literally can do nothing without sacrificing himself  in the process. At best, he might be able to slow down her descent, but who else could help them? Ghosts have no physical presence.

Thankfully, Pullman has done such a fantastic job showing us just how awful the harpies are, so it’s a sign of just how important Lyra is that No-Name chooses to save Lyra. Given that they were so resistant to touching them before, this is a huge moment for Lyra and the harpies. I wouldn’t say it’s just as strong as the time Lyra’s dæmon is touched in The Golden Compass, but it’s akin to the idea at work there. Pullman is able to convey the meaning of a world that has no real familiarity to our own. We understand that this act of No-Name’s has never been done before. But what’s even more striking is how all of these creatures and ghosts react to Lyra being saved:

They were the only two human beings in that vast gulf of death. They clung together, and the ghosts clustered around, whispering comfort, blessing the harpy. Closest at hand were Will’s father and Lee Scoresby, and how they longed to hold her, too; and Tialys and Salmakia spoke to No-Name, praising her, calling her the savior of them all, generous one, blessing her kindness.

Well, that definitely has never happened. I don’t think this event is just a piece of the plot. I think it is indicative of the fierce way that Lyra and Will have sacrificed so much in order to do what they believe is right, and this is the ramification of that. They’ve found a way to bring joy, solace, and love to a world where all human emotion and life is literally and figuratively dead. They’re amazing in my book because of this. (Well, and everything else they’ve done, to be fair.)

Yet I still worried that something was waiting to happen and that this chapter would not end on a good note. Perhaps I’m just used to cynicism and negativity, or perhaps it’s just been a long while since things have gone right for Will and Lyra. But shockingly so, the group makes it up to pass over the abyss, and Will is able to cut into open space. They aren’t below the ground anymore.

They did it. Right? Right?

But then John Parry pulls his son aside, and drops some horrifying backstory onto his son, and we learn why he was sick, why the Guild of the Torre degli Angeli ruined their world, and why Lord Asriel’s plan will eventually fail:

Because a dæmon can get sick if it spends too much time in a world not its own.

I mean THAT IS SO LOGICAL AND OBVIOUS, and yet I did not think about it once. If anything, I thought about it backwards. I wondered if those who did not live in Lyra’s world got a dæmon after traveling there, but that now makes no sense. They already have one, but it is specific to the world they were born in. Thus:

“Lord Asriel’s great enterprise will fail in the end for the same reason: we have to build the Republic of Heaven where we are, because for us there is no elsewhere.”

OH MY HEART. I LOVE THIS IDEA. But why are all the dæmons in Lord Asriel’s world? And is Parry’s ability to “see” things the explanation for how he “saw” the bomb? ARE WE GOING TO GET A HUGE, MONUMENTAL FIGHT IN LORD ASRIEL’S WORLD? Because I’d love nothing more at this point. Still, I do feel like there is an awful lot left to tie up this trilogy, and there’s very little time to do that. To be fair, though, I felt the same thing about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and up until the end of the Battle of Hogwarts chapter, I thought the same thing: OH GOD HOW ARE YOU GOING TO TIE THIS ALL TOGETHER I AM IN FEAR OF SUCH THINGS.

Thankfully, though, chapter twenty-six does give us something so goddamn beautiful and cathartic that, for the moment, it’s easy for me to forget about the bigger questions. I think it’s touching and kind of wistful to end this chapter in the way Pullman chooses to do so, and I’d like to quote it and bask in its gorgeous warmth:

The first ghost to leave the world of the dead was Roger. He took a step forward, and turned to look back at Lyra, and laughed in surprise as he found himself turning into the night, the starlight, the air…and then he was gone, leaving behind such a vivid little burst of happiness that Will was reminded of the bubbles in a glass of champagne.

The other ghosts followed Roger, and Will and Lyra fell exhausted on the dew-laden grass, every nerve in their bodies blessing the sweetness of the good soil, the night air, the stars.

They really did it. They freed the ghosts trapped in the world of the dead. It’s fitting that Roger, the boy Lyra came back to save, is the first to experience the elation of becoming part of the world, and I am immensely satisfied with the mental image of Will and Lyra laying in the grass, watching the dead transform into Dust, spreading out to make up everything else around them.

It’s okay to feel good.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
This entry was posted in His Dark Materials, The Amber Spyglass and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

97 Responses to Mark Reads ‘The Amber Spyglass’: Chapter 26

  1. pennylane27 says:

    (As soon as I typed that, I thought of Ghost Umbridge yelling DID YOU GET MAH TEXT?)


  2. Ryan Lohner says:

    I was shaken the most by how the bomb's detonation could still be felt even with the portal closed. Does that mean it was big enough to be felt in every world? And if so, what does that mean for the world it was put in. I know they didn't have time to consider this, but it kind of bugs me that the ramifications of causing such an explosion in a world that may have a full population of its own is just ignored.

    • notemily says:

      That confused me too. John Parry was like "whatever, just put it in any world," and I was like "really?? what if there are people in that world who might not be too enthused about a bomb going off in their vicinity?"

      A bomb that opens an abyss into NOTHINGNESS is very different from a bomb that blows up one person. I wonder if the Church knew what they were doing when they created the device.

  3. pennylane27 says:

    That last image is too beautiful for words.

    And I kept expecting something to go wrong too. I was totally prepared for Lyra falling, but I definitely did not see the Harpy saving her.

    Also sir, you most definitely are not prepared.

  4. pennylane27 says:

    Oh, and because I just can't help myself, did anyone get into Pottermore? I'm in Hufflepuff! It's so beautiful!

    • knut_knut says:

      SO JEALOUS! I missed the chance to preregister and all that so now I have to wait for it to come out for real  How is it so far?

      • pennylane27 says:

        It's great! I mean, it's glitchy, right now they're fixing duelling and I can't see my notifications or brew potions, but it's definitely awesome. The new content from JKR is fantastic and hilarious and I can't wait til they add the next books. And yeah. I'm rambling.

        • knut_knut says:

          uuuuugh waiting is so haaaaaaaaaaard *whine whine whine* when does it open up for everyone again? October-ish? I can't wait!

    • Hanah_banana says:

      OH I'm so jealous! I'm waiting on my email, getting ridiculously frustrated and impatient! XD Can I ask what day you signed up on? Because I thought they were doing it in order of signing up but I signed up on day one and am still waiting so I figured not, which is sad because it means I have NO idea how long it will be.

      I'm SO glad it's so beautiful though, I had hoped that it would be! Is it fun? Is it awesome? DO YOU LOVE IT?

      • pennylane27 says:

        I registered on day one too, but I think that all the profile's I've seen say "date joined 31/7", so I maybe they haven't managed to get everyone from day one in yet.

        Last time I checked the Great Hall there were 25.000 students, and most are in Ravenclaw. Oh and Slytherin is winning the House Cup!

        And yes, it's awesome and fun and I LOVE IT! I don't want to spoil it for others, but I'll say that there are some pretty interesting things to learn!

        • Hanah_banana says:

          Oh wow only 25000? I was assuming they'd have added at least 100 000 by now! That makes me feel better then! Ooh sneaky Slytherin, will Gryffindor pull a Philosopher's Stone and come back to snatch victory from them? 😛 *far too invested*

          Yay it sounds so much fun! I'm glad you're enjoying it so much, can't wait to come and frolic with you!

    • rumantic says:

      Waiting here too D: Have had the first email though. I want to seeee!

    • Tilja says:

      How do you get into Hogwart at all? I'm still waiting for my notification to arrive and all I can see is the face of the page.

    • monkeybutter says:

      So jealous…so very jealous. I'm sure I'll get my welcome email at the very end of September. I've seen a picture of the Hufflepuff common room, and it's really cute! Ravenclaw is my favorite, but after seeing their descriptions, I'm not sure if I want to be in that house, haha. I'm glad you're having fun when it's not glitchy!

    • elusivebreath says:

      I did manage to preregister (thanks to a lovely MarkVerbs person who registered for me because I had to work!), but it was on the last day so I'm still waiting for my welcome letter. SO EXCITE!!

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:

      I haven't gotten the email to actually get in, but I did get into the beta testing!


      SHIT YEAH.

    • enigmaticagentscully says:

      SO JEALOUS. I did get into beta testing but I'm still waiting for my welcome email. 🙁

      What if the owls can't find my inbox???
      I feel like I did when I was a little kid and we went away for Christmas for the first time to my Grandma's, and I was afraid Santa wouldn't know where I was to drop off my presents…

  5. knut_knut says:

    Hahaha I read “do they have ghostly spies?” as “do they have ghostly PIES” -_- This truly is a shit ghost life if there are no ghostly pies.

  6. Noybusiness says:

    My only thought on why John knows about the bomb is that he's a shaman.

    • notemily says:

      Lyra keeps her ability to read the alethiometer in the land of the dead, so it makes a bit of sense that Parry would keep his shaman-y powers. Lyra isn't properly dead, though.

  7. Hanah_banana says:

    Oh god the end of this chapter :'D I think I actually cried a little bit when I first read it, and again when I first heard it on the audiobook because Roger is out in the world and he's so happy and now he's a part of everything instead of a frightened little ghost. And Lyra and Will can lie down in the grass in the fresh air, they're free of the world of the dead and they HAVEN'T died and even though everything is still horrible and there's war and awfulness, for one little moment everything is beautiful and nothing hurts <3

  8. frogANDsquid says:

    Yay im all caught up! I had band camp (make fun its OK) and had to have a Mark Reads catch up this weekend. Anyway i thought the reason John Parry knew about the bomb was because he’s a shaman but ghost text messaging works too.

    • reonyea says:

      I think band camp sounds awesome 🙂

    • echinodermata says:

      Random band camp love! I have good memories of band camp, even if it's a week of being tired and sore and dirty (the way we did it, at least). My band camp was intense and there shall be no making fun of band camp from me!

  9. Marie the Bookwyrm says:

    What happens if I shove KING JOFFREY INTO THIS HOLE?

    AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!!!!!!!!!! Yes! Let's make this happen!

    • elusivebreath says:

      Please do that ASAP Mark 😛

      • xpanasonicyouthx says:

        CAN I TAKE THIS BACK. because when i wrote this, I hadn't gotten to a certain part and

        V jvfu gb guebj Gurba Terlwbl vagb rirel cvg rire gung unf rire rkvfgrq naq gura erfheerpg uvz whfg gb qb vg ntnva naq ntnva naq ntnva. V pnaabg oryvrir ur SHPXVAT XVYYRQ OENA NAQ EVPXBA. JUB XVYYF PUVYQERA????

        I MEAN RIGHT. RIGHT????

  10. Wind's Name says:

    I think that if I had to choose an afterlife, I would either be in a library of books that goes on forever or do what happens here.
    Since the daemons have already been scattered, that means the ghosts get to reunite with them. 🙂

    Hey Mark, have you been watching the Doctor Who Specials?

    • t09yavors says:

      I have recently realized that none of the good books would be in heaven (according to some people). If so I don't want to go.

      • Wind's Name says:

        I didn't mean a library in Heaven. I meant that the afterlife is the library.

        • t09yavors says:

          Sorry for the confusion. I knew that; I was pointing out that, if I could choose, Christian heaven as described by many fundementalist Christians would not be my ideal choice.

  11. rumantic says:

    I wonder if they have mouldy pies like at Nearly Headless Nick's party.

  12. monkeybutter says:

    What happens if I shove KING JOFFREY INTO THIS HOLE? None of you understand my hatred for him I AM A SPECIAL SNOWFLAKE.

    Are all of your A Clash of Kings predictions going to be fantasies about making Lannisters suffer and die? We'd all understand if they were.

    I also really don't like things that I can't see the end or bottom of, but I'm okay as long as they're in the open air, with the exception of the ocean, because it is gross. There's also the weird condition that I'm okay with subways, but driving through tunnels freaks me the fuck out, probably out of fear for water bursting through or a fiery death by alien attack. And I can't look down on escalators, or else I get dizzy, and the ones where I can't see the bottom or top of are the worst. I always walk on them because I want to get off, but I can't look down at where I'm placing my feet while descending. And never, ever again will I ride the one at the Wheaton metro; I was nauseated and had to stare at the wall. That thing is a terror. It almost makes me feel bad for taunting my sister whenever we crossed the Bay Bridge as kids. And this has been a riveting tale of my fear of abysses.

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    Poor Lyra. I really feared for her the first time I read it, though I simultaneously couldn't believe that she wouldn't be alright. I enjoyed seeing how the harpies have changed now that they've been given the choice to do good and not feast on misery. It's clear that they'll keep their promise to guide the ghosts out. It's a sweet turnaround for their characters, and it's made even better by seeing what awaits the ghosts. I'm so happy that Roger is free and no longer has to worry about anything. It's all very ~circle of life~ and touching.

    • Tilja says:

      Thanks for letting me know who King Joffrey was! I had no idea what Mark was talking about. Now I relate and agree with him. I really liked Sean Bean.

      The harpies are merely creatures getting what they could for their survival. You can't blame them for what the Authority gave them as their only source of food, they knew no better. When they were given something to make them better they turned immediately for that. I consider them creatures of nature and nothing less.

      • monkeybutter says:

        That's a good point. I like the implication that they're not inherently good or bad, they just do what they need to to survive. And when presented with a more pleasant option, they take it!

    • barnswallowkate says:

      If it's any consolation, the escalators at the Wheaton metro are the longest in the Western Hemisphere, so it's not like you were scared of just any old escalator. (Side note: yayyyyyyyyyy MoCo, we should do a Mark Does Stuff DC Meetup sometime. Maybe we can convince Mark to fly across the country to meet all 5 of us here?)

      Also in ID4 the tunnels saved people from fiery deaths by alien attacks! Does that help at all?

      • xpanasonicyouthx says:


        I have never been to DC! I would love to!

        • ninjac8 says:

          the worst is when the Wheaton escalators are broken. I've only been there twice and one time they broke while I was going up it. soooo loooonnnnggg.

          But yes, Mark, come to DC! We will give you all the hugs approved by the government!!!!

        • barnswallowkate says:

          Oh god if you came here that would be like the coolest thing ever in my life, no joke.

          I've been trying to think of a Mark Does Stuff Official way for you to come out here. The only con we really have in this area is Farpoint in Baltimore in February. Saul & Ellen Tigh will be guests next year. I've never been there or to any con, so I'm not sure what would be involved, but I bet you could do the same panel you did at LeakyCon. These are the panels they had last year but watch out, there are spoilers all over their site for BSG and other shows you haven't watched yet.

          Alternatively, if you want to come for vacation/touristing there are several of us here who I'm sure would be happy to show you around! I rarely actually go downtown so it would be fun to see the sights. If/when you want to sort something out just email me at!

        • barnswallowkate says:

          Oh god if you came here that would be like the coolest thing ever in my life, no joke.

          I've been trying to think of a Mark Does Stuff Official way for you to come out here. The only con we really have in this area is Farpoint in Baltimore in February. Saul & Ellen Tigh will be guests next year. I've never been there or to any con, so I'm not sure what would be involved, but I bet you could do the same panel you did at LeakyCon. These are the panels they had last year but watch out, there are spoilers all over their site for BSG and other shows you haven't watched yet.

          Alternatively, if you want to come for vacation/touristing there are several of us here who I'm sure would be happy to show you around! I rarely actually go downtown so it would be fun to see the sights. If/when you want to sort something out just email me at!

        • bookworm67 says:

          OMG YES come to DC! Also I did not know that about the Wheaton escalators…I just thought they were unusually long…

          MoCo peeps unite 😉

      • monkeybutter says:

        Haha, I knew that going in, and yet I still put myself through that torture. Hey, there may only be 5 of us, but we're very dedicated! Yes, come to DC! We have…free museums?

        I always focus on the doors when driving through tunnels, no lie. Unless, of course, I'm distracted by a puddle WHICH REALLY SHOULDN'T BE THERE.

      • notemily says:

        The Porter Station escalator in Boston scared the crap out of me. I'm glad I've never ridden the Wheaton escalator.

        (Apparently SOMEONE DIED FROM THE PORTER STATION ESCALATOR. I'm glad I didn't know that when I rode it.)

  13. Tilja says:

    “What happens if I shove KING JOFFREY INTO THIS HOLE? None of you understand my hatred for him I AM A SPECIAL SNOWFLAKE.”

    I don’t even know who that guy is so no judgement from me 😉

    “I am avoiding commenting on the abyss in any serious way because I do have a deep-seeded fear of things without ends to them, specifically: holes, the deep ocean, pools I can see the bottom of, cliffs, high mountains, the tops of skyscrapers without proper protection around them, and other such ridiculous things.”

    It may be related to eyesight problems as well. In my case it’s how I can’t very well tell the distance because of near sightedness or something that distorts distance so I’m uneasy in high edges because I might bust the calculation and slip. Add to that the pull of the gravitational force and… Ok, I better stop that now.

    I’ll end with the old chant: YOU ARE NOT CLOSE TO THE DEFINITION OF PREPARED. In fact, the more is said here, the farther you drift from any sort of preparation.

  14. FlameRaven says:

    What happens if I shove KING JOFFREY INTO THIS HOLE? None of you understand my hatred for him I AM A SPECIAL SNOWFLAKE.

    Don't worry, no matter how much you think you hate Joffrey now, he will always rise to another level of being a complete asshole. Fortunately A Song of Ice and Fire is a series where your flaws (and your virtues!) pretty much always come back to bite you in the ass, so you can be reasonably confident that karma will catch up with Joffrey eventually.

  15. Perhaps there is no magic in my soul, but I really could not see the joy in being obliterated into atoms. I am terrified of nonexistence; I could give a shit if my atoms were part of the fucking universe or whatever. I WANT TO HOLD ON TO THEM.

    • BradSmith5 says:

      Yeah, Spectral, me either. Didn't want to be the first to admit it, though. I'll let you be Mr. Joyless Buzzkill today, ha,ha,ha.

      • xpanasonicyouthx says:

        Count me in this group, too. I mean, unless my atoms were conscious and I could like…be in a thousand places at once and like…sneak into really awesome concerts to watch them, I dunno. I'll stick with being alive.

        • Patrick721 says:

          Yeah, I kind of feel the same way. The idea of oblivion, of utter nothingness, kind of freaks me out.

          Actually, that's totally what I'd do with a time machine. The hell with furthering scientific research, I'm going to see Led fucking Zeppelin!

          • _Sparkie_ says:

            I kind of agree, I would not want to be millions of atoms, but I don't think spending eternity in the world of the dead sounds like a bundle of laughs either. Of the two, I reckon being part of the universe is better than torment by the harpies.

            • echinodermata says:

              That's my take, too. Top choice is to stay alive, but to be not-quite-dead as in they still exist in conscious form but are caught in some unpleasant netherworld for eternity? I'll take atomized and returned to the universe over that fate.

        • tigerpetals says:

          I think they have a consciousness? I mean they became Dust, and Dust is consciousness? Though maybe not as the individual people they were, or they'd still be ghosts. I don't want to lose my individuality, but I'd choose this over both the world of the dead and oblivion (which is what I think will happen in real life).

  16. BradSmith5 says:

    Ah man, Mark, you should totally visit Missouri's caves; they'd help you get over your fear of abysses. The vast, bleak expanses you'll see don't REALLY go down forever, but the lighting is poor enough to make you believe! And if you ask real nice the tour guides will extinguish the lamps so that you know what true darkness and horror feels like! Missouri!

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:


      I should say my fear of abysses is equal to my excitement of them, so I would totally do this.

      • Patrick721 says:

        I can't remember the exact quote, so I'll just say that the whole fear/excitement thing makes me think of that part in The Satan Pit when the Doctor's talking about "the urge to jump".

        Am I supposed to capitalize the "the" when I write "the Doctor"?

      • BradSmith5 says:

        Ha,ha,ha,ha. Well give me a call the next time you're town––we'll memorize and re-enact this chapter as we take the tour. 😉

    • FlameRaven says:

      I went to visit the Mammoth Cave system in Kentucky, and there is an option where you can take a lantern tour. You go off the main lighted paths and take a tour through the chambers lit by only a dozen flame lanterns among 20-30 people. It was really quite stunning, and surprising just how much you can see with that little light. It also gave me enormous respect for all the people who went into those caves with just a tiny light throughout history.

      • BradSmith5 says:

        Whoa, that sounds amazing. Any cave explorer of any time period gets my respect. I mean, if you get lost or trapped what's gonna save you? Flares? GPS? And yet they'd crawl on their bellies through a foot-tall crack just to see if there's another chamber past it. Mind-blowing.

        • FlameRaven says:

          Indeed. The tour did include at least one story along the lines of "…and that's where we found the skeleton of an early explorer who came in searching for something, and unfortunately got trapped and crushed when a boulder above him shifted."

        • notemily says:

          Cave exploring and mining is another thing that scares me. I don't like the idea of TONS OF EARTH being above me at any given moment. I would like to be able to see the sky, thanks.

    • drippingmercury says:

      High five, fellow Missourian! Mark needs to come see all the caves. OK, that would be a lot of caves, but still. CAVES.

  17. muzzery says:

    So I assume the explosion from Lyra's hair (LMAO oh how that sounds) was what caused the abyss to open, right? Or was the abyss already open?

  18. arctic_hare says:

    I always thought it was a little odd and even a bit too convenient that John Parry and Lee Scoresby somehow knew about the bomb, but Parry being a shaman could explain it, yeah. That makes me more okay with what is otherwise strange and unexplained. Of course, it's far more important in the end that we get to see these two at all. Especially Lee! :'( Oh, I'd missed him; and I wanted to cry that he couldn't hug Lyra, more than at Lyra and Roger being unable to touch.

    That abyss… brrr, creepy. But strangely, in a way I don't mind. Even more strange is that while I share your fear of things without end, it really depends on the thing without end. I'm scared of heights, for example, and those sinkholes in Guatamala creep the shit out of me. But the ocean? No. That I feel only fascination towards, I love the ocean. And so here, I feel creeped out and yet deeply curious about this particular abyss. I bet if Lyra fell down in it and then escaped, she'd tell us tales of the abyss. In an odd coincidence, it makes me think of this:

    <img src="; border="0" alt="Image and video hosting by TinyPic">

    That banner looks like the site is being attacked by The Nothing or something.

    • Marie says:

      The Neverending Story reference! One of my favorites books! No one ever seems to talk about it 🙁

    • tigerpetals says:

      That is interesting, where is it from? Is it a real geographical feature/myth? Googling it.

      • arctic_hare says:

        Hahaha, no, it's from a video game. XD Called Skies of Arcadia. It's a cool game, with an Age of Exploration feel; you play as a pirate in a world where there are no oceans, just skies, and there's a cool ongoing sidequest where you find things called Discoveries on the world map. They range from strange wildlife, to natural rock formations, to old ruins, to mysterious locations like the one above, and many more things. It really adds flavor to the world.

    • notemily says:

      I love being NEAR the ocean, but the depth and vastness of it would terrify me if I ever had to go scuba diving in the middle or something. Beaches are great, but beaches aren't near the kind of ocean that goes down FOREVER. I think the fact that we don't even know all of what's down there scares me, too. GIANT SQUIDS are scary enough. I don't think I could ever ride in a submarine.

    • Jack_of_Hearts says:

      Oh, hello there obscure detail from one of my favourite games of all time 😀 I haven't played it in around three years and I still recognise anything Arcadia-related instantly. Of course, now I'm getting the urge to play again and I know I'll regret it. As much as I love it, that game terrifies me like nothing else. Dark rift *shudder*

  19. Long is the way
    And hard, that out of Hell leads up to Light.
    Paradise Lost

    They did it; they made it. The trek up along the edge of that awful abyss (although the streaming golden light sounds nice) ends with a release from banal grey eternity, into light and life. I love it.

    Gur jvaqbj bcraf vagb gur zhyrsn'f jbeyq: tenffynaq naq tebirf bs gerrf "uvtu nf pnfgyrf." Arkg puncgre, V'z ernyyl tbvat gb unir gb oevat hc ubj zhpu gur zhyrsn'f jbeyq unf orra frg hc nf Rqra; gur qrnq wblbhfyl wbvavat guvf jbeyq vf whfg nabgure cvrpr bs gung chmmyr.

  20. ChronicReader91 says:

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who finds abysses absolutely terrifying. I’ve gotten better about things like heights and bridges, but just the idea of a bottomless pit? *shudder*

    I was reading this chapter while sitting in the passenger’s seat during a rather long drive, and when Lyra started to fall in, I gripped the sides of the book really hard and was whispering “Oh no, oh no, oh no.” Then when No-Name grabbed I breathed a great big sigh of relief. At which point my mom looked over from driving and said “That must be a really good book.”

    The final image, of all the ghosts rushing out and vanishing into the night, is so beautiful.

  21. @unefeeverte says:

    The King Joffrey thing… I just clicked on the link on twitter even though I don't read this series, JUST because your tweet contained that name. EVERYONE knows why you hate him.

  22. FuTeffla says:

    I do not like the word 'abyss'. There is no such thing as a nice abyss. There's never an abyss with puppies and marshmallows at the bottom of it (although if there was, I would go there on holiday FOREVER).

  23. Raenef says:

    I know that feeling of looking into a big hole or something deep. It's like you're looking into the sky but it's the wrong direction, and it's unnerving.

  24. jeedai says:

    I always thought that Lee and John Parry knew about the bomb because of one of the men that Lord Roke had killed, or otherwise died in the process of Mrs. Coulter's escape– HE was a ghost now, and when he arrived in the world of the dead then the news spread until it reached those who knew what to do with that information.

    I thought that was spelled out in the text, but maybe I'm imagining it.

  25. John says:

    sorry to sound like a whiny fan but….

    what ever happened to those clash of kings predictions? I assume you just got delayed in putting them up but I was looking forward to laughing at your sweet unprepared-ness and going "holy fuck how did you guess that." Like that DH one you made…the one that was the most shocking thing in the book that you got spot on.

  26. miriamdelirium says:

    This is one of my favorite chapters in TAS (I love the world of the dead chapters!). I was so happy with Lee's return, and couldn't wait for Mark to get to it. The imagery is beautiful, from No-Name saving Lyra, to Lady Salmakia feeding her dragonfly, and to the ghosts being freed and becoming part of everything, and being joyful for that. It's so vivid, even though it's mostly gray (if that makes any sense).

    Also, I have the same fears about things that drop off. I hate those D.C. escalators, but at least they've made them with a few steps of level ground before they drop off (so one can't see the drop! Argh!). I have a hard time driving in cities like Seattle and San Francisco because there are areas where the street seems to just drop off (and some bridges like that, too). Oddly, I used to love roller coasters! I guess it's the thrill of being frightened! When I was at the Grand Canyon for the first time, I'd had to lie on my stomach before I was able to throw a rock over. It was frightening! I don't think I'd try to throw anything into the abyss, though.

  27. tigerpetals says:

    I have been waiting for this. This image is perfect. Do you know. I think this book influenced me without even realizing it. The idea of dust, of people being a living part of a glorious universe even after death; the whole Eden as metaphor for acquiring knowledge and that knowledge is a beautiful, bittersweet and worthy thing to lose ignorance/"innocence" for.

    Years after reading this, I would come across pantheism. The idea that the universe is itself divine, god. And Carl Sagan, with 'we are stardust.' And this is the one divine feeling that I can say I've experienced.

  28. notemily says:

    Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.


  29. flootzavut says:

    "I am avoiding commenting on the abyss in any serious way because I do have a deep-seeded fear of things without ends to them, specifically: holes, the deep ocean, pools I can see the bottom of, cliffs, high mountains, the tops of skyscrapers without proper protection around them, and other such ridiculous things. Sometimes it’s a near-phobia, and for years I would hyperventilate if I had to travel across a bridge that spanned open water."

    FWIW, me too – the easiest thing to say is I have a fear of heights, but it's not that – I have a fear of depths! As long as I feel safe (note, feel, not necessarily being but feeling safe) then I am fine, but some things freak me out that logically "shouldn't". For example, I struggle with the oceanscapes on Google Earth, and when I have not been well even a line drawn map of an atoll made me feel sick because I knew the ring of it was the top of a volcano and the impression of that made me feel really scared/ill even though it was not even a photo.

    So you are not alone in your weird phobia! And yes, Pullman's description of vertigo is very familiar. Makes me wonder if he is a fellow sufferer.

  30. Dayana says:

    What killed me the most about this chapter was reading about the ghosts who instinctively JUMPED OUT to save Lyra. I just felt this deep despair like "aww they want to help..but they can't…and now they just did all that walking for nothing and will never get to go back to the living world"

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