Mark Reads ‘The Amber Spyglass’: Chapter 27

In the twenty-seventh chapter of The Amber Spyglass, Dr. Mary Malone learns personally of the horrific future of Dust, and Father Gomez MEANS BUSINESS. He is THE MOST SERIOUS PRIEST EVER. Also what the fuck. If you’re at all intrigued, then it’s time for Mark to continue reading The Amber Spyglass.


This is a short chapter, but it’s not lacking in any sort of crucial information. I think I am getting a much better picture of why Mary’s story is so important to the trilogy, but I haven’t yet been able to figure out how she’ll eventually meet up with Lyra and Will. She has to in order to tempt her. Of course, then that leads me to another set of questions concerning exactly how that is supposed to work, but I don’t feel like I have enough information to even begin to ask the right questions. (Or do I? DUN DUN DUN.)

For now, though, Pullman concerns himself with Mary’s part of the story, where the mulefa help construct a platform so that Mary can observe Dust in a more comprehensive way. Like her experience high up in the tree earlier in the book, Mary feels a unique sensation of bliss when she settles into her new platform. Here, though, she must concern herself with less happy thoughts. Why is the sraf drifting in one direction? What happened three hundred years prior to this to cause the change in the world of the mulefa? Pullman gives a bit more context to this number by telling us that at the same time, the subtle knife, the alethiometer, and the Royal Society were all created. So all things inherently drenched in Dust, and all created by human hands in the pursuit of knowledge and experience. But those are good things! Why would they be causing something so negative in this world?

As Mary ponders these very thoughts, a bizarre thing happens to her, and it’s one of the few passages in the entire trilogy that I found myself reading multiple times just to understand it. At first, I believed it was a mere vision, but the end of it suggests otherwise. Why else would she have an out-of-body experience except if it was some sort of hallucination or daydream? She describes it as if there is a “flood” of sraf, pulling her towards the sky and away from the tree, her body slipping out of view. Is her soul being pulled out of her body? I wondered.

It seems so, as thoughts of life, experiences of the physical self, are what bring Mary back. Things that are so uniquely human to her, things that are signs of being alive, they are what help her fight the smooth, determined current.

And then a strange thing happened. Little by little (as she reinforced those sense-memories, adding others, tasting an iced margarita in California, sitting under the lemon trees outside a restaurant in Lisbon, scraping the frost off the windshield of her car), she felt the Dust wind easing. The pressure was lessening.

But only on her: all around, above and below, the great flood was streaming as fast as ever. Somehow there was a little patch of stillness around her, where the particles were resisting the flow.

So not only are the particles conscious (else they could not resist anything), but something about Mary’s life is what stops this flow because they are conscious, aware of Mary’s fear and anxiety. What the fuck is going on? Mary returns to her body, and here’s where we get about as much confirmation that I need that this was not a dream at all:

Her fingers found the spyglass, and she held it to her eye, supporting one trembling hand with the other. There was no doubt about it: that slow sky-wide drift had become a flood.

Jesus, WHAT IS GOING ON. HOW MANY TIMES DO I NEED TO REPEAT THIS. I am at a loss. Is something pulling them there or–more interesting–are the particles rushing off on their own? Does it have to do with Lyra and Will opening up the world of the dead?

The shadow particles knew what was happening and were sorrowful.

“Sorrowful”? Ok, that doesn’t sound like they’re willing participants. Mary knows this, and she heads towards the ground, knowing she has little time to figure out what is happening.

But she also has no idea how close Father Gomez is to finding her, and Pullman switches over to his perspective as he comes upon a group of tualapi. Why am I not surprised that the mulefa have nothing to do with this evil waste, yet that species’ enemy is the first he comes upon? GUILTY BY ASSOCIATION. Or something?

As he watches them, one gains the courage to leave the water and come after him, “hissing with malice,” and I suddenly wished for nothing more than it to rip his head off and be done with it. I don’t care if that’s predictable or boring. I would love it. And all books should cater to my desires, right?

Oh god. OH GOD.

Father Gomez was about a hundred yards from the edge of the water, on a low grassy promontory, and he had plenty of time to put down his rucksack, take out the rifle, load, aim, and fire.

The bird’s head exploded in a mist of red and white, and the creature blundered on clumsily for several steps before sinking onto its breast. it didn’t die for a minute or more; the legs kicked, the wings rose and fell, and the great bird beat itself around and around in a bloody circle, kicking up the rough grass, until a long, bubbling expiration from its lungs ended with a coughing spray of red, and it fell still.



If they knew what death was, thought Father Gomez, and if they could see the connection between death and himself, then there was the basis of a fruitful understanding between them. Once they had truly learned to fear him, they would do exactly as he said.

Oh, christ on a goddamn cracker. (I’ve always wanted to type that.) SHIT JUST GOT SO REAL. Oh my god, y’all. WHAT.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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51 Responses to Mark Reads ‘The Amber Spyglass’: Chapter 27

  1. Bee says:

    "Chapter 27 Epigraph!

    <img src=""&gt;

    Image reads: My soul into the boughs does glide: there like a bird it sits, and sings, then whets and combs its silver wings… Andrew Marvell."

  2. @sab39 says:

    Mark, didn't you predict in an earlier chapter review that if Father Gomez made it to the mulefa's world he would join up with the tualapi?

  3. enigmaticagentscully says:

    I honestly have no idea what just happened to Mary. Frankly, it's been ages since I read these books (and now we're at the part I've never read) and I'm even more confused than ever. AUGH I literally understand none of this! I hope it's all explained in a really clear and simple way at the end!

    Also, that description of Father Gomez shooting the Tualapi? DO NOT WANT. Urrrrgggg.

    • monkeybutter says:

      I had completely forgotten about her out of body experience, so it was definitely weird rereading this one. But I think I understand it to mean that the physical > spiritual, and that apparently the Dust is floating out into oblivion, which is not what's supposed to happen.

      • miriamdelirium says:

        I've always thought that the physical world is the gift, that the whole heaven thing, or whatever exists before and after the physical life, is a given. It seems like having senses and being able to experience the whole physical and emotional mess that life is, is what's really special. For that reason, it makes sense that life in the here and now brings Mary back.

  4. BradSmith5 says:

    Violent or not, that headshot description was quite impressive.

    And come on, guys! Why so few comments? Weren't mulefa chapters supposed to be the BEST EVER? I mean, ooh, just watch Mary go––today she thought about scraping ice off her car! What mysteries will she ponder next!? Mowing the lawn? Painting her new patio? Man oh man, I can't wait!

    • Tory says:

      If you're not interested in that scene, you're missing a crucial part of the book. The whole point is that those mundane things you're so condescending towards are *important*–they're all a part of enjoying the physical world and the senses, things that the Church of this book wants to suppress and hide away. This scene is also important because it shows the importance of the process of thinking and experimenting, something Pullman's Church also frowns upon.

      Mary is in the process of discovering something huge. If you'd rather have a conveniently sudden and easy eureka moment where everything comes together and nobody ever has to work or think for it, this isn't the book for you. Simple as that.

    • muzzery says:

      Yeah well someone completely missed the point of the chapter, though even then surely you still appreciate slower, more peaceful chapters to balance out all the furiously paced epic shit going down elsewhere?

      • BradSmith5 says:

        I do appreciate this chapter. It's just that when I started typing about how Mary's discovery was integral to the plot and how I was fascinated to see how this idea would be implemented later––I began to LEAVE my body! Helpless, I began drifting as I witnessed my physical self fall into a trance at my laptop below! What could tether me to my body, I wondered? That's right! Sarcasm! I had no CHOICE but to erase my entire, thoughtful comment and replace it with what you see above!

        • notemily says:

          Ah, I remember back in the day of MRHP, when I too took Brad Smith's comments seriously.

          • BradSmith5 says:

            Ha,ha,ha,ha,haha. I'm so glad that you're in on the joke now. 😉

            • notemily says:

              I just realized that my comment could be read like I don't enjoy your comments, and that is untrue! I remember when I first read your Harry Potter comments and I was like SHUN THE UNBELIEVER, SHUUUUN. And then when we moved over here and you didn't comment for a while, I was like WHERE IS BRADSMITH AND HIS SNARKY COMMENTS.

              • BradSmith5 says:

                Nah, I understood what you meant. And I'll admit that I had similar misconceptions about the other commenters back then. I remember thinking, "Do these guys just spam GIFS and declare every page genius!?"

                I'm quite glad you proved me wrong!

    • monkeybutter says:

      Haha. I tried typing out a comment but gave up. It's hard at this point! I think this chapter is important, but not terribly exciting. And what Tory says is true: the point is that you should cherish every moment of your physical life because that's what's important. Consciousness is strong to a point, but it's strongest when anchored to a body and physical sensations, whether they're boring, sorrowful, joyful, or pleasurable. Together, those things make up life. Mary's figuring things out, and plotwise it's a helluva lot better than having someone explain it to her, or for the meaning of the universe to appear to her out of nowhere.

      • nanceoir says:

        Consciousness is strong to a point, but it's strongest when anchored to a body and physical sensations, whether they're boring, sorrowful, joyful, or pleasurable.

        This reminds me of Proust's madeleine cake. (And now I'm back in French V, where my class — all four of us — read the story of the madeleine and tea, and it was the one time we got to discuss anything en anglais, for which we were all thankful. ~*Memories…*~)

        • monkeybutter says:

          Unun, V guvax jr'er jnyxvat n irel svar, fcbvyrel yvar abj.

          • nanceoir says:

            And, a week later…

            V unqa'g ernq guvf pbzzrag lrg orpnhfr guvf vf zl svefg gvzr ernqvat Uvf Qnex Zngrevnyf naq V'z jbexvat ba abg orvat fcbvyrq sbe vg. V unq znexrq gur abgvsvpngvba rznvy nf haernq va zl znvyobk fb V jbhyq erzrzore gb pbzr onpx naq frr jung lbh fnvq, jura vg jbhyqa'g or n fcbvyre sbe zr.

            V'z thrffvat gung gur fcbvyrel yvar jnf va ersrerapr gb Puncgre Guvegl-Guerr, juvpu jnf gbqnl. (Juvpu vf jul V iragherq gb qrpbqr lbhe cbfg, svanyyl, nf V unccrarq hcba gur rznvy abgvsvpngvba zrffntr ntnva.) (Hayrff gurer'f zber nobhg zrzbel naq culfvpnyvgl va guvf obbx, va juvpu pnfr, qba'g fcbvy zr! *g*)

            Naljnl… lrnu, V pna frr abj gung yvar bs qvfphffvba pbhyq unir orra irel fcbvyrel. Lnl sbe orvat vtabenag?

            (Nyfb? V qba'g xabj jul V'z pbqvat guvf, ohg vg srryf nccebcevngr, sbe… jungrire ernfba.)

      • BradSmith5 says:

        Yes, I do agree with all of that. And typing comments IS tough at the end of these series; I'm always afraid that any serious questions I pose will be met with accidental spoilers from you zany fans! 😉

    • drippingmercury says:

      Aww, don't listen to the haters, Brad! Your snark is the best snark.

      • BradSmith5 says:

        I'm listening, and I hear a thoughtful conversation on the events on this chapter. Clearly, I have gone too far. 😉

    • elusivebreath says:

      I love this comment, lol. I agree that these things are important to the overall message of the book and I *get* it, I do, but yeah, it is a bit less than exciting to read about. Thankfully Father Gomez came along at the end to liven things up a bit 😀

      • BradSmith5 says:

        Yeah, I don't even think that the chapter was bad. But c'mon––Mary herself was so bored or "relaxed" that she left her BODY. How can I NOT joke about that?

  5. barnswallowkate says:

    I caught up on Chapters 21-26 on Sunday night so reading just this one short chapter last night was very frustrating.

    I didn't quite get the point of Mary's out of body experience. Maybe it was so she could basically become Dust temporarily, so she could feel what it felt and how it worked? I guess now she has more insight about it than she got from just watching it.

    It also echoes the world of the dead chapters, where ghosts will have to tell stories of the physical world to the harpies. So it's reinforcing the idea that your biggest responsibility in life is to experience the world, and the only thing that really defines life/consciousness is that experience. Which brings us back around to Dust being attracted to things that have a conscious, informed interest in the world around them.

    Now I get it!

  6. drippingmercury says:

    What happened three hundred years prior to this to cause the change in the world of the mulefa?

    Aegon the Conquerer and his sisters invaded on dragons?

    Oh wait, I think I'm on the wrong post. Whoops. (Why yes, I am going to make Ice and Fire references wherever I can, why do you ask? ;))

  7. pennylane27 says:

    I have no idea what to say, other than I'm still not sure I understand Mary's experience, Father Gomez is a little shit and that you don't even begin to grasp the concepts of preparedness and realness of shit. FOR REAL.

  8. knut_knut says:

    For about 2 seconds I was sure the tualapi were going to stomp all over Father Gomez, but no, of course that’s not what happened. Even though he’s my new #1 most hated/evil character (Mrs. Coulter redeemed herself enough to make room for Father Gomez), he is kind of badass. I wouldn’t want him chasing after me and I REALLY hope his mission fails but I have to give him credit.

  9. burritosaurus says:

    Mark, I think before you start Chapter 28, you should make a list of predictions on how Mary will meet and tempt Lyra and Will. Please.

  10. Becky_J_ says:

    "….but I don’t feel like I have enough information to even begin to ask the right questions. (Or do I? DUN DUN DUN.)"

    Hahaha. Mark. You do realize that pretty much all of us have read this before? And therefore we know all the things about the end of this book? And therefore we know if you have enough information? And therefore we know if you're asking the right questions? And therefore you are essentially just DUN DUN DUNing yourself??

    Which isn't to say that's a bad thing. It just hilarious from where we're sitting. Or maybe it's just me, and that makes me a bad person. Who knows.

  11. monkeybutter says:

    holy fuck earthquake mcfail's Lyra bomb finally got to us

  12. ChronicReader91 says:

    Father Gomez, GTFO of the mulefa world. Right now.

    Also, gotta love the contrast between the way Father Gomez goes about getting the tualapi on his side with Mary and the mulefa. Mary earns their trust and friendship, and Father Gomez uses fear, intimidation, and death.

  13. Hanah_banana says:

    Ugh Father Gomez. 'I could enter this world and make a fruitful and peaceful relationship based on mutual trust and understanding like Mary did with the mulefa and so enhance my understanding of the universe. But instead I'm going to KILL THE NEAREST THING I SEE TO FRIGHTEN EVERYTHING ELSE INTO SUBMISSION'

    How delightful. DIAF Gomez and don't you DARE hurt my mulefa OR my Mary

  14. Eye Zem Grim says:

    I have to admit I'm amused at Mark's rants about how evil the tualapi are being turned into 'No, how could you kill one, Gomez!' But I'm evil that way.

    I second the call for predictions about how Mary and the young 'uns will meet up. Not that I don't know, but one must find one's entertainment somewhere.

  15. Meg says:

    i love this series and i KNOW how important the mulefa chapters are, and despite that i just…can't get into them. i like mary, but she doesn't interest me the way lyra and will do.

  16. flootzavut says:

    It amuses me that I can't help but read your last few lines in a Southern accent 😀

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