Mark Reads ‘The Amber Spyglass’: Chapter 30

In the thirtieth chapter of The Amber Spyglass, WELL I WAS WRONG ABOUT ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING WHAT THE HELL DID I JUST READ. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Amber Spyglass.

CHAPTER THIRTY: THE CLOUDED MOUNTAIN

No, seriously, I FEEL LIKE I’VE BEEN PUNCHED IN THE FACE. Oh my god, like FIFTY BILLION THINGS JUST HAPPENED and I was prepared for ABSOLUTELY NONE OF THEM. And the best part is that there are still eight chapters after this. OH MY GOD.

Pullman opens with the answer to my worry at the end of chapter twenty-nine. It is Mrs. Coulter in the intention craft, but she seems not to have seen her daughter and Will below. She has something else in mind, and it involves whatever plan she and her dæmon realized they needed to do at the end of her chapter. Oh, right. She has decided to go straight to the Clouded Mountain. WHAT? HOW IS THAT A GOOD IDEA? Seriously, WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE GOING TO DO THERE?

We’ll get to that. Let’s first be enamored by the Clouded Mountain itself, which is just as weird as I hoped it would be. It’s hard to wrap my mind around it, but the way it’s described is…well, it’s nearly impossible for me to picture it in my head. Mrs. Coulter has a more specific reference than I do. She brings up a heresy spoken by a man who she sent to the dungeons of the Consistorial Court. This man posited that there were actually more than three spatial dimensions, that objects could exist where “inside was everywhere and its outside was everywhere else.” It’s almost an absurd bit of poetry when you think about it, especially since I cannot conceive this image in my mind. And just as I’m trying to figure this thing out, I realize that Mrs. Coulter is trying to land on Clouded Mountain. It’s really happening. Oh god, WHAT IS SHE GOING TO DO???? Upon landing the intention craft on a terrace, she is witness to…well, possibly the greatest literary blasphemy I’ve ever read. I mean, if you didn’t hate Pullman’s views of God yet, this surely would send a lot of people into a rage:

Mrs. Coulter was close enough to see the being in the litter: an angel, she thought, and indescribably aged. He wasn’t easy to see, because the litter was enclosed all around with crystal that glittered and threw back the enveloping light of the Mountain, but she had the impression of terrifying decrepitude, of a face sunken in wrinkles, of trembling hands, and of a mumbling mouth and rheumy eyes.

The aged being gestured shakily at the intention craft, and cackled and muttered to himself, plucking incessantly at his beard, and then threw back his head and uttered a howl of such anguish that Mrs. Coulter had to cover her ears.

Well. This is what God is. This is the being that millions upon billions of others pray to and devote their lives to and die for. I think Pullman was aware that portraying the Authority as anything but a strong, powerful, and frightening man was going to be risky territory, but there’s at least a logic to an angel, who is tens of thousands of years old, looking just like this. But where are the other angels taking him? How is he going to play into the story from here?

I don’t think Mrs. Coulter realizes who just passed her, because she simply continues moving. Up. She keeps going higher, and when a giant angel (is this the Nephilim?) confronts her.

“No, no,” she said gently, “please don’t waste time. Take me to the Regent at once. He’s waiting for me.”

WHAT THE HELL. What are you going to do with the Regent? WHY ARE YOU GOING TO METATRON? Oh fuck, please do NOT let her double-cross Lord Asriel in order to save herself. But isn’t she past that? Doesn’t she want to save Lyra more than anything?

We do meet Metatron, and of course he is the most garish, bright, and ridiculous angel yet. SURPRISE. I would expect nothing less.

Mrs. Coulter begins to act out her plan, admitting that she knows Lord Asriel has Lyra’s dæmon, that he is going to hide Lyra until she comes of age, and that she can help. In perhaps the most chilling moment of all of The Amber Spyglass, Mrs. Coulter insists that Metatron “look” at her to determine whether she is telling the truth. Like it was between Will and Balthamos (WHERE IS THAT ANGEL ANYWAY), Metatron is able to strip away every ounce of manipulation, deceit, and mistruth, and he tells Mrs. Coulter, quite plainly, what kind of person she is:

“What do you see?”

“Corruption and envy and lust for power. Cruelty and coldness. A vicious, probing curiosity. Pure, poisonous, toxic malice. You have never from your earliest years shown a shred of compassion or sympathy or kindness without calculating how it would return to your advantage. You have tortured and killed without regret or hesitation; you have betrayed and intrigued and gloried in your treachery. You are a cesspit of moral filth.”

HOLY SHIT. In less than a minute, the awful things that have comprised Mrs. Coulter’s life are spelled out for her, and there’s no arguing with Metatron. He sees her for what she is, and…christ, what an awful thing to hear. Well, if we heard our whole lives judged this way, we would feel gutted. But this is Mrs. Coulter we’re talking about, and despite that she is shook by this judgment, she feels triumph.

“So you see,” she said, “I can betray him easily. I can lead you to where he’s taking my daughter’s dæmon, and you can destroy Asriel, and the child will walk unsuspecting into your hands.”

OH. OH I SEE. You are using your own lack of morals to trick Metatron. But can this even work? How do you trick an angel like him? Well, Mrs. Coulter shows us how she does that, too: she offers up her own body to Metatron, who has not felt the comfort of a human in a long time. Okay, I won’t lie. This scene kind of creeps me out, especially when Metatron gets uncomfortably close to Mrs. Coulter. But even angels have weaknesses, and I believe that Mrs. Coulter is simply bluffing. She’s going to lead Metatron to Lord Asriel all right, but it will be so that Lord Asriel can kill him.

Pullman briefly switches over to a cliff-ghast. SERIOUSLY. He hadn’t done this since The Golden Compass, and now I can’t remember why. I can’t even remember what the arctic fox said. (Now I’m thinking…that was in The Subtle Knife, wasn’t it? Oh god, DON’T TELL ME QUITE YET, I WILL FIGURE IT OUT.) Either way, it’s clear that a cliff-ghast, feeding on a dead body, catches sight of the litter that is holding the Authority, and he begins to follow. WHY. omg WHAT

I then realized that this chapter wasn’t going to focus on one single character. There’s actually too much going on at this point, and I was even more excited to see that we would find out what Lord Asriel was up to. It’s all coming together, really, and if Mrs. Coulter is bring Metatron to him, then…is he going to push him into the abyss?

Strangely, the cavern where the abyss is located is streaming with Dust, which appears to be flowing straight down into it. Did the bomb that went off do this? Well, yes, it opened up the abyss, but is this what caused the sraf in Mary’s world to rush away towards the sea? What was making it move like this now?

And when Asriel peers into the abyss, he is shocked to see ghosts ascending out of that pit, clinging to side opposite the massive gulf, and he knows that this is where Lyra came from.

What the hell is going on? AHSDKLFJA;LSDJKFJKDFSA;SDKFJ

Will and Lyra, on the other hand, have no plan at all and are no closer to locating their dæmons or anyone else who might help them. They rush to avoid an oncoming set of hooves in the distance, and Tialys insists that it cannot be Lord Asriel’s forces, as he has no cavalry. I don’t know if these are centaurs that come into the gully, or horse-people, or WHAT they are, and neither do Will and Lyra, who turn to continue running away. Unfortunately, they run right into a group of cliff-ghasts:

The creatures were surrounding something that lay glittering in the mud: something slightly taller than they were, which lay on its side, a large cage, perhaps, with walls of crystal. They were hammering at it with fists and rocks, shrieking and yelling.

WHAT THE FUCK?!?!?!?! The cliff-ghasts found God and they are TRYING TO KILL HIM. Chapter, WHY ARE YOU ENDING HERE ;ADKSLFJA;DKSL A;SKLDFJ ;AKLJSIUORE;DFJKS ;KLS FJ;HF;ASODIFU FS

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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67 Responses to Mark Reads ‘The Amber Spyglass’: Chapter 30

  1. @thelxiepia says:

    Chapter 30 Epigraph!

    <img src="http://www.bridgetothestars.net/misc_gallery/cache/Extras/TAS-Epigraphs/scan0063_595.jpg"&gt;

    Image reads: "Farr off th'empyreal heav'n, extended wide in circuit, undetermined square or round, with opal torws and battlements adorn'd of living saphire… John Milton."

  2. Lauren says:

    I must say, that when I first read this (I was, what, eleven?) I was surprised at Pullman's image of the Authority, but I wasn't angry or anything. At that point I was already questioning the religion I'd been raised with, and in the context of the story it all makes perfect sense. Heck, in the context of reality it all makes sense. God is supposedly the oldest thing in the universe, and it makes sense that at this point he'd be pretty worn.
    However, I do plan on making my much-more-religious mother read this at some point after she finishes HP, and I'll be interested to see how far she gets before yelling at me. I've never met a religious person who's read the trilogy.

  3. enigmaticagentscully says:

    So I can’t remember who suggested that Tricia Helfer would make a good Mrs Coulter, but I did a picture with her as a reference anyway, if anyone’s interested.

    <img src="http://i56.tinypic.com/e84ayx.png&quot; border="0" alt="Image and video hosting by TinyPic">

    I’m not sure if I got her face shape quite right but it kinda looks like her?

    • John Small Berries says:

      Damn. Nice job!

    • Mark's Reader says:

      I have no idea who Tricia Helfer is, but this still gets a thumbs up.

    • monkeybutter says:

      lol I love/hate that damn monkey…lovely job!

    • knut_knut says:

      SO PRETTY! I love how the monkey looks like he’s scouting for more bats/cloud pines to shred

    • Tilja says:

      PERFECT! But I'm not sure about her being all that good, though she's remarkably good. She's not subtle enough. She'd need to be able to trick humans of all kinds with all kinds of emotions and I haven't seen her doing any empathy, compassion or true tenderness. Mrs Coulter can also trick a bear who wants to be human who can't see her as a sex thing, and that's very different from what I've seen her doing. But yes, she's remarkably well fit for the part.

  4. Julezyme says:

    Wow. First?!?

    I'd forgotten about the cliff ghasts. But the image of the Authority in the crystal litter reminds me of the PopeMobile.

    After four I-reads and one Mark-reads l still can't figure out Mrs. Coulter.

    • barnswallowkate says:

      After four I-reads and one Mark-reads l still can't figure out Mrs. Coulter.

      I'm glad I'm not the only one with this problem!

  5. knut_knut says:

    UUUUUUUUUGH I UNDERSTAND NOTHING. I NEED ALL THE ANSWERS NOW.

    I couldn’t wrap my mind around the Clouded Mountain so my brain made it look like an Escher drawing…and then I misread Metatron’s location (the “mist-hung piazza”) as a “mist-hung PIZZA” so I had an Escher drawing with a floating pizza. Right.

  6. @Rosepug says:

    I think the point most would make is that God is OUTSIDE time, having created it, and created us and this (these?) universe(s?) inside the framework of time. And that in death, we will then be also in that …um… place? state? whatever… outside time, with God.
    Or perhaps most would just scream and froth and only some would make that point, but that's how it was always framed up for me, in my upbringing in Presbyterian churches…
    It really struck me as bizarre when Pullman made 'the Authority' this mewling aged thing. Because God is in my theological understanding unknowable and more like Dust or whatever actually drives the Alethiometer than like Metatron or the Authority.

  7. George says:

    OMG this chapter! Everything is happening, and it's all amazing and only a few left!

    Fb Ybeq Nfevry vf ybbxvat vagb n qvssrerag jbeyq jura ur frrf gur tubfgf, lrf? Vg'f yvxr n tvnag jvaqbj…nz V trggvat guvf evtug? Orpnhfr Jvyy fnvq gur rqtrf jrer yvxr gur rqtrf ur znxrf. Naq jvaqbjf ner pnhfvat gur fens gb yrnir gur gerrf, fb gur nolff pnhfrf gur sybbqf, ohg gur fhogyr xavsr'f bcravatf pnhfrq gur zbirzrag orsber. Pna nalbar pbeerpg zr vs V'z jebat, orpnhfr V'z gelvat gb trg zl urnq nebhaq vg!

  8. spiderine says:

    it’s nearly impossible for me to picture it in my head… “inside was everywhere and its outside was everywhere else.”

    Of course you can picture it, Mark! One word: TARDIS.

    • bookworm67 says:

      Haha, I'm so glad I'm not the only one who thought of this!
      And also, because it's relevant: OMG OMG DOCTOR WHO IS TOMORROW AAAHHH 😀

      • enigmaticagentscully says:

        YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY.

        SO EXCITE.

        • Tilja says:

          FRAK! How come I didn't know?! Oh, right, I FORGOT TO CHECK!

          YYYYYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        • BradSmith5 says:

          Yeah! The first episode I get to watch as it debuts! I can't even remember what the cliff-hanger was but YEEEEEEAH!

      • spiderine says:

        YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY! *bounces*

      • bookworm67 says:

        FYI, the season pass is just up on iTunes. 😉

        …I CANNOT WAIT. Well, except it'll take a full day to download because of my crappy internet here in Nairobi **grumble grumble**

      • FlameRaven says:

        Does this mean another Mark Watches Doctor Who episode for Monday? Because that would be amazing. I don't have any interest in Battlestar Galactica but I just watched episode 8 and now I need to talk about it with other people! And I don't trust any of the Who fandom boards because I know they will be full of negativity and whining and I just want to squee over the awesome.

  9. monkeybutter says:

    DAZZLED.

    Yup, still ruined.

    I love that Mrs Coulter is establishing herself as the master manipulator, whatever her intent, while simultaneously drawing attention to Metatron's human origins and the weakness of all angels before physical bodies, especially beautiful ones. And yeah, it's also creepy.

    • Tilja says:

      And the difference between someone who wants something for its advantage yet never had it and someone who had it and can miss it. Easier to manipulate those who know how it feels like. Born angels can't be controlled through something they never felt, something not built in their structure, while human born angels can relate and be controlled.

  10. Jahizzle says:

    I'm slightly-ish, not-so-sure how I feel about religion at the moment and reading these books and reviews has really made me think about a lot of things (in a good way), but I wasn't really surprised or offended by how God was portrayed here. It actually made sense to me with the thread of the books. It seems to me that God has probably been in this state for a looooooong time and that Metatron has been in charge, and I think it's because of what Asriel had said in the last couple of chapters…something along the lines of "at least the Authority had the grace to withdraw…" It also makes sense because Asriel knows that his true fight is against Metatron…he's never even seemed concerned about finding God and taking him out as well.

  11. @GalFawkes says:

    Yeah, I got creeped out by Mrs. Coulter offering her body to Metatron. DNW D:

  12. elusivebreath says:

    It was SO HARD to stop here last night uggghhhhhhhh!!

  13. Tilja says:

    Now you can see where the rage comes from against this book. What people against it conveniently forget to remember is that it was already stated that the Authority isn't a God, merely an angel, and the oldest one at that. They conveniently let out that there never was a true creation being in this trilogy, only aspects and beings that humans can relate to and share space and time with, all of which are mortal. The only thing closest to a creation foundation is Dust, and it's conveniently given the label of a particle, like it was just air. No form, no shape, no nothing humanized, just a Thing that's attracted to consciousness. So we were never actually given a Creator Being. Therefore, a creator was NEVER attacked.

    This is how I see it.

    • MichelleZB says:

      That's some good compartmentalization, but the thing is that Pullman is not just talking about his imaginary world where there is no god. He is actually trying to use his book as a metaphor for our real world, and trying to point out that there is no god here, either. I think that's what got people so mad.

      Would you feel differently if Pullman had decided to call the Authority a god, and then had his characters attack him? Would you be able to handle that? Would you be able to see that as just an imaginary-world thing too?

      • Tilja says:

        In my case, because I know I'm reading a work of fiction, because I don't follow the lead of someone else religiously and so don't need to feel offended, YES, I can see that in the same way. In fact, I was expecting he'd make the death of the nominal God and was eager to see how he pulled that off.

        When I understood what he did, I understood how he managed to attack the god people believe in yet never the reason for creation itself, I liked it better. I think it's less bitter than what I was expecting.

      • Gen says:

        Except Pullman himself has said this isn't true. The Authority is more about the organizations behind religion than religion itself, really. The books are about what *people* do with religion. 'God' is called The Authority because it's about Authoritarianism.

    • knut_knut says:

      I agree. I see these books more as an attack against institutional religion than the idea of a Creator-god. It is kind of confusing, though, because Pullman has said that his books are about killing God. But The Authority isn't God, right? I thought he was just the first and the most powerful (or power hungry) angel. So they're not killing God but a false idol, which is good??

      Ignore me as I ramble on in my confusion

      Edit: Wow this comment makes NO sense. What I was trying to say is that the books establish that The Authority =/= God but then Pullman says things like “these books are about killing God” so either there’s something BIG coming in the last several chapters or there’s a bit of a miscommunication (probably my fault thanks to my less than stellar reading comprehension)

      • t09yavors says:

        I get what you mean and imma rot13.com this just in case:

        Znlor vg vf nobhg xvyyvat gur pbaprcg bs Tbq: nxn, betnavmrq eryvtvba/yvivat lbhe yvsr bayl gb freir Uvz. Nsgre nyy, gur Erchoyvp bs Urnira jbhyq or rirelobql pubbfvat gurve bja cngu, sbyybjvat gurve bja vaare ibvpr (Tbq) naq hfvat xabjyrqtr gb qrgrezvar evtug naq jebat engure guna sbyybjvat n puhepu znaqngrq qbpgrevar; be ng yrnfg, gung vf ubj V frr vg.

      • Tilja says:

        Pullman gave an interview recently (just this month) to a magazine about reading in my language and he said in that one that he DIDN'T intend to go against faith and religion, only against religion in places of power. I don't know, his opinions seem to change slightly depending on where he's talking, perhaps to avoid certain controversies.

        This is the link to the interview, but it's in Spanish http://www.que-leer.com/12753/philip-pullman.html

    • hymnia says:

      It doesn't matter what the books say the Authority is. He is still clearly meant to be analogous to the Abrahamic God. All Pullman has done here is undermine God twice–first by saying that the God people worship is not really the creator and THEN by saying that this being is a decrepit and powerless cipher anyway. Two wrongs do not make a right. If you agree with Pullman's worldview (or are fairly neutral on the question of religion) then that doesn't matter, of course. It's just good story-telling–in fact, if what he is trying to build thematically is an atheistic worldview, it's downright brilliant. Better than Nietzsche saying "God is dead," this is "Even if God were alive, he'd be useless."

      But as for me, I do find it offensive and irreverent toward the God that I hold dear, and I believe I am right to do so. I'm sure I have not "conveniently forgot" or misunderstood anything. I'm amazed at how many commenters (and it's definitely not just you!) are making excuses like this for Pullman here. I'm pretty sure if you asked Pullman himself he would own up to it: He meant for this revelation about the Authority to be confrontational.

      • summeriris says:

        I am a practising Christian and I read and enjoyed these books. I don’t recognize the God I worship, (I make no apology for putting it that way) in this description. I did however recognize how God works unseen throughout the books. Even in Pullman’s description of this very old creature, who is after all just one more false prophet. The God I worship has one rule really, and that rule is that I should love my fellow man. That rule means that I should not judge him or condemn him. I see noting wrong with ollowing that rule. I also think that the 10 Commandments are not that terrible a way to live your life. Essentially what they tell is to not steal, kill, lie or want what does not belong to us. That if we make a promise then perhaps we should keep our word. There is nothing wrong with living your life this way. Where things go wrong is when someone says
        ‘I know what God wants you to do and you had better do it the way I says he wants you to do it.’
        Thats what’s wrong with so many of the so called Christains, they think that being a Christain means what they think they know is all there is and no one had better question them. I think that I don’t have all the answers but looking for the answers brings me joy.

      • Tilja says:

        My comment was in relation to the kind of comments I've seen displayed against the books, all fanatics with repeated formulae and nothing more. The way you state it here is much more clear and now I can see your point. I missed that part, probably because I don't feel offense at the way he did it. But you're right, he portrayed an atheistic world in his own way killing the deity it believed in. In my case, I just can't tie the decrepit angel to the god so I look at it as a different creature altogether and feel no emotion whatsoever.

  14. muzzery says:

    I loved the parallel between Lyra's deception of Iofur Raknison to allow Iorek to fight him, and Mrs Coulter's deception of Metatron to allow Asriel to kill him, especially when you remember the all the parallels between Asriel and Iorek. Speaking of which, I WANT SEE IOREK IN BATTLE AGAIN NOW!!!!

  15. BradSmith5 says:

    So that's it? That's the Authority? Some jabbering prune? We don't even get to hear his side of the story? Is he really just going to get eaten by ghasts? Dang it, I was looking forward to at least SOME kind of confrontation.

    Metatron, I know you won't go down that easy! Mrs. Coulter's booking you for the abyss-match of the century––you'd better BRING IT! That's right: Asriel's callin' you out of your Mobius Mountain for some ACTION! Along with Iorek, Will, and The Undertaker! With special guest-referee Gracious Wings! It all happens, people, next week on MAAAAARK REEEEEEADS!

    • muzzery says:

      I love that THE AUTHORITY, this dreadful being we've heard about for 3 books has been deteriorating over the centuries (for that matter, I love that Angels seem to age too) and is now reduced to being almost completely incapable of speech and is quite literally mentally and physically powerless. It's so poetic.

    • Harrison says:

      Mobius Mountain! Haha! That's perfect!

  16. frogANDsquid says:

    Finally this chapter! Oh you have no idea how long i’ve waited because there is something in this chapter that i loved. Remember all the way back in The Golden Compass how Lyra used Iofur’s desire to be human to trick him? Well Mrs Coulter pretty much just did the SAME thing here. She uses Metatron’s human-esque desires to trick him to do just what Lyra was trying to do… attempt to remove him from power.

    Even though its really late in the book I have to say this is one of the parts that made me love this book…besides Mary and the mulefa.

  17. notemily says:

    Mark, remember back when you were reading The Golden Compass, and you were like "I don't see what the big deal is about these books! There's nothing REALLY controversial in here."

    ~so unprepared~

    I feel like Mrs. Coulter must be referring to an actual person whose name we would know when she talks about the heretic who got locked up for postulating more than three dimensions. I can't think who it is, though. (It's probably a mathematician or philosopher of some sort, but it could also M.C. Escher, given the description of the Clouded Mountain.)

    • Harrison says:

      I honestly wonder whether Pullman actually wrote this series for children. Even stuff in the first book seems just a bit much for young readers. Of course, I was like eleven when I read them the first time so I'm not really sure.

      • Raenef says:

        I believe it was marketed to adults in the UK, but the US marketed it towards children since the main character was young. Then it got awkward when the next books came out.

        • sabra_n says:

          I remember seeing The Golden Compass in the Scholastic book catalogue that came around to my school every few months. Doesn't get much more kiddie than that.

  18. Michel Heemskerk says:

    Personal opinion: it doesn't matter how God looks, or what thing or what figure represents religion. Religion is your own personal belief, and this constant need of people to want to visualize it, and to want others to use the same visualization, is not the way to go. It only leads to corruption and abuse.

    That's why the Authority, even he is not the actual Creator, is shown as a tired old man – and why he doesn't have substantial speaking lines at all in the story – he's just a background figure, and we'll never get to know who he is, and what he wanted to say. It just doesn't matter. I don't know if this was exactly Pullman's intention, but it is what I read in it.

    It's also why every religious figure, at least in Lyra's world, is an evil scumbag. They represent the aforementioned corruption and abuse. Thus, people critizing the trilogy for portraying religious figures as said scumbags are completely missing the point and should take a good hard look at themselves and how they see religion.

  19. C.J. says:

    Fairly random; reading this while chatting with someone about Harry Potter in another tab it suddenly hit me for the first time how perfectly Metatron's reading of Mrs. Coulter would double as a description of Voldemort.

  20. rumantic says:

    I feel really really stupid now. I never ever got that the angel in the crystal litter thing was meant to be god. How did I not notice that??

    • karissajoelle says:

      Same here. I even got to the end of the book and was like, "So…what happened to the Authority? Why was that one chapter called 'Authority's End,' anyway? Did he even make an appearance?"

      UGH this clears up so much. Both about the book and my reading comprehension skillz. Or lack thereof, as it were.

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