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