Fiction Friday – The Subtle Knife and other… stuff

This post may be a bit disjointed. I’ve got four screaming little girls running amok in my house while I’m trying to write this. I’d wait for a more peaceful moment to write, but I’ve missed the last two weeks (or was it three) and I need to get this out.

So, last time I posted a Fiction Friday, I was reading Philip Pullman’s The Subtle Knife…

Sorry, I just had to sort out a fight between two of the girls. Pixie just spent 10 minutes in a corner shrieking because she can’t play nice and prefers to hit instead. Joy. Anyway, she’s taken care of and back to playing. Now where was I? Ah, Philip Pullman’s The Subt–

What the hell was that noise? Did you just hear a loud bang coming from upstairs? No? Okay, I’m going to ignore it. This time. Anyway, The Subtle Knife. I really enjoyed this one, much like I enjoyed The Golden Compass. Again, Pullman doesn’t condescend to his audience but shows the realities of what childhood, and the beginnings of adolescence, is like. The kids in this book are just as vicious as the adults; they only lack the subtlety that comes with age…

I’m sorry. Just had a lengthy discussion with the girls about what we had available to drink in the house, and the fact that NOBODY is going upstairs with a drink, especially if it’s blueberry juice because I am not cleaning up those stains. And now the girls have discovered a whistle and a harmonic. Lovely. But to continue. The children in Subtle Knife are as vicious as the adults. The only thing that separates them is what drives them. While the main characters, Will and Lyra, are driven by the need to protect those they love, other children in the book are driven more by greed, revenge, hunger, and other basic needs. In that way I think they’re more honest than the adults, who are driven by the need for power and whose goals are mandated by the sadistic rules and superstitions of the Authority, the religious entity that dominates the world Lyra comes from…

Do you know how many toys in this house make noise? Too many. And they’re all going in the trash on Monday. ALL of them. And if certain little girls don’t stop pushing and shoving and refusing to share, there’s going to be a massacre in my living room very shortly. I’m just saying.

To continue, beyond the violence and savagery of the children and adults, there’s also a great deal of heroism. Lee Scoresby, the aeronaut from the great country of Texas is particularly moving. His quest to find aid for Lyra, a girl he loves as much as he would his own child, leads him to a perilous fate. Serafina Pekkala, the witch, is also on a quest to aid Lyra, and her fate becomes just as much in doubt in the course of event…

I swear to god, I wish I had never bought that damned harmonica. Nor the whistle that is currently being blasted in my ear. Somebody’s about to end up in the corner! And where is the heroic aeronaut to come take me away from all this? Huh?!

Whatever. Physics and religion are discussed side by side in The Subtle Knife. Many have accused Pullman of writing atheist propaganda. In truth, I don’t think the books are atheist, so much as a criticism of how institutions and individuals pervert religious ideas to gain powe–

And I’ve just confiscated my third toy of the afternoon. Okay, you know what, let’s get right down to brass tacks. Subtle Knife is a good book. I’m lucky to have read it. Quite frankly I’m lucky to have read anything. Do you know how hard it is for me to even get five minutes alone in the bathroom with a National Geographic? Do you?! And yet hear I am, surrounded by screaming little girls, trying to put together an intelligent review of a book I think people would actually enjoy, sans screaming little girls of course. The Subtle Knife. Do you know what I’d do if I had a Subtle Knife right now? There wouldn’t be quite so many screaming little girls running around, I’ll tell you that.

I’m done. I had also wanted to talk about The Daring Book For Girls, by Andrea J. Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz, but I can’t think straight enough to do that right now. I swear, it’s no wonder people drug their children with TV! It’s the only way to get any peace and quiet around here! My kids are going to grow up to be illiterate savages because their mother couldn’t handle the stress and the noise and she drugged them with crappy TV! That’s what’s going to happen to this family!

Great, now all the kids are screaming. I have to go. Next week I’ll discuss The Daring Book For Girls… assuming any girls in this house survive that long.

About Cynical Woman

Cartoonist, Artist, Geek, Evil Crafter, Girl Scout Troop Leader and Writer. Also, a zombie. I haven't slept in I don't know how long.
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  1. Glad you enjoyed it, onto the last book now (Amber Spyglass I think). Aside from Lyra’s Dad wanting to kill God, there’s an event in the third book that could be linked to the whole atheist propaganda, but really, I think it relates more to the whole story in general…

    But I shouldn’t get into that as you haven’t read it!

    Even with the screaming girls, your reviews are still much better than some folks that I know. Hope you manage to survive the day!

  2. Mich, glad you enjoyed the review. Now please tell me, does Philip Pullman ever explain why little girls are so destructive? Looks like an atom bomb hit this house.

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