"I know whom we must fight. It is the Magisterium, the church. For all its history ... it's tried to suppress and control every natural impulse. And when it can't control them, it cuts them out. ... [E]very church is the same: control, destroy, obliterate every good feeling." -- Ruta Skadi, Queen of the Latvian witches
"I think [Lord Asriel's] a-waging a higher war than [against the church]. I think he's aiming a rebellion against the highest power of all. He's gone a-searching for the dwelling place of the Authority Himself, and he's a-going to destroy Him."
-- Thorold, Lord Asriel's servant
Um, not much doubt that Pullman finds the Christian religion lacking. He hates the whole shebang. Hatred explains his blanket condemnation of the whole enterprise, as if all churches preached an image of god resembling "the Authority", as if folks like William Wilberforce (Anglican parliamentarian and fighter against the Trans-Atlantic slave trade), MLK Jr., Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dorothy Day, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Sister Helen Prejean, and hosts of other justice-seeking Jesus followers had never existed. Pullman's depiction of Christianity as a single life-sucking entity is inaccurate, unfair, and way too convenient for his stated agenda of discrediting the entire religious enterprise.
With my spleen freshly vented, I have to admit that I found The Subtle Knife
an extremely good read. Sure, I missed the Gyptians, Iorek and the warrior bears, Farder Coram and such. Pullman has one more book to sate my need to know how they're doing. And the mixing in of Will, millions of new worlds, angels, Dr. Malone, Spectres, Asriel's fortress, a Grumman sighting, and the Guild more than makes up for the pause in Lyra's other relationships.
I'm still in love with Pullman's witches. They're bad asses, and great earthy foils for his pie-in-the-sky Magisterium. You wouldn't hear this cool wound-healing spell uttered by Magisterium clergy:
"Blood! Obey me! Turn around,
be a lake and not a river.
When you reach the open air,
stop! And build a clotted wall,
build it firm to hold the flood back.
Blood, your sky is the skull-dome,
your sun is the open eye,
your wind the breath inside the lungs,
blood, your world is bounded. Stay there!"
And really, it's hard not to be attracted to someone described in these terms: "Ruta Skadi lived so brilliantly in [Lyra's] nerves that she set up a responding thrill in the nerves of anyone close by." Yep, Pullman loves his witches. I do too.
Epic scale (millions of beings from many worlds building toward a war to dethrone God), intimate relationships (the loving interaction between Lee Scoresby and Hester will make you cry), and philosophy (Are matter and spirit one? What alternatives exist to an image of God-as-Cosmic-Tyrant?)--The Subtle Knife
has plenty to keep readers happy and thinking. I suspect [b:The Amber Spyglass|18122|The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials, #3)|Philip Pullman|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1329189152s/18122.jpg|1774510] won't disappoint either.