I finished this series the other night. It includes The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass. I have to say that while I heard several very trustworthy and like-minded people state that the ending was awful, I didn't feel exactly that way. I did however feel that the third book got a big too confusing and theologically tangled and that is was had to decipher and determine everything that Pullman was trying to say. I am not sure that I would say that it god preachy (atheistically speaking), but it got hard to interpret and overwhelming.
I did like the ending where the children were encouraged to go into their worlds and lead full and conscious lives- I think mainly in which they were conscious of their actions and the choices that led them to take those actions. I don't think that is anti-God or even un-spiritual. I think it is sort of spiritual to be aware of your roll within the universe and to see your actions within the context of the universe.
D and I got into a major discussion about Pullman's redefinition of hell. D seems to think that when Lyra went into Hell where all the ghosts/souls of the people were being tortured by the Harpies, Pullman is making a very strong statement. Lyra is able to open up hell and allow the people to return back into the world, where they essentially become part of the matter of the earth again. The Harpies, who are like the demon torturers agree to let the people out if they are able to tell them stories from their lifetimes. D said he thinks that this is lame because he is saying that regardless of whether or not you live a virtuous life, unless you live an interesting life you will have to stay in Hell and be tortured. I didn't feel that the statement was so strong. I don't think that the Harpies insisted on having interesting stories, but rather just hearing that people were conscious and aware in their lives. I think the opening back into the world was almost like doing away with the idea of hell because it presented the notion that really there is no afterworld and that our bodies return to be a part of the earth. Can anyone who has read the series offer me their opinions?
I also didn't think that the said sex between the main characters was that big of a deal or even explicitly implied. I think that the children engaging in what physical affection that Pullman did mention was merely symbolizing that they had made a transition into adulthood- which was an extremely important theme in the book.
Also, I don't feel like God was necessarily killed. I mean I get what they are saying about the part that seemed like that, but at the same time I really felt like it was less than the death of God and more of the continuation of free choice and rational thought. I know it said some thing about the the Authority and it's supporting organizations dissolving, but I think that the notion that there are going to be groups out there like that who try to control people with religion and disallow them to think for themselves was not truly killed. I felt more like the book affirmed one's ability to make their own choices and to be aware of them. In the end free thought triumphed over religious control and no thinking, and that was cool.
I liked the books quite a bit, and would love to discuss with anyone who is familiar enough with them to want to do so.