But there is one thing I don't care for in the story, and that's the prophecy of the witches. Lyra is special because there's a prophecy that says she will do various things, and the only question is whether she's that child.
Like Neo in The Matrix, like Anakin in Star Wars, the only question is whether she's "The One."
Yeesh. Can't anybody ever just do something because they decide to do it? This is one thing I like about The Lord of the Rings. There's a little hint of "The One"-ness right at the beginning ("Maybe you were meant to have it"), but then that's pretty much dropped and we end up with the council at Elrond's, where everybody argues and yells and insults each other until they come to an uneasy and imperfect agreement, sparked by Frodo's decision to take the responsibility for the Ring himself.
Which, unlike this "One" stuff, is how things happen in the real world. So, if hobbits and elves and dwarfs can work this way, I think Jedi knights and witches and those matrix people could, too. Just like Vicki, who found herself in a particular position, quite unexpectedly, and realized that she could be useful. And even Jan Sleet, who has a rather high opinion of herself, fully appreciates that she ended up where she is by (as she would put it) a combination of random chance and applied intelligence.
Of course, as an atheist, that would be her conclusion. And her atheism will play a part in the current mystery, where she's investigating vampires.
Oh, and speaking of The Lord of the Rings, I do recommend an episode of South Park called "The Return of the Fellowship of the Ring to the Two Towers." As Cartman would say, it's hella funny.