BY SARAH CAVAR ’20
After 17 years, the first book in a much-anticipated companion series to the “His Dark Materials” trilogy is set to be released in October 2017. The HDM trilogy has received international acclaim in the years since its release, as has its author, Philip Pullman. Pullman, a decorated author and current president of Britain’s Society of Authors, has long been known for his vocal humanism, political involvement and successful two-decade writing career, has until recently been nearly silent about the prospect of a companion series. On Feb. 15, 2017, this changed with a tweet.
Pullman tweeted that he was “delighted [he] can now say something about #bookofdust,” and followed the message with a link to more information on the previously unknown novel. Following the reveal, readers flocked to Goodreads, an online website that helps readers to find and share books. Eight months ahead of its release, the book has a 4.07-star rating on Philip Pullman’s website, which was already littered with thrilled comments from Pullman’s fans and anticipatory five-star ratings from others.
Though many details about“The Book of Dust” remain unknown, readers can expect to continue following Lyra Belacqua, beloved protagonist of the HDM trilogy. Belacqua will be central to this forthcoming novel, which takes place a decade before the start of HDM. That said, the two books that will complete the “Book of Dust” trilogy will be set 20 years after the conclusion of HDM, according to Penguin Books.
Pullman plans to introduce new characters to an otherwise familiar story, which will continue to feature staples of HDM. Battles against repression, steampunk gadgetry and “daemons” — animals which contain the inner spirit of their companion humans — and more are all anticipated to feature. The Guardian reports that, given his history of painstaking scientific research for HDM, Pullman is expected to include up-to-date research on dark matter, for which the titular “Dust” is a metaphor, in these new volumes.
Perhaps most notable about this forthcoming series, however, is Pullman’s characterization of the work. He describes it not as a prequel or sequel to HDM, but instead as an “equel.” Pullman told The Guardian, “[The Book of Dust] doesn’t stand before or after His Dark Materials, but beside it. It’s a different story, but there are settings that readers of His Dark Materials will recognise and characters they’ve met before.”
Another notable attribute of “The Book of Dust” will be the motif of the fight for free speech, thought and expression against oppressive institutions. In an age in which the fight against totalitarianism is, for many, far more than a mere story, “The Book of Dust” is certainly timely. This is unsurprising from Pullman, long a vocal advocate of free speech and who himself has defended his works against those who have sought to ban them — primarily based on their anti-religious sentiment. But David Fickling, of David Fickling Books, which will publish the book alongside Penguin, emphasized in an interview with The Guardian that Pullman’s forthcoming book is important “not in an intellectual way, but in a storytelling way.” He follows that statement with praise for Pullman’s ability to use storytelling to share relevant truths.
Much information about the trilogy, especially the volumes subsequent to “The Book of Dust,” remains unknown, generating excited speculation from Pullman’s fans. As the publishing date of Oct. 19, draws closer, readers can anticipate news about the book itself as well as about book signings to be released periodically.
Until then, readers can check Pullman’s website and Twitter feed for updates on “The Book of Dust,” which is already available for preorder from vendors such as Amazon. With regards to “The Book of Dust,” an otherwise tight-lipped Fickling told the BBC: “Readers should know they have a big treat ahead of them.”