Philip Pullman announces The Book of Dust as follow-up to His Dark Materials

The first novel in new trilogy will come out in October, 17 years after the last instalment

 Philip Pullman:  The Book of Dust is an “equel” to His Dark Materials. Photograph: Mark Makela/Corbis/Getty Images)

Philip Pullman: The Book of Dust is an “equel” to His Dark Materials. Photograph: Mark Makela/Corbis/Getty Images)

 

For the many global fans of Philip Pullman’s fantasy trilogy, His Dark Materials, the excellent and exciting news is that finally, more books are coming about his heroine Lyra Belacqua.

Pullman’s new trilogy is to be called The Book of Dust, with the first book being simultaneously published on October 19th in both Britain and the US. The first instalment of the trilogy is as yet unnamed, and will be published jointly by Penguin Random House Children’s and David Fickling Books in the UK and by Random House Children’s in the US.

It’s 22 years since Pullman published Northern Lights, the first in his trilogy that is widely read by both children and adults. Collectively, the trilogy is known as His Dark Materials, made up of Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass. They have sold more than 17.5 million copies and been published in more than 40 languages.

Crossover hit

Pullman is not just a thrilling storyteller with a seemingly depthless imagination, but a very beautiful and thoughtful writer with a complex vision. There are many layers to his books, which is one of the reasons they belong to the so-called “crossover” genre, appealing to both children and adults.

With Pullman, you don’t only get stories that make you want to read all night, but meditations on poetry, philosophy, metaphysics, science and religion.

This is what Pullman himself has to say about what readers can expect from his new trilogy.

This volume and the next will cover two parts of Lyra’s life: starting at the beginning of her story and returning to her 20 years later

“The first thing to say is that Lyra is at the centre of the story. Events involving her open the first chapter, and will close the last. I’ve always wanted to tell the story of how Lyra came to be living at Jordan College and, in thinking about it, I discovered a long story that began when she was a baby and will end when she’s grown up. This volume and the next will cover two parts of Lyra’s life: starting at the beginning of her story and returning to her 20 years later.

“So, second: is it a prequel? Is it a sequel? It’s neither. In fact, The Book of Dust is… an equel. It 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.

“Also, of course, there are some characters who are new to us, including an ordinary boy [a boy we have seen in an earlier part of Lyra’s story, if we were paying attention] who, with Lyra, is caught up in a terrifying adventure that takes him into a new world.

The Book of Dust is the struggle between a despotic and totalitarian organisation and those who believe in free thought and speech

“Third: why return to Lyra’s world? Dust. Questions about that mysterious and troubling substance were already causing strife 10 years before His Dark Materials, and at the centre of The Book of Dust is the struggle between a despotic and totalitarian organisation, which wants to stifle speculation and enquiry, and those who believe thought and speech should be free.

“The idea of Dust suffused His Dark Materials. Little by little through that story the idea of what Dust was became clearer and clearer, but I always wanted to return to it and discover more.”

BBC adaptation

Next year, BBC One will broadcast an adaptation of His Dark Materials. We can only hope it will be a better effort than the 2007 movie based on Northern Lights, called The Golden Compass, which had a sadly miscast Dakota Blue Richards as Lyra, and a lot of over-wrought CGI effects. Two follow-up films eere planned but when The Golden Compass tanked with both critics and audiences, that plan was cancelled.

Meanwhile, readers have three new books to savour the prospect of, and plenty of time between now and October to guess what the title of the first one will be.

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