Philip Pullman: His Dark Materials author announces new trilogy The Book of Dust

‘What can I tell you about it? The first thing to say is that Lyra is at the centre of the story’

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The Independent Culture

Philip Pullman’s long-speculated The Book of Dust trilogy is a reality, with the first instalment set to be published on 19 October, 2017.

It will be set in the same universe as His Dark Materials - which sold more than 17.5 million copies worldwide in over 40 languages - centering on its character Lyra Belacqua 10 years before the events of Northern Lights.

Alethiometers, daemons and the Magisterium apparently all return to play their part, but a host of new characters - including a new hero - will also be introduced.

Full statement on the release from Philip Pullman:

“I know from their letters and tweets that my readers have been waiting patiently (mostly) for The Book of Dust for a long time. It gives me great pleasure and some excitement at last to satisfy their curiosity (and mine) about this book.

“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. 

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“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.

“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.”

The announced was described by Waterstones managing director James Daunt as "exhilarating… for those of all ages. Other books, other authors, make claims and bring huge rewards… but it is Philip who cements the sophisticated, unique pleasures of reading.”

The first instalment 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.

Expecting enormous interest from fans of the series, Penguin provided a Q&A with the announcement, here it is in full:

•    What is the title of the first story of The Book of Dust?

The title will be revealed, with the cover, at a later date.

•    What is the plot of the new book?

The story is under wraps until a later date, but it has been confirmed that Lyra Belacqua is in it. There will also be a new hero, whose identity is yet to be revealed.

•    What does the title mean?

Philip Pullman has said: “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.”

•    What is Dust?

Dust is central to His Dark Materials. People discover it, study it or seek to destroy it. Philip Pullman calls it a metaphor. Some say it’s dark matter; others – like the Magisterium – say it’s evidence of original sin. In the books, it’s often connected to the change from childhood to adulthood, through puberty – when people’s daemons take on a fixed shape. 

•    Is this a sequel / prequel to His Dark Materials?

No, it is a companion work. Philip Pullman calls it an “equel” that sits alongside His Dark Materials. The Book of Dust is a work in three parts, like His Dark Materials, and the first volume will be published this Autumn.  The work can be read on its own, without having to have read the original series.  This volume and the next will cover two parts of Lyra’s life: starting at the beginning of her story, 10 years before Northern Lights, and returning to her 20 years later. The scope of the third volume is still under wraps.

•    Where is it set? 

The book is set between Oxford and London, in the same parallel Britain (or Brytain) that Lyra Belacqua inhabits.

•    Do any other characters from His Dark Materials – such as Will Parry, Lord Asriel or Mrs Coulter – appear in the new book? 

As with the plot, the characters in the book are under wraps until closer to publication. However, we do know that Lyra Belacqua is central to the story, and that other familiar characters will appear alongside a host of new ones. 

•    Is this a children’s or an adult book?

As with the original series, this is a book that can be read by children and adults alike. It is being published by Penguin Random House Children’s in the UK and Random House Children’s Books in the US but, as with Philip’s works in general, the book is complex and multi-layered and can be read by adult readers as well. Philip Pullman has said previously that he doesn’t set out to write for any particular audience – child or adult – but that he hopes that his work will appeal to a range of readers of all ages.

•    Will Philip Pullman be creating any original artwork for the new book?

We can’t say at this stage.

•    What background reading is connected to world of His Dark Materials? 

There are six books. The three that form the His Dark Materials trilogy –  Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass – and three companion novels, Lyra’s Oxford, Once Upon a Time in the North and The Collectors. 

However, for those new to the series, the first volume of The Book of Dust can be read as a brand new novel and a story in its own right. 

A full bibliography can be found on Philip Pullman’s website: www.philip-pullman.com

•    What adaptations have appeared? 

Jack Thorne – who worked with JK Rowling on the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – is adapting the trilogy for BBC One, with production company Bad Wolf, who have worked on series including Doctor Who. The series is in pre-production, due to air in 2018.

Philip Pullman narrated an unabridged audiobook in 2007 and the BBC turned the books into a radio drama for BBC Radio 4 in 2003, with Terence Stamp as Lord Asriel and Lulu Popplewell as Lyra. 

In 2004, Nicholas Hytner directed an acclaimed theatre adaptation by Nicholas Wright at the National Theatre, starring Anna Maxwell-Martin as Lyra, Dominic Cooper as Will, Timothy Dalton as Lord Asriel and Patricia Hodge as Mrs Coulter.

A film adaptation of Northern Lights, entitled The Golden Compass, directed by Chris Weitz, was released in 2007. It starred Daniel Craig as Lord Asriel, Nicole Kidman as Mrs Coulter and Dakota Blue Richards as Lyra.

•    Is Philip Pullman doing any interviews?

Philip will not be doing any interviews until closer to publication.

•    Is the book available now?

The book is available for pre-order from bookshops. 

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