The first volume of Philip Pullman’s new trilogy, The Book of Dust, which has been speculated about for years, will be published on Thursday 19 October 2017. The ponytail which Pullman started growing years ago, and vowed never to cut until the Book of Dust was completed, has finally been given the snip.
The Book of Dust is a work in three parts, much like Pullman’s epic His Dark Materials trilogy, which sold more than 17.5 million copies and was translated into over 40 languages. In 2007 it was adapted for the cinema and released as The Golden Compass, starring Nicole Kidman, Christopher Lee, Eva Green and Daniel Craig.
The plot and title of this first story will remain under wraps until a later date, but it can be revealed that the book is set 10 years before Northern Lights and centres on the much-loved character, Lyra Belacqua. Alethiometers, daemons and the Magisterium return to play their part, but the book also introduces a host of new characters, including a new hero.
Published between 1995 and 2000, the His Dark Materials trilogy is widely regarded as a modern classic. Its heroine, Lyra Belacqua, frequently tops polls as an all-time favourite character, appearing in the Top 10 Favourite Heroes on World Book Day in 2016. Individually, the three books of His Dark Materials – Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass – have won several literary prizes, counting amongst them the Carnegie Medal (1996) and Carnegie of Carnegies (2007) and the Costa Award (2001).
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. I’ve been writing it for several years, and I’ve been very parsimonious with information about it. It gives me great pleasure and some excitement at last to satisfy their curiosity (and mine) about this book.
What can I tell you about it? 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.
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.
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. Questions about our existence are infinitely interesting to me. There’s always more to explore.
I’ve hugely enjoyed getting to know the new characters, seeing Lyra again, and exploring the world(s) they live in. I’ve loved watching the story expand across the years, and take me to places I’d never dreamed of. As for future volumes, my lips are sealed.
The Book of Dust
Philip Pullman returns to the world of His Dark Materials with this magnificent new novel, set ten years before Northern Lights and featuring his much-loved character, Lyra Belacqua.
About the Contributor
Anastasia Hadjidemetri is the editor of The Booktopian and star of Booktopia's weekly YouTube show, Booked with Anastasia. A big reader and lover of books, Anastasia relishes the opportunity to bring you all the latest news from the world of books.