Donald Trump, Brexit, the end of (proper) Great British Bake Off - just when you thought Real Life couldn’t get much worse, Philip Pullman saves us all. The author has just announced the much-anticipated release of an epic fantasy trilogy that has been years in the making – The Book of Dust.
The first of three stories he has described as ‘equels’ (rather than prequels or sequels) to His Dark Materials, is set to be released on October 19.
As an ‘equel’, the trilogy will play out in the same universe as His Dark Materials, which has sold 17.5 million copies and been translated into 40 languages since it was first published in 1995.
Kickass heroine Lyra Belacqua will feature in the first two volumes during two periods of her life – as a baby, with the book exploring how she came to live at Jordan College, and 10 years after His Dark Materials ended.
Other characters from the original series, along with their daemons, will also make appearances alongside a new boy hero. So far, the first volume does not have a title, but the action will be set in London and Oxford.
Pullman has said that “at the centre of The Book of Dust is the struggle between a despotic and totalitarian organisation, which wants to stifle speculation and inquiry, and those who believe thought and speech should be free.”
He added: “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.”
David Fickling Books will jointly publish The Book of Dust with Penguin Random House children’s books.
Mr Fickling told the Guardian that readers shouldn’t draw too many parallels between the books and the current political landscape but also added: “Some of the best people for telling us the truth about our times are our great storytellers and Philip is one of them.” The BBC has reported that Pullman has finished volumes one and two and is currently working on the third.
In an interview with the BBC’s Today programme, he said: “Dust is an analogy of consciousness, and consciousness is this extraordinary property we have as human beings.
“The story I’m telling in this book is more about in terms of William Blake’s vision, his idea of a fiercely reductive way of seeing things: it’s right or wrong; it’s black or white.
“He said that was far too limiting and we should bring out truer human vision when we see things, surround them all with a sort of penumbra of imagination and memories and hopes and expectations and fears and all these things.
“It’s an attack on the reductionism, the merciless reductionism, of doctrines with a single answer.”
The author himself has been responding personally to the huge fanfare the announcement has received, telling one who said the excitement had left her ‘dead’: “No, don’t be dead”
His Dark Materials has won a number of awards with The Amber Spyglass handed the 2001 Whitbread Book of the Year prize. The trilogy also took third place in the BBC's Big Read poll in 2003. Alongside the series, Pullman has also written spin-offs Lyra's Oxford and Once Upon a Time in the North. A film adaptation of the series, called The Golden Compass, was released in 2007 and starred Dakota Blue Richards, Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig.
So roll on October and welcome back Lyra, we’ve missed you.