The Book of Dust

I’ve read the His Dark Materials trilogy three times, due to the fact they’re nothing short of brilliant. Every time I have read them, I have discovered something new, and I don’t doubt that were I to read them for a fourth time, I’d discover more still.

And the time for re reading them is now, because its an exciting time to be a Pullman fan. Last year the BBC announced it was producing a TV adaptation of His Dark Materials, and this week Pullman revealed that the first part of his new series that has been whispered about for some time now, The Book of Dust, will be available in October. This series is set in and around the world of His Dark Materials, and explores further the concept of Dust, the mysterious substance introduced in Northern Lights, as well as revisiting the story of Lyra Silvertongue, and including familiar aspects such as aletheometers, Daemons, and the Magisterium. I, like many others no doubt, can hardly wait for this first installment, despite the fact that very little of the plot had been revealed, and the book doesn’t even have a title, or a cover. Pre-orders are already being taken.

So what makes a reader willing to purchase a book that they won’t receive for 6 months, that has no synopsis or title, that they know next to nothing about? The only basis for deciding whether or not to purchase we have is His Dark Materials, which must mean that those three books are good enough to sell another, the details of which remain a mystery. There is no doubt that those three books are a collective masterpiece, and ironically its difficult to put into words the richness of the worlds that Pullman has created. The obvious amount of research he put into this series provides the reader with a deeper experience that they won’t forget in a hurry. I know I haven’t. Religion, philosophy, theology, physics… wrapped up in a whole host of brilliant characters. Who wouldn’t want more?

Parallels have subsequently been drawn between His Dark Materials and the current political situation, despite the fact that the first in the series, Northern Lights, is now 22 years old. “Despite the first book having been published 22 years ago, the trilogy is a glowing antidote to the murky and unpleasant reality we’re currently living in. Pullman has ridden back on his agnostic/atheist steed to teach us lessons about rejecting corrupt authority, favouring facts over unfounded beliefs and being true and tolerant to yourself and others.” Whether this matters to you or not, it is simply another layer of depth within a series that is essentially about a little girl “taking on her world’s biggest authority and not destroying it – but setting it free.”

Lest this post sound too gushing, I’ll point out that Pullman has of course been criticised about his attacks on religion. This is to be expected, as His Dark Materials is particularly controversial from a religious point of view – “My books are about killing God.” But as he states, he has faced less criticism than JK Rowling over the magic in Harry Potter, perhaps because although His Dark Materials is meant for “Older children, young adult and adults,” it is perhaps not as obviously meant for children as Harry Potter (though what’s wrong with children reading about magic? The mind boggles.)

I’ve decided that rather than re read His Dark Materials, I will listed to the audio books, having just recently discovered the Audible app ( don’t ask why I’ve just got on the audio book bandwagon)There’s plenty of time between now and the date on which The Book of Dust part 1 lands on my doorstep to listen to all three novels. As for the new book itself, I don’t think I’ve ever ordered a book so quickly after hearing about it, or so far in advance of its release. Don’t expect to see me for a few days following the 17th October.


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