“Without stories, we wouldn't be human beings at all.”
February 17, 2017 2:48 PM   Subscribe

Philip Pullman Unveils Epic Fantasy Trilogy The Book of Dust [The Guardian] “The as-yet-untitled first volume of The Book of Dust [Amazon], due out on 19 October, will be set in London and Oxford, with the action running parallel to the His Dark Materials trilogy [wiki]. A global bestseller since the first volume, Northern Lights, was published in 1995, Pullman’s series has sold more than 17.5m copies and been translated into 40 languages. Pullman’s brave and outspoken heroine, Lyra Belacqua, will return in the first two volumes. Featuring two periods of her life – as a baby and 10 years after His Dark Materials ended – the series will include other characters familiar to existing readers, as well as creations such as alethiometers (a clock-like truth-telling device), daemons (animals that are physical manifestations of the human spirit) and the Magisterium, the church-like totalitarian authority that rules Lyra’s world.” [Previously.]
posted by Fizz (52 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
 
Describing it as neither sequel nor prequel, but an “equel”, he added: “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.”

A... besidequel. Atthesametimequel. Coterminousintimeandspacequel.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:07 PM on February 17, 2017 [1 favorite]


Huh. I'm not sure what to think about this. I remember being really irritated by the ending of HDM, and now I don't even remember exactly why.
posted by brennen at 3:23 PM on February 17, 2017 [9 favorites]


I was sad the Golden Compass movie (The Northern Lights book was renamed The Golden Compass for the US market) was such dross, because it probably put many off reading the lovely books, besides those put off by the religiously-inspired dislikers.
posted by anadem at 3:26 PM on February 17, 2017 [1 favorite]


I am happy about this. Also, if you haven't read his Grimm fairy tales collection, you should. I enjoyed reading it to my kids almost as much as I enjoyed horrifying my mother by reading it to my kids.
posted by middleclasstool at 3:27 PM on February 17, 2017 [4 favorites]


I remember it getting rather incoherent and preachy towards the end. The first two books still have some of the best worldbuilding I've ever seen, though, so I'm cautiously interested in this.
posted by AdamCSnider at 3:28 PM on February 17, 2017 [12 favorites]


Yeah, the first two are pretty awesome, and the third... isn't. It's OK, but given that the first two were really strong, it kind of threw off the feeling for the whole series. On the other hand, I'll give it a try on the strength of those first two.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:38 PM on February 17, 2017 [7 favorites]


I mean, hell, I really like China Miéville's books, and heaven knows he has trouble sticking his landings....
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:55 PM on February 17, 2017 [9 favorites]


Miéville's challenges are... different. He's a Marxist economist in his other job, remember, and sometimes when he's playing out those ideas in fiction he goes down hard-to-follow rabbit holes. Sometimes it feels like character and plot really aren't the point, with him. (Not that I don't love a number of his books! He's just taking much bigger risks than Pullman. I mean, Embassytown is about Saussurean linguistics...)

Pullman's work is much more shaped for mainstream dramatic tastes. (And yeah, I was bummed how poorly the movies did. Except that the panzerbjorn were awesome!) I'm not really sure what others think was wrong with the third book... maybe there was too much exposition and not enough action? I rather like it, though it broke my heart. Regardless, I think Pullman's likely to pull off more blockbusters, so when the new stuff comes out I'll be first in line.
posted by gusandrews at 4:03 PM on February 17, 2017 [4 favorites]


anadem I hear you. See also the dark is rising series where I hear they butchered the movie, even with Ian Mcshane I hear it was horrible.

I actually introduced Phillip Pullman when he was on tour promoting the Amber Spyglass. He came to my school and you had to write an essay about the books and what they meant to you. I won and had to write a little speech and had to give that in front of a packed gymnasium, it was unnerving. But I got to meet him and he signed the trilogy for me which was amazing. I remember him as write the great speaker. He spoke of his writing process and how he used text to speech and his wife would go in and clean up the text and correct any errors. To this day I still remember his anecdote, apparently his wife asked him why there was a passage that read woof woof woof, hah hah hah. He said it was quite simply that the dog barked and he laughed. He said after that he rarely doubted the efficacy of his text to speech software again.
posted by Carillon at 4:06 PM on February 17, 2017 [13 favorites]


Miéville's challenges are... different.

Well, yes (but I don't think they arise from his Marxism). I do think Pullman's problem was that he's an atheist who wanted to be the anti-C. S. Lewis, and, for his sins, he got his wish. The last Dark Materials book had that same "now I have to make a point and underline it" problem that Lewis fell into over and over(and, weirdly, don't annoy in things like Mere Christianity). If Pullman sets himself to telling an awesome story and sticks with it to the end, this series will be great.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:20 PM on February 17, 2017 [15 favorites]


I should read the original series I guess....
posted by RolandOfEld at 4:20 PM on February 17, 2017 [2 favorites]


The BBC is currently adapting the His Dark Materials trilogy, possibly to premiere before the end of the year.
posted by ShooBoo at 4:24 PM on February 17, 2017 [7 favorites]


Consider me stoked. Loved the original trilogy.
posted by misterbee at 4:25 PM on February 17, 2017 [1 favorite]


Pullman claims he's an atheist? That surprises me given the depth of theological play done in the books. Sure he shat all over institutionalized churches, but the stuff that wasn't 'petulant man-child' as God stuff are ideas that very much count as religious ideas, even if you have to get into esoterica to demonstrate.
posted by Strange_Robinson at 4:38 PM on February 17, 2017 [1 favorite]


This is relevant to my interest
posted by Pantalaimon at 4:39 PM on February 17, 2017 [21 favorites]


> anadem I hear you. See also the dark is rising series where I hear they butchered the movie, even with Ian Mcshane I hear it was horrible.

Holy shit, there was a Dark is Rising movie?

I probably didn't want to know that.

> I do think Pullman's problem was that he's an atheist who wanted to be the anti-C. S. Lewis, and, for his sins, he got his wish.

That kind of lines up with what I remember. Still, like Lewis, he did leave me with all kinds of powerful images and sense-impressions. I hope this one goes well.
posted by brennen at 4:42 PM on February 17, 2017 [5 favorites]


I first read Pullman as an earnestly Christian teenager. I got halfway through the second book and got fed up.

I tried him again a couple years ago as a contentedly cantankerous atheist. Same thing.

Not sure why. I really enjoyed the first book in both cases, and then the second one, I just... bounce off. Never gotten to the third one to see what it is about that one that makes everyone else have a similar reaction.
posted by Scattercat at 4:51 PM on February 17, 2017


I have a feeling it's going to be five pages of Lyra, followed by fifty pages of some dude I don't care about. I'll still read it because Lyra.
posted by betweenthebars at 5:05 PM on February 17, 2017 [2 favorites]


I am excited about this news. I read the whole trilogy at least twice plus the book on tape was really good. Towards the end there is so much going on, and so much of it is like, magical & imaginary that I always did have a hard time following but I thought it was just me not being good at reading books. The movie they made ... was not done with love. I think there is a good movie in the book somewhere but that wasn't it.
posted by bleep at 5:29 PM on February 17, 2017


The The Golden Compass movie was never going to be good because it was impossible to tone down the anticlericalism and keep the soul of the book. I loved the series and it really informed my developing sense of morality, but Harry Potter was always going to be more popular because it didn't literally end with someone killing God.
posted by Small Dollar at 6:00 PM on February 17, 2017 [4 favorites]


Also I once found a box set in a New Age bookstore which I found supremely ironic.
posted by Small Dollar at 6:10 PM on February 17, 2017 [1 favorite]


Holy shit, there was a Dark is Rising movie?

Yeah but they called it The Seeker. I loved the books too much to check it out given what I'd read.
posted by Carillon at 6:15 PM on February 17, 2017


Holy shit, there was a Dark is Rising movie?

No, no, there wasn't. It never happened (or shouldn't have).

posted by Fuchsoid at 8:01 PM on February 17, 2017 [4 favorites]


Miéville's problem as a novelist isn't that he's a Marxist, it's that he's an academic ;)
posted by gusandrews at 8:30 PM on February 17, 2017 [2 favorites]


I am breathlessly excited about this, given that the ending of the original trilogy is one of a very few things that has made me cry real tears as an adult.
posted by infinitywaltz at 9:06 PM on February 17, 2017 [1 favorite]


I cried, and was sad for days. Looking forward to more.
posted by Standard Orange at 9:33 PM on February 17, 2017 [1 favorite]


He struggles with characterization sometimes, but his worldbuilding carries you right past it. I loved the third book even though his ideas got away from him sometimes. I am excite.
posted by emjaybee at 10:58 PM on February 17, 2017


I'm endlessly excited for this. These books were gold dust for me during childhood, they were true escapism and I can wait to see this 'equal' book and also the TV series - which I can only hope is done better than the Golden Compass film. I ended up turning it off, I was really quite sad about how much they'd missed the target and didn't want to ruin my own memory of Northern Lights. :(
posted by TheGarden at 2:20 AM on February 18, 2017


I was annoyed by the ending of The Amber Spyglass because I didn't like the reasons Pullman manufactured to keep Lyra and Will apart. It felt more like he was trying to make a grand point, instead of just telling a story.

Also, for anyone who hasn't heard of the movie based on The Dark is Rising and is even vaguely curious about it: they turned Will Stanton into a 13 year-old American boy for the movie.
posted by colfax at 3:56 AM on February 18, 2017 [3 favorites]


Apropos of Pullman's remark in the cited article about J.K. Rowling taking more heat for the magic in her books than he ever got for "killing God(?)" in his, I'm compelled to share this anecdote: a coworker asked me (high school librarian) if Rowling's books were okay for her then 7- and 9-year-old sons to read because of the "magic" she'd heard about. I was stunned, but responded that of course it was okay because all of the children in the books were charged to use their imaginations to solve problems and it just so happened that magic was one of the things that was in their toolkits to solve some big problems in their (Rowlings' invented) world. Apparently that was enough to reassure her because the next time I saw her sons, they were indeed reading Harry Potter books. Whew.
posted by Lynsey at 8:53 AM on February 18, 2017 [3 favorites]


The third book was so full of irrelevant world-building, (the evolved wheel-creatures), and nonsense, it ruined everything that went before.
posted by Windopaene at 9:21 AM on February 18, 2017 [1 favorite]


It's funny how no one worries about how watching Star Trek might give their children a distorted idea of physics or biology....
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:23 AM on February 18, 2017 [1 favorite]


They don't kill God in the books. God is so old and frail that he dies when the breeze touches him. Since he's just a sort of cohered/physically-reified form of dust/human-consciousness, he just can't seem to hold his form any longer than he has already. I thought the humans who are there when he dies don't even realize that was God whom they saw die.

I'm really looking forward to the new trilogy. But though I really enjoyed reading Lyra, I feel like a proper equel would just leave her out and be built in that universe. I feel like adding to Lyra's story somehow taints the original trilogy which really should be left to just stand alone. Adding to it seems like re-writing history somehow.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:30 AM on February 18, 2017


I have no idea why people didn't like the Amber Spyglass. I feel like that was a classic "got to finish with all these ideas in" book, but it captured everything wonderfully.

If you want the Miéville approach to that universe, read Once Upon A Time In The North, which gives Lee Scoresby's back-story. It's very much about foreign corporate power destroying local democracy, and as such it's unnervingly relevant to our times.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 10:02 AM on February 18, 2017 [2 favorites]


I really hated the ending of The Amber Spyglass, I thought it was really forced and tragic lol.

But the first book is still so splendid. It has the majesty that I deeply enjoy when it comes to reading English language literature with a lot of verve. Lyra certainly knows how to make her own fate. Upon rereading as a college-educated feminist, I found it deeply amusing and shocking how she internalized the sexism of her college and how much she looked down upon the women professors vs Mrs. Coulter. The things that we are taught to value!
posted by yueliang at 11:59 AM on February 18, 2017


The movie of Golden Compass was really uneven, and felt as if they blew a lot of the budget on a star, then had to scrounge on other production costs. Looking forward to the new trilogy; I like the way he questions the status quo.
posted by theora55 at 12:25 PM on February 18, 2017


All I can really say about this is FUCK YES.
posted by New England Cultist at 12:51 PM on February 18, 2017


Also, I don't think you need to be a Christian to realise the power of religious narratives and use them as mythic frameworks, something Pullman does very well.
posted by New England Cultist at 12:53 PM on February 18, 2017 [2 favorites]


I loved, loved, loved The Golden Compass. I fell into that book one weekend and came out like this. I eagerly snapped up The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, which . . . god. I was just heartbroken at how this wonderful, meaningful story had become so cliché and plodding by the end.

The third book was so full of irrelevant world-building, (the evolved wheel-creatures), and nonsense, it ruined everything that went before.

Those wheel creatures made me the most angry. Angrier than the author's voice randomly being inserted into characters' mouths, angrier than the battle we had been waiting for two and a half books lasting all of two pages, angrier than the pointless characters that accompanied Lyra (gay angels? a sacrilegious former nun? witches? where did these people COME from?), angrier than the idea that "I kissed a boy once and it was nice" somehow caused the Fall of Man over again, and angrier than the total cop-out ending which existed not for any in-world reasons but instead to cold-bloodedly give the readers a "sad" ending.

No, the wheel creatures made me the most angry because they literally played out the entire philosophical underpinning of the entire previous two and a half books, telling us things we already knew, beat for beat recreating the story all over again, but with alien creatures, and spending PAGES and PAGES on it, when 1) I got it, I understood this the first time around with Lyra, and 2) there was already a compelling plot I was waiting and waiting to get back to.

Ugh, I'm still angry. Phillip Pullman ruined his own masterpiece and I'm so angry at him for it. I'm 100% not interested in any "equals" because I don't want him to screw up The Golden Compass any more than he already has.
posted by chainsofreedom at 2:19 PM on February 18, 2017 [2 favorites]


Not sure why. I really enjoyed the first book in both cases, and then the second one, I just... bounce off. Never gotten to the third one to see what it is about that one that makes everyone else have a similar reaction.

There's a reason for that. Look, the way to read Pullman, is to read through the section with the awesome armored bears, and then quit. Then put the bears n your next D&D game.
posted by happyroach at 3:44 PM on February 18, 2017


Huh. I liked the wheel creatures quite a lot. And I hate a lot of things! They are a bit like Lewis's type of Mystical Aliens, though the weird murderous bird/ship creatures I suppose balanced that out.

I just re-read the series last week, so this is all very fresh to me. The only things that truly bothered me in the series were Lyra's parents; I couldn't quite buy them at the end. Both of them seemed to swerve between complete sociopathy and flashes of compassion (caused by Lyra, which I didn't buy). On the other hand, they were such fun as characters, that it almost didn't matter whether they were believable.

The bit where they cut a passage into the realm of death itself--when they see people who have just been slaughtered--still gives me shivers. Andy Lyra seeing her Death, which is a person--and the harpies--and the pointless suffering of the afterlife. It was not the same kind of adventure as the first book, but I can't be unhappy to see a young adult book take on giant questions and ideas like that in an adventuresome way.
posted by emjaybee at 5:53 PM on February 18, 2017 [7 favorites]


I think I'm starting to wear thin on fan entitlement. Fans are exhausting.

My only fear with these books is that he resorts to pandering to feed the entitled fans. Better they are a glorious mess then wankery for spoiled children.
posted by Strange_Robinson at 10:27 PM on February 18, 2017


I liked the first two books well enough, but was incredibly disturbed by the off hand statement in the first one that the college servants had daemons that indicated that, well, they were naturally servants. And then Lyra's dad stomped in with a giant feline that I took to indicate he was naturally dominant. That whole class thing did rather ruin chunks of it for me.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 8:50 AM on February 19, 2017 [1 favorite]


That didn't bother me because it seemed like, it wasn't that they were "born" to be servants, but you got your daemon around adolescence and in that world your life trajectory & personality were pretty much set by that time given the circumstances that molded you as you grew up. To contrast with our world where there is no physical representation of your soul so it's a lot more fluid.
posted by bleep at 11:23 AM on February 19, 2017 [2 favorites]


It's nice to know that I'm not the only one who thoroughly enjoyed The Golden Compass and then was disappointed by the next two books in the series. I came to the series as a young teenager who adored Pullman's Sally Lockheart trilogy.

The weird thing is to me now -- two decades later is that I can remember vivid details about the Lockheart books and The Golden Compass, but I have no real memory of The Subtle Knife or The Amber Spyglass. I remember reading one of the two at the same time as I was reading Paradise Lost in Honors English... so it was a "oh, I see what you're doing here" moment. And I also remember reading Angels in America around the same time and thinking that I was accidentally reading on a theme. But I have no memory of the wheeled creatures talked about up thread -- all I can really remember of The Amber Spyglass is that they can't stay in the same universe because of reasons and that they wanted the dead to be able to dissipate.

However, if you have not read the Sally Lockheart books -- I recommend them. They are historical mysteries and really boundary breaking in a lot of respects. I can't imagine a YA series today with a heroine who ends up having an illegitimate kid.
posted by JustKeepSwimming at 1:43 PM on February 19, 2017


That didn't bother me because it seemed like, it wasn't that they were "born" to be servants, but you got your daemon around adolescence and in that world your life trajectory & personality were pretty much set by that time given the circumstances that molded you as you grew up

This is a more subtle reading than I got from the books; I got the feeling that Pullman was swinging so hard for the church that he couldn't see any harm beyond them, but I wasn't a huge fan of the books and so didn't read them that deeply. I also remember there not being any commentary beyond that servile folks have servile daemons. because that's the way it is; it always seems strange that people elide this element of the books.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 6:43 PM on February 19, 2017


The important thing to note about Pullman's world is that two principal things are different from ours:
  1. People's dæmons are visible as "spirit animals" outside their bodies, giving everyone visibility of a manifestation of a person's spirit.
  2. A major Calvinist revolution took over the Christian church, even moving the headquarters from Rome to Geneva.
I would hope the way in which these two ideas are linked is clear, leading to exactly the sort of discussion of predestination and essentialism that's going on upthread.

The surprise that an atheist should be interested in religion or mysticism is kind of quaint, like wondering why Marx wrote a whole book about Captialism. It may help to note two more things:
  1. The comment about "killing God" comes from an interview where Pullman stated that as one of his original goals for the series.
  2. In interviews, Pullman often talks about classics he feels have a problematic role in our society (such as Milne's clinging to saccharine childhood charms), and as such has said that he was hoping to write an anti-Narnia with this series. One could call it a Gnostic Narnia, making use of Paradise Lost's sympathy-for-the-devil themes.
Remember what the true evil is in this series: Authority.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 7:50 PM on February 19, 2017 [2 favorites]


But I mean, I don't think this is the type of book where you shouldn't read it too deeply. It's kind of begging to be read. That analysis is just facts.
posted by bleep at 8:18 PM on February 19, 2017 [1 favorite]


Around the time the film came out a US production company came to Oxford to make a documentary about the Trilogy, which was a bit of a low budget cash in, to be honest. It included some live action recreations of scenes from the novel, and my daughter, who was about 12, was cast to play Lyra. I went along as chaperone. Some scenes were done in Lincoln College, and they were so short of people that they gave me some robes and asked me to sit at high table, pretending to be a don. As we were filming, Pullman himself came in, showing some friends around his old college. No one recognised him except me. To say I was embarrassed would be an understatement. Nevertheless I pointed out to the director that the subject of their documentary was watching us filming. It is my only brush with greatness.
posted by Major Tom at 1:02 AM on February 20, 2017 [4 favorites]


The surprise that an atheist should be interested in religion or mysticism is kind of quaint

One could call it a Gnostic Narnia

See, there's the contradiction. Gnosticism, and the advocation of gnostic thought, is only atheist thought to your establishment religion types. Or to the atheists whom are reacting to establishment religion types.

What Pullman killed was the demiurge, but you can't say that sort of thing in the press, and so the next titalating thing was said.

I'd still be very surprised if the man was actually an atheist. He hasn't the materialist trappings one usually finds with that kind of thinking.
posted by Strange_Robinson at 8:15 AM on February 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


Let me put it this way as a gnostic style believer. The Old Testament god is a petulant man-child for a reason.
posted by Strange_Robinson at 8:20 AM on February 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


The Old Testament god is a petulant man-child for a reason.

That remindes me of the old SF book ("The Haunted Earth)") where God is grilled in a talk show over his Old Testament actions, and frantically tries to claim that's what his believers demanded.

I think that single page did a better job of skewering Christianity than the entire Northern Lights trilogy.
posted by happyroach at 8:47 AM on February 22, 2017


« Older Une Femme Coquette   |   That outward sign of an inward or unseen calamity. Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments