Philip Pullman’s ‘The Book of Dust’: Everything We Know So Far


Philip Pullman just announced he’s expanding the ‘His Dark Materials’ universe with ‘The Book of Dust’ trilogy. What exactly does that mean?

If you’re like me, and His Dark Materials makes up half of your life philosophy and your entire childhood, yesterday was a bit of a whirlwind. After the books ended, and the Movie That Shall Not Be Named fizzled out, there was very little HDM content to meet my daemon needs. Longtime fans hung on Pullman’s vague promises for a new book, The Book of Dust, like Lyra and Will at that Oxford bench every year.

Once Pullman Beyoncé’d us all with this announcement, his publisher, Penguin, released some handy information to get the rumor mill (and the hype) started. He also discussed these points in various interviews.

Let’s break it down.

"1.     The Book of Dust is a story in three parts. The first part is set 10 years before the events of His Dark Materials, and the rest of the story takes place 20 years after that: in fact, 10 years after Lyra comes home to Jordan College after her adventure in the Arctic at the end of The Amber Spyglass."

TL;DR: Pullman is pulling (pun intended) a Rogue One and Fantastic Beasts.

He isn’t trying to continue the main story, but expand on the universe (and parallel universes!) he already created. Is this becoming a franchise trend?

"2.     Alethiometers, daemons and the Magisterium all feature!"

This implies some interesting things:

  • The re-introduction of alethiometers means that someone found (or will find) one of the remaining few, and that will be introduced to another person other than Lyra who can use it. Although Penguin’s use of alethiometers plural begs The Last Jedi plural question….
  • By featuring daemons, we now know that the setting will be in Lyra’s universe, not Will’s.
  • Explicitly mentioning the Magisterium means these books may get more political than theological. By delving into the practical repercussions of Dust, Pullman will be expanding on issues in Lyra’s universe that were only briefly mentioned in HDM.

"3.     The story will focus on some new characters, as well as an ordinary boy who eagle-eyed readers may have spotted in Lyra’s story before. With Lyra, he is caught up in a terrifying adventure that takes him into a new world…"

For the next few months, this will become the Rey Parentage Debate of the HDM fandom.

WHO? IS? THE? BOY? It seems like Pullman is going a Eustace Scrubb route – taking someone related to or briefly in contact with the previous main character to tell a whole new story in the same universe, who is a decidedly “normal” person and just gets wrapped up in this whole “magic” thing.

Some tinfoil hat conspiracy fans think it’s Roger, even though he dies in The Golden Compass/Northern Lights. Most think it’s Billy Costa, the gyptian son of Ma Costa who escaped from Bolvangar with Lyra.

However, the most interesting part of this revelation is that it confirms Lyra’s place in the new trilogy. Much like General Leia or old Luke Skywalker, she won’t just be a cameo, but an active character (if not the protagonist this time around). I really hope Pullman doesn’t make an old Han Solo out of her though….

"4.     Their tale is pretty topical – it centres on the struggle between a despotic and totalitarian organisation that wants to stifle speculation and enquiry, and those who believe that thought and speech should be free."

It’s very exciting that even the publisher admits these books’ social relevance.

Before, the religious controversy always overshadowed HDM’s true message. This time around, Pullman, and the Penguin marketing team, are getting straight to the point – we did religion, now let’s get political. Will the Magisterium be the fake news allegory for Trump’s America we didn’t know we needed?

"5.     Rather than a prequel or a sequel to His Dark Materials, Philip describes The Book of Dust as an ‘equel’ – a new story that stands beside his previous trilogy."

Have the Star Wars prequels really tainted the word “prequel” THAT much?

Whether you call it expanding a tentpole franchise, a sequel trilogy, or an “equel”, it’s getting complicated.

"6.     Like His Dark Materials, it will be released in three parts. Part One will be published on 19th October 2017 – 22 years after Northern Lights was published in July 1995."

This was the part of the big announcement that really threw people for a loop.

Pullman mentioned it would be “a big book”, but never that we’d get a whole new trilogy. With three separate books comes not only new material, but a new revival of the fandom and HDM conversation in pop culture. When there’s time between TV seasons, movie sequels or book series, people talk – and that’s where the fun is.

Also, can they stop releasing things in the exact time period it takes to hit fans in the nostalgia feels? This feels very Toy Story 3 or Monsters University, where the next installment in a beloved children’s franchise popped up out of nowhere to make you reevaluate where you are in life.

Next: Philip Pullman Announces New “His Dark Materials” Trilogy

"7.    The title, plot, official cover artwork and news about book signings and competitions will all be revealed over the coming months in our Philip Pullman newsletter – get yourself signed up below!"

They know exactly what they’re doing by giving us breadcrumbs until October.

I’ll be waiting on pins and alethiometer needles.