When Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy was first published, it caused quite a stir. Universally critically acclaimed and showered with awards, the books shot off the shelves — but Pullman's frank and unflinching criticisms of organized religion earned His Dark Materials a certain notoriety. In fact, the trilogy is second on the USA Banned Books list, which ranks books that people have petitioned schools and libraries to strip from their shelves.
But for many children, the critics' praise and religious controversy was just background noise, as they were far too immersed in a trilogy of books which opened their minds to a veritable multiverse of possibilities.
It's no surprise then that Pullman's recent announcement that he will indeed be publishing a sequel trilogy has been met with excitement and eager anticipation.
Not Sequel Or Prequel But "Equel", Says Pullman
Speaking to BBC Radio 4, Pullman teased details of the next trilogy. Entitled The Book Of Dust, this tale is set both 10 years before and after the conclusion of The Amber Spyglass, so it isn't exactly a continuation of the original trilogy. And yet, we will discover what has become of His Dark Materials' valiant heroine, Lyra Belacqua.
"It's a different story, which begins roughly 10 years before 'His Dark Materials' and continues 10 years after. So we see Lyra as a baby... and we also see her in the second book as an adult."
Explaining that The Book Of Dust "stands beside" the first trilogy, Pullman hinted that there will be settings and characters that fans of the books will recognize — including an enigmatic character Pullman would only call "an ordinary boy". In fact, Pullman's ideal reader is "someone who has read His Dark Materials as a child." This may mean that The Book Of Dust is somewhat more mature than the first trilogy — comprised of Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass, this trilogy was aimed at children, though admittedly the story was very complex.
Pullman's decision to publish another trilogy is not one that he made quickly. It's intriguing to learn he has been pondering and developing this new tale ever since he wrote His Dark Materials.
"'The Book Of Dust' is something I've had in mind for a long time. The story about Lyra in 'His Dark Materials' is finished, but there are other stories that can be told about the people in the book and the world of the book, and one of them has been occupying my imagination for quite some time."
Introducing many young minds to the concept of parallel universes, it's true that His Dark Materials has a wealth of as-yet unexplored ideas and possibilities. The adventure that Lyra and Will embarked upon started many years before they were even born, embroiling them in a battle that spanned universes as celestial and Earthly forces fought for truth, freedom, and the souls of everyone in existence.
Diving back into the vast and fascinating multiverse of His Dark Materials is exciting, and this news is especially welcome after the Hollywood movie adaptation (entitled The Golden Compass after the US book title) failed to win the approval of critics and fans. Other adaptations have been more successful — such as the award-winning National Theatre adaptation — and the BBC reportedly has a television series in the works.
The first book in The Book Of Dust trilogy will be released on the 19th of October worldwide. In the meantime, we'll all be re-reading His Dark Materials with renewed enthusiasm... and keeping our eyes peeled for that intriguing "ordinary boy".
Are you excited for 'The Book Of Dust's release?
[Header image by Cosmicstories]