Fans of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy have a lot to be excited about this coming month with the release of the first instalment of his companion trilogy The Book of Dust. The Book of Dust – La Belle Sauvage has been hotly anticipated since Pullman revealed in February that he was finally publishing another episode in the saga, 17 years after the trilogy apparently concluded.
His Dark Materials consisted of three books – Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass – all of which became bestsellers, selling more than 17.5 million copies worldwide and being translated into more than 40 different languages. Individually, the three books have won numerous literary awards, including the Carnegie Medal (1996) and the Costa Award (2001). The books have already been adapted for stage and screen but His Dark Materials is set to become a BBC One adaptation in 2018, adapted by Jack Thorne and produced by Bad Wolf and New Line Cinema. The BBC described the upcoming adaption as, “a drama event for young and old – a real family treat that shows commitment to original and ambitious storytelling.”
While a sneak preview of the new novel was released back in May, most of the information regarding characters and the plot are being kept secret. What we know so far is that the new book shifts between Lyra’s birth and a decade after the previous trilogy concluded. Pullman describes the new series as an “equel”, as opposed to a sequel or prequel. However, Pullman insists that “Lyra is at the centre of the story. Events involving her open the first chapter, and will close the last. I’ve always wanted to tell the story of how Lyra came to be living at Jordan College and, in thinking about it, I discovered a long story that began when she was a baby and will end when she’s grown up.”
Furthermore, on his website, Pullman writes that, “at the centre of The Book of Dust is the struggle between a despotic and totalitarian organisation, which wants to stifle speculation and enquiry, and those who believe thought and speech should be free.”
This draws strong parallels to the current political climate, yet despite the obvious contemporary parallels, Pullman’s publisher was quick to deny that Pullman is writing about 21st-century politics. But Pullman himself has been at the forefront of UK authors decrying Donald Trump’s election. Given Pullman’s trenchant critique of despotism and totalitarianism, there is no doubt that the forthcoming Book of Dust trilogy will be read allegorically.
Given that the series was immensely popular throughout the noughties, it is only natural that many Glasgow bookshops are playing up to the hype. Waterstones on Sauchiehall Street invites fans to join them for a midnight release on Wednesday 18 October where everyone who pre-orders their copy will be entered into a competition to win a free Pullman goody bag. However, if you’re not content with that, the Byres Road Waterstones will be opening early at 8am on Thursday 19 October for those who would prefer to buy it on their way to university. For those who are avid readers, Waterstones in Braehead is offering a reading group on Thursday 2 November, specifically to discuss La Belle Sauvage. However, my favourite La Belle Sauvage event is at the Waterstones in Argyle Street where it is holding an early opening coffee morning event in the store.
The first 50 customers to buy the book at the launch will get an exclusive wristband, and the event also promises quizzes, prizes, and free cake!
While many childhood bookworms may have been too young to experience the frenzy that surrounded the release of Pullman’s work – or that of other authors around that time period – the publication of The Book of Dust allows readers the chance to experience the hype such novels famously created. Glasgow seems to be embracing the excitement around the novel - so make sure to grab a copy.