Philip Pullman is back, baby! The author of the somewhat infamous His Dark Materials trilogy has just announced the arrival of a new trilogy set in the same universe. The new trilogy is set to be titled The Book of Dust. The ever subversive Pullman plans to continue exploring the themes introduced in the His Dark Materials series in addition to providing some backstory on the heroine Lyra Belacqua and the mysterious Dust. Pullman has talked about wanting to explore Lyra’s origins in depth, including how she wound up at Oxford. For those of you who didn’t read the original trilogy, Lyra Belacqua is the main character of the His Dark Materials series and, with the help of her faithful daemon and a few friends, exposed the corrupt ways of the sinister Magisterium and grew into adulthood along the way.
Lyra’s original adventure was considered highly controversial by the Catholic Church due to Pullman’s own admission that he wanted to kill God. (Pretty intense, right?) His Dark Materials literally features a knife whose purpose is to kill the fictional version of God, and the climax is a war between man and the divine. However, it would be too simplistic to say that this controversy was the only stand-out feature of the bestselling young adult series. Apart from trying to kill God, Pullman also explores various themes around fighting elitist dictatorships and the power of knowledge and science.
Pullman plans to continue to incorporate these elements into The Book of Dust. With the current political climate being what it is, expect Pullman to continue his attacks on totalitarianism and overly reductionist thought processes.
But perhaps where Pullman’s work best fits into today’s world is the realm of alternative facts and the search for an objective truth with a nuance. In the original trilogy, the plot was mostly driven by the mysterious Dust, it’s purpose, and the Magisterium’s attempts to destroy it while hiding it from the general public. Lyra’s search for the purpose of Dust is the quest we all venture on in the search for truth. Dust in the His Dark Materials trilogy does not naturally have good or evil attributes. It is only when the Magisterium deems the Dust to be evil, does Dust become evil with millions of people adopting a similar stance. However, Dust, much like the truth in the real world, is much more complicated. It is only through a more nuanced understanding of Dust that it can be understood.
Maybe Pullman can encourage a new generation of readers to search for nuance instead of succumbing to a reductionist way of thinking. In a world where discussion seems to have been reduced to disparaging rants on Twitter, we could all use a little more nuance.
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h/t The Guardian