It’s Halloween! The number of costumes impresses me every year, even if they do turn into something else entirely unrelated to the occasion. I could do a post about it, or post something creative, or even talk about Thor 2, which I saw last night – but I’m not. I’ve had a lot of requests asking me to look at Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy and I’m only sorry it’s taken me this long to do it as I love these books!
I actually got to meet the man himself in 2012, and it was an incredible experience. I was working at the Manchester Children’s Book Festival that summer and he was one of the authors there, and he was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met – never mind one of the nicest writers! Despite it being an evening session, and a busy one at that, he made sure he didn’t leave until he had seen everyone who wanted to meet him. It must have been 10:30 or later before it was all done. We need more writers like that…and maybe even more people like that too!
One of the most obviously things for me was the lack of religion in the books. This might not seem like such a big issue, really, but I remember it being compared as a contrast to Narnia, and those books were massively heavy on religion, especially when you put each book together. This was the complete opposite – not anti-religious as such, and not pro. Rather, it just left out religion as much as possible. That didn’t make it overly science based either, as our protagonists, Lyra and Will, are children who do not understand everything being said to them. As readers, we are given a lot more information and our understanding is probably better than theirs.
Dust is a theme comes up often, and a lack of understanding, not just from our protagonists but also the adults of the world, makes it an interesting idea. It lends itself to so many things, theories and ideas that until we hear more from Pullman, it’s impossible to know the true purpose of Dust in that universe. We can speculate, and take what characters say but I’ve always felt there was more to Dust.
As a huge science-fiction and fantasy fan, I love new worlds, rules, creatures and all sorts. Having that element in the His Dark Materials books definitely played a big part in keeping me interested as a younger reader. However, they were not so “out there” that it detracted from the story. The worlds were carefully planned out with the right amount of detail that kept me interested and wanting more but still fully believing in that world and also wanting to return to safer ground at the same time. It was brilliant writing all around.
It was one of the earliest books I read that seem to stray away from the “happy ever after” mentality that a lot of children and teenage books had at that time. Things have changed since, and it’s not a sad ending as such, but it was heart wrenching. It’s one of the reasons why I want to know more about what happened later, to see how they coped with the events in their lives.
I love these books, and quite happily and often read them again and again. Each time, I notice something new or a new idea comes to me and that’s one of the best things about a good book – that no matter how often you read it, there’s always something more to gain, and in a lot of books and works I’ve seen being published over the last ten years or so, that just isn’t there. Looks like I’ve just set myself a goal!
What’s more exciting for me is that The Book of Dust is still underway – I’ve been looking forward to this ever since the rumours started. While not a direct sequel to the trilogy, it seems we will follow an older Lyra and Dust is going to play an important part, but with a name like The Book of Dust, I’d really hope so. Patience is a virtue I’m getting more of every year so I can wait, especially if the extra time will transform it from a good read to an extraordinary book (or two)!