I finished reading the first volume of Philip Pullman's new trilogy, the Book of Dust, last night. The second half of the book is concerned with what we learn to call "the Secret Commonwealth." I can only speculate how Pullman will develop this concept, but from what we are given I can sense that it is more than enough to justify a new series. In the same way that Lynch was able to recreate Twin Peaks Pullman is now recreating His Dark Materials. If the theme and structuring motif of the last series was Paradise Lost then the new series' is The Faerie Queene. Personally, I am very excited with this turn of direction since I've always preferred Spenser to Milton. The change of theme also begins to justify Pullman's decision to mesh this story through the old (it occurs before, during, and after the original books). I'd like to say something about what I think Pullman is up to.
Pullman, in titling the series "The Book of Dust" suggested to me, years ago when he still in the earliest phases of conceiving this new material, that he was creating a kind of ur-text. Dust is the grounding metaphor as it were for the whole series. What could the book look like? I almost expected a kind of Bible or Encyclopedia. What we are given instead is "the Secret Commonwealth," another reality that seems separate from the alternate worlds of the previous series. This is a world of magic and seems to embody imagination and creativity as well as being a metaphor for spirit and consciousness. By separating the book over three different time periods he will make the whole of the trilogy more about this theme than any individual character, or so I think, although Lyra too is a kind of spirit that is present in all of them. In short order, I loved it.
Next on the bookshelf, the Businessman by Thomas M. Disch.