Philip Pullman released an extract from "La Belle Sauvage", translated as "The Noble Savage", the first book in "The Book of Dust" trilogy. It would be out on October 19. The narrative would suggest that the events in the novel took place more than a decade before the happenings in "His Dark Materials". A young boy named Malcolm was intimidated and mystified at the unexpected visit of Lord Asriel and his dæmon, a snow leopard whom strangers and acquaintances would stare in awe. He was on the run from his enemies, but he needed to see the infant Lyra before he set off somewhere. The baby was under the care of Sister Fenella, who was hesitant to let Asriel get hold of Lyra. But father and daughter have a brief, tender moment. His dæmon stood up, put his paws on his waist, and have a peek on her. And Malcolm was watching them from a distance.
"His Dark Materials" divided readers, where many wished that Pullman was forthright about his agnostic beliefs. On the other hand, the extract from "La Belle Sauvage" showed the same qualities that made the first trilogy an engaging, if not fascinating, journey into worlds we would imagine during those idle hours. This could lead to a series of questions: Would armchair adventure save us from our graduate decline (due to routine)? Would fantasy disguise hard conversation (or sensitive topics)? Would children be aware of such a subject? Authors like Pullman would try to depict a nuanced setting, which laid down their thoughts (or feelings) about it. This won't be a shortcut to fame and fortune, as their reputation would be put on the line. Not that they don't care about public opinion, but there must be something about an unusual story that could provoke sensibility. The answers to the questions would be a resounding YES.
Let's try to get into the heart of the matter. What makes Pullman's works appeal to readers? Here are three:
Everyone hardly learns from blind faith. Take note that Pullman penned "His Dark Materials" two decades ago. It would be a coincidence that the first book of "The Book of Dust" should come out after the steady rise of populism. This won't be our folly, not even the author suggesting that the human civilization won't be wiser and kinder. And Pullman would scoff at anyone anointing him as a seer. It seemed to be a sign of desperate times. It wasn't so different back then. There would be a solution, but the people are expected to overlook it. But check out the next item.
People are trying to understand it all, as their curiosity would keep them relentless (or restless) until they are satisfied. Aren't we all? Pullman chose a girl becoming a teenager, also an ex-nun who was gifted with a curious, if not analytical, mind. Let's not get worked up on this one, suspecting Pullman's subversive attitude towards an oppressive clergy.
We only wish to be there. It has nothing to do with near-death experience, which becomes a life opener.
For the meantime, mark your calendars. It won't be long.