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A "golden" prequel from Philip Pullman

March 27, 2008 |  2:49 pm


Early next month, Philip Pullman will publish "Once Upon a Time in the North" -- a sort of prequel to the trilogy "His Dark Materials." The Guardian has an exclusive excerpt of the new book, which presents a young Lee Scoresby, the trilogy's heroic aeronaut, seeking work in the Arctic town of Novy Odense. Scoresby sees polar bears scavenging the streets: That's a far cry from the once-great bear-kings of Svalbard, someone tells him. He also learns of their armor and of the possiblity of an anti-bear campaign taking place in the region. Pullman's narrative ease is fully on display as Scoresby settles himself among the town's denizens.

Like Pullman's 2003 book, "Lyra’s Oxford," set two years after the trilogy ends, "Once Upon a Time in the North" isn't the follow-up novel that so many of Pullman's trilogy fans are expecting. (That one, Pullman has said, will be called "The Book of Dust.") This is a short story -- complete with a board game, the publisher says. However rich in meaning and implications, "Once Upon a Time in the North" will only make readers eager for what is yet to come. It will be published by Random House on April 8.

Nick Owchar