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  • Lyra's Oxford: His Dark Materials
  • Written by Philip Pullman
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On Sale: January 21, 2009
Pages: 64 | ISBN: 978-0-307-48781-0
Published by : Knopf Books for Young Readers RH Childrens Books
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

An exciting new tale set in the world of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials saga. This collectible hardcover volume includes a short story by Mr. Pullman, plus a fold-out map of Oxford and various "souvenirs" from the past. The book is illustrated throughout with woodcut illustrations by John Lawrence.

Excerpt

LYRA didn’t often climb out of her bedroom window these days. She had a better way onto the roof of Jordan College: the Porter had given her a key that let her onto the roof of the Lodge Tower. He’d let her have it because he was too old to climb the steps and check the stonework and the lead, as was his duty four times a year; so she made a full report to him, and he passed it to the Bursar, and in exchange she was able to get out onto the roof whenever she wanted. When she lay down on the lead, she was invisible from everywhere except the sky. A little parapet ran all the way around the square roof, and Pantalaimon often draped his pine-marten form over the mock battlements on the corner facing south, and dozed while Lyra sat below with her back against the sun-drenched stone, studying the books she’d brought up with her. Sometimes they’d stop and watch the storks that nested on St. Michael’s Tower, just across Turl Street. Lyra had a plan to tempt them over to Jordan, and she’d even dragged several planks of wood up to the roof and laboriously nailed them together to make a platform, just as they’d done at St. Michael’s; but it hadn’t worked. The storks were loyal to St. Michael’s, and that was that.
“They wouldn’t stay for long if we kept on coming here, anyway,” said Pantalaimon.
“We could tame them. I bet we could. What do they eat?”
“Fish,” he guessed. “Frogs.” He was lying on top of the stone parapet, lazily grooming his red gold fur. Lyra stood up to lean on the stone beside him, her limbs full of warmth, and gazed out toward the southeast, where a dusty dark-green line of trees rose above the spires and rooftops in the early evening air.

She was waiting for the starlings. That year an extraordinary number of them had come to roost in the Botanic Garden, and every evening they would rise out of the trees like smoke, and swirl and swoop and dart through the skies above the city in their thousands.
“Millions,” Pan said.
“Maybe, easily. I don’t know who could ever count them. . . . There they are!” They didn’t seem like individual birds, or even individual dots of black against the blue; it was the flock itself that was the individual. It was like a single piece of cloth, cut in a very complicated way that let it swing through itself and double over and stretch and fold in three dimensions without ever tangling, turning itself inside out and elegantly waving and crossing through and falling and rising and falling again. “If it was saying something . . . ,” said Lyra.
“Like signaling.”
“No one would know, though. No one could ever understand what it meant.”
“Maybe it means nothing. It just is.”
“Everything means something,” Lyra said severely. “We just have to find out how to read it.” Pantalaimon leapt across a gap in the parapet to the stone in the corner, and stood on his hind legs, balancing with his tail and gazing more intently at the vast swirling flock over the far side of the city.
“What does that mean, then?” he said. She knew exactly what he was referring to. She was watching it too. Something was jarring or snagging at the smokelike, flaglike, ceaseless motion of the starlings, as if that miraculous multidimensional cloth had found itself unable to get rid of a knot.
“They’re attacking something,” Lyra said, shading her eyes. And coming closer. Lyra could hear them now, too: a high-pitched angry mindless shriek. The bird at the center of the swirling anger was darting to right and left, now speeding upward, now dropping almost to the rooftops, and when it was no closer than the spire of the University Church, and before they could even see what kind of bird it was, Lyra and Pan found themselves shaking with surprise. For it wasn’t a bird, although it was bird-shaped; it was a dæmon. A witch’s dæmon.
“Has anyone else seen it? Is anyone looking?” said Lyra. Pan’s black eyes swept every rooftop, every window in sight, while Lyra leaned out and looked up and down the street on one side and then darted to the other three sides to look into Jordan’s front quadrangle and along the roof as well. The citizens of Oxford were going about their daily business, and a noise of birds in the sky wasn’t interesting enough to disturb them. Just as well: because a dæmon was instantly recognizable as what he was, and to see one without his human would have caused a sensation, if not an outcry of fear and horror. “Oh, this way, this way!” Lyra said urgently, unwilling to shout, but jumping up and waving both arms; and Pan too was trying to attract the dæmon’s attention, leaping from stone to stone, flowing across the gaps and spinning around to leap back again. The birds were closer now, and Lyra could see the dæmon clearly: a dark bird about the size of a thrush, but with long arched wings and a forked tail. Whatever he’d done to anger the starlings, they were possessed by fear and rage, swooping, stabbing, tearing, trying to batter him out of the air.
“This way! Here, here!” Pan cried, and Lyra flung open the trapdoor to give the dæmon a way of escape. The noise, now that the starlings were nearly overhead, was deafening, and Lyra thought that people below must be looking up to see this war in the sky. And there were so many birds, as thick as flakes in a blizzard of black snow, that Lyra, her arm across her head, lost sight of the dæmon among them. But Pan had him. As the dæmon-bird dived low toward the tower, Pan stood up on his hind legs, and then leapt up to gather the dæmon in his paws and roll with him over and over toward the trapdoor, and they fell through clumsily as Lyra struck out with her fists to left and right and then tumbled through after the two dæmons, dragging the trapdoor shut behind her.
Philip Pullman

About Philip Pullman

Philip Pullman - Lyra's Oxford: His Dark Materials

Photo © George Reszeter and the Oxford Times

“Stories are the most important thing in the world. Without stories, we wouldn't be human beings at all.”—Philip Pullman

Philip Pullman is the acclaimed author of the His Dark Materials trilogy: The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass. His other books for children and young adults include Count Karlstein and a trilogy of Victorian thrillers featuring Sally Lockhart. The Golden Compass, the first of Pullman's His Dark Materials triology, won the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Fiction Prize.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

I started telling stories as soon as I knew what stories were. I was fascinated by them: that something could happen and be connected to another thing, and that someone could put the two things together and show how the first thing caused the second thing, which then caused a third thing. I loved it. I love it still.

I grew up at a time when TV wasn’t as important as it is now. In fact, part of my childhood was spent in Australia at a time when that country didn’t even have TV so a lot of my early experiences with stories came from the radio, which is a wonderful medium. I remember listening to gangster serials, and cowboy serials, and best of all: “Faster than a speeding bullet—more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No! It’s SUPERMAN!”

Superman on the radio was exciting enough, but when I first saw a Superman comic, it changed my life. Soon afterward I discovered Batman, too, whom I loved even more. I had to argue with my parents about them, though, because they weren’t “proper” reading. I suppose what persuaded them to let me carry on reading comics was the fact that I was also reading books just as greedily, and that I was good at spelling; so obviously the comics weren’t harming me too much.

My favorite stories for a long time were ghost stories. I used to enjoy frightening myself and my friends with the tales I read, and making up stories about a tree in the woods we used to call the Hanging Tree, creeping past it in the dark and shivering as we looked at the bare, sinister outline against the sky. I still enjoy ghost stories, even though I don’t think I believe in ghosts anymore.

I was sure that I was going to write stories myself when I grew up. It’s important to put it like that: not “I am a writer,” but rather “I write stories.” If you put the emphasis on yourself rather than your work, you’re in danger of thinking that you’re the most important thing. But you’re not. The story is what matters, and you’re only the servant, and your job is to get it out on time and in good order.

The most valuable thing I’ve learned about writing is to keep going, even when it’s not coming easily. You sometimes hear people talk about something called “writer’s block.” Did you ever hear a plumber talk about plumber’s block? Do doctors get doctor’s block? Of course they don’t. They work even when they don’t want to. There are times when writing is very hard, too, when you can’t think what to put next, and when staring at the empty page is miserable toil. Tough. Your job is to sit there and make things up, so do it.

As well as keeping going, there are many other things I’ve learned about this craft, and some of them came to me when I was teaching. What I enjoyed most in that difficult and valuable profession was telling stories, telling folk tales and ghost stories and Greek myths, over and over, until I knew them as well as I knew my own life.

And in doing so, I learned some of the laws of a story. Not rules - rules can be changed. “Smoking Permitted Here” can become “No Smoking” overnight, if people decide smoking is a bad thing. But laws such as the law of gravity can’t be changed: Gravity is there whether we approve of it or not. And so are the laws of a story. A story that is unresolved will not satisfy—that’s a law. If a scene does not advance the story, it will get in the way—that’s another law. You must know exactly where your story begins—that’s a third. And so on.

One strange thing about stories is that you sometimes know how long they’re going to be, even before you’ve begun thinking about them. With His Dark Materials, the trilogy of which the first part is The Golden Compass, I knew from the very start—even before I had a main character in mind, and long before I knew what might happen to her—that this story would be 1,200 pages long. That was the size of it. I knew, too, that I was going to enter a world I hadn’t known before: a world of fantasy. Previously, all of my books had been realistic. When I began writing it, I discovered a kind of freedom and excitement I’d never quite felt before. And that is one of the joys of writing: You constantly encounter new experiences.

I live in Oxford now, and I do my writing in a shed at the bottom of the garden. If the young boy I used to be could have looked ahead in time and seen the man I am today, writing stories in his shed, would he have been pleased? I wonder. Would that child who loved Batman comics and ghost stories approve of the novels I earn my living with now? I hope so. I hope he’s still with me. I’m writing them for him.


PRAISE

THE GOLDEN COMPASS

—Winner of the Carnegie Medal
—An American Booksellers Book of the Year (ABBY) Award Winner

“As always, Pullman is a master at combining impeccable characterizations and seamless plotting, maintaining a crackling pace to create scene upon scene of almost unbearable tension. This glittering gem will leave readers of all ages eagerly awaiting the next installment of Lyra’s adventures.”—Starred, Publishers Weekly

THE SUBTLE KNIFE

—An ALA Best Books for Young Adults

“More than fulfilling the promise of The Golden Compass, this second volume starts off at a heart-thumping pace and never slows down. . . . The grandly exuberant storytelling is sure to enthrall.”—Starred, Publishers Weekly

“The intricacy of the plot is staggering. . . . There is no doubt that the work is stunningly ambitious, original, and fascinating.”—Starred, The Horn Book Magazine

“The character development as well as the relentless pace . . . make this a resoundingly successful sequel. . . . It will leave readers desperate for the next installment.”—Starred, Booklist


THE AMBER SPYGLASS

—A New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age

“Pullman has created the last great fantasy masterpiece of the twentieth century.”—The Cincinnati Enquirer


“Absorbing. . . . Like Harry Potter creator J. K. Rowling, [Pullman] invents a world filled with strange divinations and wordplays.”—Newsweek

“A literary masterpiece . . . [that] caps the most magnificent fantasy series since The Lord of the Rings and puts Harry Potter to shame. . . . A page-turning story that builds to a powerful finish.”—Oregonian

“Impossible to put down, so firmly and relentlessly does Pullman draw you into his tale. . . . [A] gripping saga pitting the magnetic young Lyra Belacqua and her friend Will Parry against the forces of both Heaven and Hell.”—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


I WAS A RAT!
“Phillip Pullman's tale is fast and clever.”—The New York Times Book Review


COUNT KARLSTEIN
“In this deliciously gothic thriller there are enough demon huntsmen, evil guardians, and brooding castles to please even the most desensitized reader.”—Starred, School Library Journal

“A welcome diversion . . . [that is] dashing, sparkling, and wildly over the top.”—Starred, Publishers Weekly

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