Exploring Demons and Daemons in New Pullman Novel

Exploring Demons and Daemons in New Pullman Novel

Sir Philip Pullman, a master of the fantasy genre, has come into his own this year with the trifecta of a new novel, the debut of an HBO series based on his earlier trilogy, and a knighthood in Britain’s New Years Honours.

The new book, “The Secret Commonwealth,” is the second installment of a trilogy, “The Book of Dust,” that expands on the characters first established in “His Dark Materials” (which the HBO series adapts).

In the imagined world Pullman creates, every human has a physically embodied spirit animal, called a daemon, as a constant companion akin to a soul.

Daemons express other sides of complex personalities, and often play a good-angel/bad-angel role in dialogue with their humans.

While the novels are adventure stories of epic scope, they also explore concepts of multiple parallel worlds (some with and some without apparent daemons), metaphysics of life and death, and the powerful energy that couples conscience and consciousness.

“The Secret Commonwealth” focuses on a single world in which a few daemons have rebelled against and abandoned their humans. Lyra Silvertongue, an independent-minded, courageous and resourceful character introduced as an adolescent in the earlier trilogy, has become a 20-something student in Oxbridge. Her daemon has gone walkabout, and duplicitous quasi-government agents are searching, using magical devices, to find and arrest Lyra for heresy.

Working with a secret society of anti-authoritarian allies, one member of which has fallen in love with her, Lyra spends much of the book tracking down her daemon. Much as people stigmatized by disfigurement or prejudice in our own world must do, she copes with the profound stigma of being seen by others as daemon-less, all the while eluding capture and confinement.

Pullman’s prose is terse, action-filled and often witty. The settings he evokes are both familiar and otherworldly. Part of the fun for readers is puzzling out unfamiliar words (“anbaric” means electrical) and imagining travel by zeppelin.

Those who have read earlier works by Pullman will have an easier time following the story than first-timers, but it’s hard to put down the book once started, even when you begin in the middle.

“The Secret Commonwealth” is published by Penguin Random House and available at local bookstores.


Rob Buccino is a semi-retired marketing consultant, author, and fiction fan who writes occasionally for The Lakeville Journal.

Latest News

‘Old Glory’ finds new home for Flag Day

North Canaan Elementary School students applaud as the flag reaches the peak of a new 35-foot flagpole.

Riley Klein

NORTH CANAAN — Students of North Canaan Elementary School gathered at Sam Eddy Field Wednesday, June 12, to witness the stars and stripes hoisted high on a newly installed flagpole.

Celebrated two days early due to school ending, the Flag Day ceremony took place on a pristine spring morning. Patriotism was palpable as the students sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Grand Old Flag” beneath a clear blue sky.

Keep ReadingShow less
Joy at The Playhouse

The Sharon Playhouse honors Bobbie Olsen at its annual Spotlight Gala.

Justin Boccitto

The Annual Sharon Playhouse Spotlight Gala cast their theater light upon a worthy honoree this year: Bobbie Olsen, Bobbie Olsen, former president of The Playhouse board and namesake of a well-known location, The Bobbie Olsen Theatre, where residents pack the seats each summer to see the mainstage production plays and musicals. Held on Saturday, June 1, the dinner, cocktail, and musical review at the Olsen Theatre was a celebration of all she has contributed to keeping live theater active and alive in Sharon, even in the darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Bobbie Olsen is an incredible supporter of not just this theater, but this community,” said Sharon Playhouse Artistic Director Carl Andress. “She supports the Sharon Playhouse in her leadership, and in the beauty of her person-hood. We’re just so grateful that she’s been in our lives and that she continues to be such a good friend to the theater, Sharon Playhouse, and the theater in general.”

Keep ReadingShow less
NWCT Arts Council: Arts Connected

Matica Circus duo from Harwinton, Connecticut performing at NWCT ARTS Connected event in May

Jennifer Almquist

The Northwest Connecticut Arts Council (NWCT Arts) recently held Arts Connected, their first fundraiser, at the Spring Hill Vineyard in Washington, Connecticut. The evening celebration, a combination of Fellini movie, carnival, and Renaissance Fair, featured an aerialist from Matica Circus in Harwinton, and a flame and flow performer out in the courtyard under the stars. Momix, based in Washington Connecticut, under the artistic direction of founders Moses Pendleton and Cynthia Quinn, also performed. Two dancers wore Jeff Koons-style inflated red dog suits, and Momix dancer Jared Bogart wafted through the space wearing an immense, two-stories tall silk fan. Persian calligraphic painter Alibaba Awrang created a community work of art, while Ameen Mokdad, a violinist from Iraq, made music with Hartford’s Cuatro Puntos Ensemble. A young musician, Adelaide Punkin, performed an original song from the balcony of the vast space, while a giant puppet from Sova Dance and Puppet waltzed through the festivities. DJ Arvolyn Hill from Kent spun the tunes, an African drum circle set the rhythm, and there was abundant food and drink for the gathered crowd.

Keep ReadingShow less
Research and development

The catch of the day for the Tangled column of the week.

Patrick L. Sullivan

Fishing trips are rarely straightforward propositions. Over 52 years of flicking the baited hook, I have learned not to make plans with rigid schedules, because something always goes awry.

Last week I traveled deep into the wilds of Greene County, N.Y., for some research and development with my fishing guru Gary.

Keep ReadingShow less