Lyra's Oxford - Philip Pullman

Reviewed for Usenet (or see Google archive)

Lyra's Oxford
Philip Pullman
David Fickling Books
ISBN: 0385606990 (Amazon link)

This is one of those books that I'm torn about. One the one hand it's clearly a cynical exercise in Christmas marketing - a very short story based on one of last years YA Big Sellers, in a relatively expensive miniature hardback, but on the other hand, it's a handsome little present for anyone who enjoyed Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy.

I did enjoy Pullman's trilogy, and so was pleased to get Lyra's Oxford as a gift. It doesn't last much longer than a cup of tea of course, but it's charming. What you get is a brief note by the author, introducing a short story - Lyra and the Birds - set back in Oxford after the close of the trilogy. This is mostly unconnected with the events of the trilogy and doesn't obviously deepen our knowledge of either Lyra or her world, but it's a nice little read nonetheless.

I said 'obviously' deliberately, because Lyra and the Birds indicates that the title of the bound book isn't a coincidence, that Oxford itself is interested in Lyra... I wonder if this is a hint that there might future Lyra books on Pullman's mind? I'm in two minds about that. I'd like to see more of that world, yes, but I also felt that things closed off rather well, with the bitter-sweet love story being the primary plot for me.

What makes Lyra's Oxford interesting is the physical presentation - aside from the whimsical binding, the text is illustrated with engravings by John Lawrence, and also features bound in ephemera like a post-card, a pull-out map (with whimsical advertisements on the back) and a flyer for the SS Zenobia.

Recommended as a gift for Pullman fans, and a buy for his fanatics!

Posted: Sat - January 3, 2004 at 11:24 PM