For those of you hungry for the third and final instalment of The Book of Dust, The Imagination Chamber (subtitled ‘Cosmic rays from Lyra’s universe’) is here to keep your appetite whetted – but hold: just what is it Pullman means by the aforementioned “cosmic rays”:
“[this] was a fruitful way of describing various short pieces I’d written some time ago, and others I’ve written since: little trails of vapour condensing around a particle charged with story.”
A handful (actually more than a handful) of these “cosmic rays” have appeared in print before, as ‘lantern slides’ in the lantern slide editions of His Dark Materials (my edition of HDM doesn’t include them, but yours might) – for those already aware of the lantern slides, The Imagination Chamber contains all 26 previously published elsewhere and 17 new ones.
So, depending on your prior knowledge, you may want to approach The Imagination Chamber carefully or at the very least in full expectation of what you are going to get. These are, to all intents and purposes, HDM flash fictions. Tiny snippets featuring Lyra and Will and Malcolm and Mrs Coulter and Lee Scoresby and lots of other people. They are, as you’d expect at this point, very well written and, if you were planning to do a read through of the entire His Dark Materials / Book of Dust epic at some point in the future that took in the likes of Lyra’s Oxford and Serpentine and what have you – it’s likely The Imagination Chamber would prove interesting and rewarding and curiosity-piquing.
At the same time, however, it is worth saying – despite appearing a longer book (clocking in at 85 pages) it is actually shorter than Serpentine which actually had either text or illustrations on facing pages rather than one page of content per spread as we get here. We heard a rumour that Pullman’s American publishers chose not to publish, which does raise a valid question about whether there is enough here to justify you shelling out your precious pennies. There are snippets, sure (the snippet about Alice’s husband, the one about the daemons talking to each other, the stuff related to The Book of Dust) but it does only amount to about 3,000 words – over half of which is available elsewhere.
Any Cop?: Whilst we enjoyed it because we weren’t previously aware of the lantern slides, it does feel more like one for the completists.