Saturday, January 18, 2020

Once Upon a Time in the North

Once upon a time in the north.jpg 

This fantasy novella by Philip Pullman, author of the His Dark Materials series, serves as a prequel to his main books, opening with a battered cargo balloon coming out of a rainstorm over the White Sea (a body of water by northwestern Russia), with its navigator, the young aeronaut Lee Scoresby, roughly landing on a town in an island within the body of water, Novy Odense. He and his daemon, a female jackrabbit named Hester, visit a bar and learn about the local politics, with the bears in town, which are actually intelligent, considered a menace.

Lee seeks employment from Harbor Master Aagaard, and dines with the librarian Miss Victoria Lund, with whom he speaks about the forthcoming mayoral election, along with the economist Mikhail Ivanovich Vassiliev. Lee further converses with the daughter of the mayoral candidate Ivan Dimitrovich Poliakov, who promises to deal with the bears as part of his political campaign. One of Poliakov’s bodyguards is the gunslinger Pierre Morton, who once used the surname McConville, and is a hired killer with at least twenty murders to his name. One of the intelligent bears, Iorek Byrnison, wants Lee to help Captain van Breda, with whom Lee wants to travel.

Concluding the novelette is a gunfight with McConville, along with a twist about Hester’s species, with this short story in general being enjoyable, although a databank of the various characters would have been welcome, along with reminders that Hester is a lagomorph. While the narrative does touch upon politics, it doesn’t have a lot of sociopolitical commentary, or even the religious annotation prevalent in the main His Dark Materials series. Regardless, those who consider themselves enthusiasts of Pullman’s fantasy series will be the ones most likely to enjoy this story, and I definitely don’t regret reading it.

No comments:

Post a Comment