The first two books of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy offered some of the most vividly, magnificently imagined fantasy I’ve ever read. Then the third book degenerated into an absurdly preachy, didactic, hectoring account of Wicked Wicked Bad Guys (anyone associated with the Church) and Blindingly Righteous Good Guys (anyone not associated with the Church). From the description Pullman has offered of the forthcoming Book of Dust — “at the centre of The Book of Dust is the struggle between a despotic and totalitarian organisation, which wants to stifle speculation and inquiry, and those who believe thought and speech should be free” — it sounds like he has decided to double down on the very worst features of his previous work. What a shame.