A Bear Necessity

Fan service is internet slang for what happens when, for better or for worse, an artist gives the people exactly what they want. Philip Pullman's brief, exquisite novel ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE NORTH (Knopf; 104 pages) is fan service at its best. North is set in the same quasi-Victorian alternative universe as Pullman's Golden Compass, where every human is accompanied by a talking-animal soul mate called a daemon. It's a prequel, the story of how a young and not-yet-grizzled Lee Scoresby, gunslinging aeronaut extraordinaire, and his rabbit daemon, Hester, first met up with armored polar bear Iorek Byrnison. Nobody...

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