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Sirius: A Fantasy of Love and Discord

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Sirius is Thomas Trelone's great experiment - a huge, handsome dog with the brain and intelligence of a human being. Raised and educated in Trelone's own family alongside Plaxy, his youngest daughter, Sirius is a truly remarkable and gifted creature. His relationship with the Trelones, particularly with Plaxy, is deep and close, and his inquiring mind ranges across the spe Sirius is Thomas Trelone's great experiment - a huge, handsome dog with the brain and intelligence of a human being. Raised and educated in Trelone's own family alongside Plaxy, his youngest daughter, Sirius is a truly remarkable and gifted creature. His relationship with the Trelones, particularly with Plaxy, is deep and close, and his inquiring mind ranges across the spectrum of human knowledge and experience. But Sirius isn't human and the conflicts and inner turmoil that torture him cannot be resolved.


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Sirius is Thomas Trelone's great experiment - a huge, handsome dog with the brain and intelligence of a human being. Raised and educated in Trelone's own family alongside Plaxy, his youngest daughter, Sirius is a truly remarkable and gifted creature. His relationship with the Trelones, particularly with Plaxy, is deep and close, and his inquiring mind ranges across the spe Sirius is Thomas Trelone's great experiment - a huge, handsome dog with the brain and intelligence of a human being. Raised and educated in Trelone's own family alongside Plaxy, his youngest daughter, Sirius is a truly remarkable and gifted creature. His relationship with the Trelones, particularly with Plaxy, is deep and close, and his inquiring mind ranges across the spectrum of human knowledge and experience. But Sirius isn't human and the conflicts and inner turmoil that torture him cannot be resolved.

30 review for Sirius: A Fantasy of Love and Discord

  1. 4 out of 5

    Manny

    During the early decades of the 20th century, many intellectuals devoted attention to the idea of what a "Superman" would look like. (George Bernard Shaw is a prominent example). After a while, the emphasis shifted; the Nazis gave the word unpleasant associations, though Professors Siegel and Shuster luckily managed to save it from oblivion with their discovery that the Übermensch would carry a cape and wear his underpants on the outside, an important point that had somehow escaped Nietzsche's a During the early decades of the 20th century, many intellectuals devoted attention to the idea of what a "Superman" would look like. (George Bernard Shaw is a prominent example). After a while, the emphasis shifted; the Nazis gave the word unpleasant associations, though Professors Siegel and Shuster luckily managed to save it from oblivion with their discovery that the Übermensch would carry a cape and wear his underpants on the outside, an important point that had somehow escaped Nietzsche's attention. A strange example of the cross-over between these two streams was Olaf Stapledon. A professor of philosophy by day, I'm guessing that his conception of the Übermensch probably started off at the Nietzsche end; but his science-fiction, which is the only thing that people now remember him for, also contains elements vaguely reminding you of the Son of Krypton. Most of Stapledon's books explore the Superman theme in one form or another. In his most famous works, Last and First Men and the sequel Star Maker, we see the future evolution of the human race, and later on the evolution of all life in the Universe, towards its godlike conclusion. Odd John is a more standard guy-with-amazing-powers story, though a considerably more intelligent one than average. And in Sirius, a book that deserves to be better known, he turns it round. It's unfortunately impossible to imagine what a Superman would be like, since we are only human; this is the insoluble problem at the heart of Odd John. But suppose, instead, that human scientists managed to produce an Überhund, a dog with human-like intelligence. What kind of life would it have? How would it relate to other dogs, and to people? Stapledon did not have an optimistic take on things, and if you've read any of his other books then you've no doubt already guessed that this one is going to be tragic. But it's a surprisingly moving story, and Sirius is one of the great fictional dogs of literature. If you're a dog-lover yourself, consider putting it on your list.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Bradley

    So much love! Olaf Stapledon was a lot of things. Philosopher in real life, novelist in his spare time. But what really made him stand out was the fact that he could write short novels that encompass VAST stretches of time, events, and concepts. One had him envisioning a fate of mankind both good and bad across many thousands of years, or following a future history of mankind until all versions of us died off over a million years, or even encompassing the entire breadth of time and space until we So much love! Olaf Stapledon was a lot of things. Philosopher in real life, novelist in his spare time. But what really made him stand out was the fact that he could write short novels that encompass VAST stretches of time, events, and concepts. One had him envisioning a fate of mankind both good and bad across many thousands of years, or following a future history of mankind until all versions of us died off over a million years, or even encompassing the entire breadth of time and space until we're masters of the universe... and beyond. And then we have THIS beautiful little novel that seems as far from any of these as anything I might imagine from him! This came out in 1944. But think Lassie (ten years after this) meets Flowers for Algernon (15 years after this). Add a serious tone about fitting in when in 30's and 40's England when you're not the right skin shade or sex, throw in a very disturbing commentary on religion "for the right kind", and make two unforgettable characters in love with each other. And do it without making it creepy. And what you have is Sirius. One of the very best tales of its kind. You can substitute the dog with a man's intelligence with any member of society who just Can Not fit in and this would be on par with any classic of traditional literature. Honestly, the more I read of Olaf Stapledon, the more timeless his writing becomes. This ought to be a true classic on everyone's shelves if you like SF at all.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Nat K

    Nature or nature? Which is it that makes us who we are? This book absolutely tore at my heart strings. I was prolonging my finishing the book, as I felt the ending was inevitable, but it didn't hurt any less. I felt so much sadness and wonder at the character of Sirius, the "super sheep dog", imbued not only with human intellect, but also the human frailties of jealousy, love, and questions of the spirit. Nothing I write here can express how deeply this book affected me.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lily

    Why did you make only one of me? It's going to be lonely being me. What do we mean when we talk about community? It's a word that always seems to be prefaced with something else - a location, an interest, a profession. It's hard to strip away those descriptors, to uncover those individuals with no apparent "community", those who challenge us to redefine the word and reevaluate how open our hearts and minds are. With fervor he insisted that the most valuable social relationships were those between Why did you make only one of me? It's going to be lonely being me. What do we mean when we talk about community? It's a word that always seems to be prefaced with something else - a location, an interest, a profession. It's hard to strip away those descriptors, to uncover those individuals with no apparent "community", those who challenge us to redefine the word and reevaluate how open our hearts and minds are. With fervor he insisted that the most valuable social relationships were those between minds as different from one another as possible yet capable of mutual sympathy. A product of biological engineering, Sirius is a dog with the intellect of a human, an interloper between species without a true home in either. We follow him from a puppyhood - as he tries to imitate his human "sister" as she stacks toy bricks - to an adulthood where he at various points plays the role of sheep herder, scientist, and religious cantor. Along the way he witnesses (and inevitably participates in) cycles of manipulation and abuse that occur between different communities, from families to countries and species. He learns the meaning of war, of prejudice, of disability. And even so, sometimes he manages to glimpse what could be achieved through a community where differences are respected and cherished as much as commonalities. "There is no place for me in man's world, and there is no other world for me. There is no place for me anywhere in the universe." She answered, "But wherever I am, there is always a place for you."

  5. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Gransden

    My - heart - and - brain - just - broke

  6. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Walter

    Oh man... I'm either a sentimental animal-lover at heart or a preternaturally genius mind trapped in the lumpen, inefficient body of a mere animal (I jest, I jest) but this book really did move me in a way that not a lot of genre fiction has done. Stapledon is best known for his twin individuality-shattering monuments Last and First Men and Starmaker which are probably the two most criminally underlooked examples of speculative fiction in my experience of the genre, particularly the first. I'm no Oh man... I'm either a sentimental animal-lover at heart or a preternaturally genius mind trapped in the lumpen, inefficient body of a mere animal (I jest, I jest) but this book really did move me in a way that not a lot of genre fiction has done. Stapledon is best known for his twin individuality-shattering monuments Last and First Men and Starmaker which are probably the two most criminally underlooked examples of speculative fiction in my experience of the genre, particularly the first. I'm not feeling sufficiently demi-godlike to tackle a review of either of those at this hour so instead I'll talk about Sirius. In line with the aforementioned books, Stapledon is often criticised for a cold, emotionless style of writing, and it's true that his characters (where they are even relevant- and here they certainly are) come across as a little cardboard. Sirius the dog, however, "born with the mind of a man" as the back of my edition somewhat luridly states, is a freak of science that I fell in love with. The book tracks his progression as the dog grows into maturity along with his creator's daughter, the weirdly named Plaxy. We see many facets of his life, as he ponders religion, language and learning. Some of his attempts to "achieve humanity" are really heartbreaking, and I found particularly crushing his relationships with his bitches (and I'm not being funny) Physically, he's got no problems- it's just to him they are just dumb, rutting animals, nothing more... It struck me as having a very humanist tone, reminiscent of John Wyndham's work in places, but the ending ensures that we can safely file this alongside Stapledon's other books as a somewhat elegaic musing on what sentient life can struggle with, and sadly, be reduced to. I suppose it could be argued that Frankenstein and the long line of science fiction in that vein have covered all this ground already, the idea of science creating something beautiful but flawed, and ignorant torch waving mobs and so on...but this is a remarkably thoughtful approach to it, and I really feel that Olaf's analytical genius was reigned in on a different, but no less powerful plane of thinking here. To those that accuse Stapledon of being a pitiless theoretician, I urge you to read this book, and, to a lesser extent, Odd John . PS. I must also say that the book made consider the oceans of dreck that make up the "talking animal" sub-genre of children's film in a very different way. Imagine a lamenting Babe, squealing with self-loathing as he wallows in his own filth, his career as a youth worker impeded at every trot...

  7. 4 out of 5

    Anhedral

    'Sirius' is one of those haunting, one-of-a-kind books that will stay with you far longer than it takes to read its 190-odd pages. Sometimes joyful, often searing; through the eyes of his unique protagonist Stapledon takes a scalpel to humanity, and the skill of his dissection is reason enough to recommend this book. I'd also recommend 'Sirius' to anyone interested in writing sentient, communicative animals while respecting their underlying biology. Yes, the main character is a bioengineered, talk 'Sirius' is one of those haunting, one-of-a-kind books that will stay with you far longer than it takes to read its 190-odd pages. Sometimes joyful, often searing; through the eyes of his unique protagonist Stapledon takes a scalpel to humanity, and the skill of his dissection is reason enough to recommend this book. I'd also recommend 'Sirius' to anyone interested in writing sentient, communicative animals while respecting their underlying biology. Yes, the main character is a bioengineered, talking dog with human-level intelligence, the only one of his kind. Sounds clichéd and awful, right? Wrong. In completely non-emotive, even detached and dry language Stapledon delivers a huge emotional and philosophical punch. This short book is a parable of the destruction of an individual spirit by society, and a terrible indictment of humanity's faults. "Why did you make only one of me? It's going to be lonely being me." Sirius can't fit in either as a dog or as a human, though he's driven by impulses from both species. He flips between savagery and tenderness in a heartbeat. He hates not having hands, can't see colour or distinguish shapes very well, but smells and sounds to him communicate a whole world that humans can't touch. In fact, all of the descriptions of his dog-mode existence are totally compelling. At the same time he's capable of strong emotional bonds with humans, loving "as only a dog can", notably the girl with whom he was raised from birth. The relationship between the two of them is disturbing yet beautiful, and is at the core of the book. For such a short read 'Sirius' is overflowing with themes. The inability of science or religion, taken individually, to satisfy the spirit; the nature of individuality and of self-worth; the joy of empathy - even across species - in contrast with the tragedy of loneliness; the corrosive effects of fear, bigotry and intolerance when society has to deal with the unknown. 'Sirius' was first published in 1944, but don't let the vintage put you off. Stapledon is better known for the epic scope of 'Last and First Men' and 'Star Maker', but 'Sirius' will break your heart.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Wreade1872

    I knew nothing about this before reading and i havn't read any other reviews yet but i'm pretty sure about what aspect of this story most reviews are likely to focus on :lol . Anyway so this is about a dog given human level intelligence and examines his life and that of the girl who he's raised alongside. Its such a detailed... logical... psychological and social examination of its central premise, really interesting. It reminded me strongly of certain superhero story's like Gladiator or Swamp Th I knew nothing about this before reading and i havn't read any other reviews yet but i'm pretty sure about what aspect of this story most reviews are likely to focus on :lol . Anyway so this is about a dog given human level intelligence and examines his life and that of the girl who he's raised alongside. Its such a detailed... logical... psychological and social examination of its central premise, really interesting. It reminded me strongly of certain superhero story's like Gladiator or Swamp Thing. Or perhaps Frankenstein if the monster wasn't rejected by his creator, or maybe Beauty and the Beast if there was never any chance of lifting the curse ;) . And if your thinking, 'sentient dog and close relationship with human girl, is this going to get creepy?' well rest assured that... Sirius made another remark with a sly look and a tremor of the tail. She turned back to him laughing, and softly smacked his face. "Beast," she said, "I shall not tell Robert that." ...eh, yes yes it will get a bit creepy :P . The dry, logical writing stops it getting too uncomfortable though but this also leads to the main issue. The dry tone works fine most of the time but theres a couple of key scenes involving deaths which should have been really involving and moving but instead fall flat because of the writing. So despite how interesting from an intellectual point of view the plot is i was still only going to give it 3 stars, however the writer does manage to pull off the last vital scene with a flourish and i am a sucker for a solid ending so bumped to 4 just about. Edit: Made available by the Merril Collection.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Simon

    A few years back I made a concerted effort to fill in some of the glaring 'gaps' in my SF reading by reading some of the renowned authors and classics of the field that I had hitherto not read. I did manage to fill in many such gaps but one that remained until now was Olaf Stapledon. It's good to finally rectify that even if not with the most obvious choice. A moving and tragic story about what life might be like for a dog with artificially induced intelligence growing up in a human world. How d A few years back I made a concerted effort to fill in some of the glaring 'gaps' in my SF reading by reading some of the renowned authors and classics of the field that I had hitherto not read. I did manage to fill in many such gaps but one that remained until now was Olaf Stapledon. It's good to finally rectify that even if not with the most obvious choice. A moving and tragic story about what life might be like for a dog with artificially induced intelligence growing up in a human world. How does he reconcile his dog nature with his human upbringing and what light does it shed on humanity and the way it treats both dogs generally and Sirius in particular? A pleasant and thought provoking read but never really blew me away. Perhaps I should go with one of his more widely recognised classics next, such as Star Maker or Last and First Men?

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jimmy Ele

    This book is a highly entertaining read. It is about a dog who is genetically engineered to have a human like brain. The whole book is then a sort of struggle between the animals' instincts and it's higher reasoning and logical nature. It works well as a good metaphor for the instinctive nature of man constantly wrestling with the reasoning nature of man. The book itself is a good critique on human nature from an "outsider" that can speak to us. The writing is well done and the ending was well w This book is a highly entertaining read. It is about a dog who is genetically engineered to have a human like brain. The whole book is then a sort of struggle between the animals' instincts and it's higher reasoning and logical nature. It works well as a good metaphor for the instinctive nature of man constantly wrestling with the reasoning nature of man. The book itself is a good critique on human nature from an "outsider" that can speak to us. The writing is well done and the ending was well writ, albeit very sad indeed. Overall I gave it a perfect 5 because towards the end of the book you come away feeling like you have lived alongside the dog Sirius. I also gave it 5 stars for it's scathing outsider critique of humanity.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Peter O'Brien

    "There is no place for me in man's world, and there is no other world for me. There is no place for me anywhere in the universe" - page 190. Sirius is probably Stapledon's most intimate novel that both demonstrates his maturity as a writer and his finesse as a contemplator on what it is to be human. The book is made all the more remarkable when it is realised that these observations on humanity are observed through the eyes of the dog Sirius who has his level of intelligence raised to that of a h "There is no place for me in man's world, and there is no other world for me. There is no place for me anywhere in the universe" - page 190. Sirius is probably Stapledon's most intimate novel that both demonstrates his maturity as a writer and his finesse as a contemplator on what it is to be human. The book is made all the more remarkable when it is realised that these observations on humanity are observed through the eyes of the dog Sirius who has his level of intelligence raised to that of a human being. Stapledon is at his best when he is operating outside of the box and nowhere is that more true than in this tale of a super-intelligent dog's odyssey for spiritual understanding and acceptance both in regards to his conflicted human/canine nature and in the eyes of his human companions. Sirius is a study of the self and that self's exploration of reality and his contemplations of what, if anything, lay beyond the immediate impressions of this reality. Indeed, some of the best moments in the book are Sirius's wonderings in religion and in the conflicts between his human higher functions and instinctual wolf nature. Overall, Sirius has less of the vast scale typically attributed to Stapledon and his other well known works, but when dealing with the subject of the interior soul Sirius is bolder, braver and vastly more human than Stapledon's previous odysseys. This is Stapledon coming to turns with his own nature and encouraging the reader to do likewise.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sandy

    For all those folks out there who hold conversations with their pet dog and know for certain that Fido/Fifi understands every word; for those who have gotten a tad "verklempt" at the conclusion of such novels as "The Call of the Wild" and "Old Yeller"; for people who believe that canines just cannot get any smarter than Lassie, Rin Tin Tin or Benji, all of whom starred in innumerable motion pictures; and, well, really, for anybody with a soft spot in his or her heart for man's best friend, have For all those folks out there who hold conversations with their pet dog and know for certain that Fido/Fifi understands every word; for those who have gotten a tad "verklempt" at the conclusion of such novels as "The Call of the Wild" and "Old Yeller"; for people who believe that canines just cannot get any smarter than Lassie, Rin Tin Tin or Benji, all of whom starred in innumerable motion pictures; and, well, really, for anybody with a soft spot in his or her heart for man's best friend, have I got a book for you! That book is none other than British philosopher/author Olaf Stapledon's "Sirius," which, as I write these words, is in the running to win a Retro Hugo Award for Best Novel, 1944. Originally released as a hardcover volume by the English publishing house Secker & Warburg, this beautifully written and ultimately quite moving story gives us, following its initial sci-fi setup, a work of ideas and philosophical musings. Subtitled "A Fantasy of Love and Discord," and featuring what must surely be the brainiest canine in all literature, the novel makes sharp observations about society, history, religion and relationships, all wrapped up in a most atypical eternal-triangle story. This was my first experience with Mr. Stapledon, and if this bravura effort (his seventh novel, I believe) is any indication, I'm going to be reading more very soon. "Sirius" takes the form of a biography that was written by a man named Robert. No, we never learn overly much about Robert, or even his last name; only that he is an Air Force soldier of some kind during WW2, is a budding novelist, and is the suitor of a young woman named Plaxy Trelone. (I know...Plaxy?) After Plaxy's mother falls ill, the daughter returns to the family's home in northern Wales to take care of her, and Robert begins to receive confusing letters from his sweetheart. He goes to visit Plaxy while on leave, and discovers that her mother has since passed away. He also gets to meet, for the first time, Sirius, the family dog, who had been born right around the same time as Plaxy. The two have been more than close ever since. But Sirius is far from the average house pet. Plaxy's late father, Thomas Trelone, had been an eminent physiologist, and had attempted, via the use of injected hormones and a meticulous breeding program, to create a line of superintelligent sheepdogs. He had succeeded, but even amongst these, Sirius was something extraspecial. As Robert immediately discerns, Sirius and Plaxy are able to hold a running conversation between themselves, the dog speaking a rough (ruff?) form of English. Using Trelone's scientific notes, as well as verbal testimony from Sirius himself, Robert is thus able to put together the biography that takes up the bulk of this volume. And so, we see how Trelone had mixed a German shepherd with a champion border collie and, several strains later, gotten the phenomenon that was Sirius, the only survivor of a litter of four. Over the course of Robert's bio, we see Sirius learn to speak, and then read, and then write using a specially designed mitten. We follow him through his youth, see him become a sheepdog apprentice at a neighboring farm (very soon, he is leading the other sheepdogs and even carrying baskets of medicine onto the moors to tend to the sheep's physical ailments!), and behold as he sows some wild oats in disgust at his lot, living like a wild wolf in the hills. Later, however, Sirius goes to Cambridge University to be studied; asks to live with a pastor in London, so as to discover more about religion; learns something of mankind's brutal side, after hearing of the horrors of WW2 and experiencing some of them firsthand; becomes the sole manager of a sheep farm; and becomes something of a pariah and outlaw, when the local townspeople begin to think of him as a devil's familiar, and even of having a carnal relationship with Plaxy. And, oh...did I mention that Sirius also composes music, does a solo performance in an East End church, and even, at one point, writes, addresses and mails a letter? But just in case you are wondering if this prodigy has anything in common with an ordinary dog, the answer is a most definite "yes." Thus, we see Sirius chasing after bitches, hunting, killing another dog in a jealous fit, even killing a man in self-defense. He is, he believes, a human-type spirit in a handless dog's body, a source of endless confusion and frustration for the poor animal...not to mention endless introspection and self-appraisal. As I mentioned earlier, Stapledon's novel makes some sharp observations about the human condition, as seen through Sirius' POV and delivered via some wonderfully written passages. Thus, regarding mankind’s treatment of the canine race, we are told that Sirius felt: "...There were those who were simply indifferent to dogs, lacking sufficient imagination to enter into any reciprocal relation with them. There were the "dog-lovers," whom he detested. These were folk who sentimentalized dogs, and really had no accurate awareness of them, exaggerating their intelligence and loveableness, mollycoddling them and over-feeding them; and starving their natural impulses of sex, pugnacity and hunting. For this sort, dogs were merely animate and 'pathetically human' dolls. Then there were the dog-detesters, who were either too highbrow to descend to companionship with a dumb animal or too frightened of their own animal nature. Finally there were the "dog-interested," who combined a fairly accurate sense of the difference between dog and man with a disposition to respect a dog as a dog, as a rather remote but essentially like-minded relative...." As for his fellow canines themselves, Sirius feels a hearty sorrow: "...It seemed to him incredible that the dominant species should keep so many of the dominated species alive in complete idleness, for not one of these pampered animals had any function but to be the living toy of some man or woman. Physically they were nearly all in good condition, save for a common tendency to corpulence, which in some cases reached a disgusting fulfillment. Mentally they were unwholesome. How could it be otherwise? They had nothing to do but wait for their meals, sink from boredom into sleep, attend their masters or mistresses on gentle walks, savour one another's odours, and take part in the simple ritual of the lamp-post and the gate-post. Sexually they were all starved, for bitches were few, and jealously guarded by their human owners. Had not the canine race been of sub-human intelligence, they must one and all have been neurotics, but their stupidity saved them...." I offer these two extended quotes as a means of demonstrating both Stapledon's wonderfully incisive writing style as well as his sharp and detailed observations. I urge you to learn for yourself what Sirius--who is not only the possessor of human intelligence, but patently above-average human intelligence--has to say on matters pertaining to organized religion, God, love, relationships, war, the family and so on. He is a wonderful and touching character who manages to express himself marvelously, and the reader cannot help but be impressed with and moved by him. We feel for his lot as a misfit, fully at home neither in the world of the humans nor the canines. I will not reveal whether or not things end happily for Sirius, but will advise readers to have some Kleenex at the ready. During the course of this biography, we are made privy to the relationships that Sirius enters into with a varied group of characters, but of all these relationships, none are as deep, as long lasting and as complex as the one he has with Plaxy. A fantastically long-lived animal, Sirius, when we first encounter him, has known Plaxy for over 20 years. The two, as mentioned, grew up together, and we get to see Sirius grow jealous of the young girl's hands and, later, of her going away to school and becoming interested in boys. Plaxy, for her part, at times grows resentful of her pet's jealousy and of his moody fits, and is unfailingly shocked by his savage outbursts. But at the bottom of their complex relationship--one that is made even more complicated when Robert enters the picture--is a bedrock of deep love and mutual affection that abides until the book's touching final page. As Sirius movingly tells his mistress at one point, "The smell of you is more lovely really than the crazy-making scents of bitches." This is hardly another story of "a girl and her dog." "Sirius," it should be noted, is a very British type of affair, and Stapledon, who was born on the Wirral Peninsula, close by to northern Wales, obviously knew his book's setting very well. Personally, this reader found a good atlas handy when looking up such Welsh locales in the novel as Ffestiniog, Trawsfynydd, the Vale of Clwyd, Dolgelly and Aberystwyth, as well as such mountain chains as the Arenigs, Moelwyns and Rhinogs. Likewise, a good dictionary came in handy for such Welsh words as "cwm," "llyn," "bwlch," "moel" and "ghyll." The author makes us see and feel this lonely moorland setting very well, and has obviously done his homework regarding sheepherding and ovine diseases. His book is perfectly paced, consistently fascinating, unfailingly intelligent and--once the reader has bought into the central premise--highly credible. Indeed, other than the misuse of a few words--such as "solicitation" instead of "solicitousness," and "lintel" instead of "jamb"--it is a practically flawless creation by this highly esteemed British author. All of which, I suppose, begs the question: Should "Sirius" cop that Retro Hugo prize? Well, truthfully, I am hardly the person to ask, never having read its five competitors. But let’s run down the list. "Land of Terror" is the sixth entry in Edgar Rice Burroughs' Pellucidar series, and although ERB is a perennial favorite of many, the fact that his book is just one in a series might work against it. Leigh Brackett, one of my favorite Golden Age writers, is represented by her novel "Shadow Over Mars," which I really do need to pick up one day. Brackett is another fan favorite who should never be counted out. And then there is Robert Graves' "The Golden Fleece," which has somehow gotten nominated despite its not being a work of science fiction at all. I would disqualify it on that basis alone. Eric Linklater's "The Wind on the Moon" is apparently a quite popular novel, although one more geared to adolescents than adults. Finally, "The Winged Man," based on a short story by E. Mayne Hull and later expanded into novel form by her husband, A.E. van Vogt, might be working under a handicap due to its unusual provenance. And so, we have "Sirius," a book that boasts not only a bona fide (bona fido?) science fictional background geared solidly toward mature adults, but also more thoughtful intelligence and philosophical insight--not to mention solid writing--than most books that you are likely to encounter. I may be prejudiced here because it is the only one of the six that I have read, but can't help feeling that the smart bettors should put their money right here. I just loved this book, as you might have discerned...so much so that I am about to begin another Stapledon novel dealing with the subject of superintelligence: 1935's "Odd John," which can fortunately be found in the same Dover edition as "Sirius." Can it possibly be as good as this wonder-filled novel from 1944? Stay tuned.... (By the way, this review originally appeared on the FanLit website at http://www.fantasyliterature.com/ ... a most ideal destination for all fans of Olaf Stapledon....)

  13. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    Olaf Stapledon, is undoubtedly best known for his amazing novels "Star Maker" and "Last and First Men", but if that is all you have read from him then you have missed out on his writings which are in a more traditional style. "Sirius: A Fantasy of Love and Discord", published in 1944, is an excellent book as well, though not on the same scale as those earlier works. It is the story of a "super sheepdog" (Sirius), who was biologically engineered with hormones, and raised along with the daughter ( Olaf Stapledon, is undoubtedly best known for his amazing novels "Star Maker" and "Last and First Men", but if that is all you have read from him then you have missed out on his writings which are in a more traditional style. "Sirius: A Fantasy of Love and Discord", published in 1944, is an excellent book as well, though not on the same scale as those earlier works. It is the story of a "super sheepdog" (Sirius), who was biologically engineered with hormones, and raised along with the daughter (Plaxy) of the scientist (Thomas Trelone). It is a tragic story, in which Sirius struggles between the worlds of his human family and his canine instinct. A unique bond is formed between Plaxy and Sirius that shapes both of their lives. "Sirius" can stand alone, or be considered part of Stapledon's vast future universe as outlined in his other works. The story is simply on a much smaller scale, and so would not in and of itself be a noteworthy event in books like "Last and First Men" or "Star Maker". Thomas Trelone is Stapledon's Frankenstein, though certainly he does not suffer from the same character flaws as Shelly's famous predecessor. At the same time, Trelone admits that he failed to consider all of the consequences of his experiment, which led to a very lonely and torn character in Sirius. Sirius cannot fit in with humans for many reasons, though Sirius himself focuses on the lack of hands. Sirius also doesn't fit with other canines, as he finds them too simple and only interesting when a female is in heat. This book was tied for 9th on the Arkham Survey in 1949 as one of the `Basic SF Titles', which was a higher rank than "Star Maker" (tied for 13th) received. Perhaps the main reason this book is no longer as highly regarded as Stapledon's other books is due to the fact that it is a more traditional style of writing. Innovation counts for a lot with the fans of this genre, and over the course of time more traditional works can be forgotten. However, this book should not be forgotten nor should Stapledon's "Odd John", because though they are told in a more traditional manner, they still are uniquely Stapledon, and as such they are both worth reading.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Amber

    This is a story about a genetically altered sheep dog with human intelligence who tries to figure out what his purpose in life is in a human world. Can he achieve his mission of finding purpose and love without unleashing his wolf-mood that comes naturally to him? Read on and find out. This was a pretty good and sad story that I found on feedbooks. If you like stories about dogs, definitely check it out for yourself.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Niklas

    Sirius is a remarkable book. It took me three days until I was able to write this review because there was so much stuff to think about after the last word was read. With it’s nearly 200 pages the book took me way longer to finish than I anticipated, because of all those thinking breaks. What made this book so special to me, was how it dealt with the topic of affiliation: The natural desire for company, whether through friends, family or in this specific case just likeminded conspecifics, has a f Sirius is a remarkable book. It took me three days until I was able to write this review because there was so much stuff to think about after the last word was read. With it’s nearly 200 pages the book took me way longer to finish than I anticipated, because of all those thinking breaks. What made this book so special to me, was how it dealt with the topic of affiliation: The natural desire for company, whether through friends, family or in this specific case just likeminded conspecifics, has a fundamental significance for every sentient creature. But what if you are the only one of your kind? What about Sirius? “I'm afraid I'm not working out according to plan," he said. "But if I am really a person you shouldn't expect me to. Why did you make me without making a world for me to live in. It's as though God had made Adam and not bothered to make Eden, nor Eve. I think it's going to be frightfully difficult being me.” Olaf Stapledon shows how hard it can be, to work out to the expectations of society. I personally know it well, the omnipresent feeling of doing something wrong, the groundless fear of standing out negatively somehow. Being different isn’t necessarily something bad but it can make your life harder in some ways. And Sirius is different. Sirius thinks, feels and partly speaks like his fellow men but he’s no man but a dog. He’s a dog with paws, unable to write a book or play the piano like a man with his hands. A dog, demoted as property, without any human rights. A conscious dog with feelings in a world, where all the other dogs are driven by instincts and none of them knows, what the thing, called love, is. Sirius is a lonely creature in a world without any space for him. Nevertheless, this humorous, poetic and untiringly fighting four-legged friend showed me, how important it is, to hold your head high, and even despite your strangeness, keep chasing your dreams. “We are bound to hurt one another so much, again and again. we are so terribly different.''Yes,' he said, 'But the more different, the more lovely the loving.”

  16. 4 out of 5

    Norman

    I owned another novel by Stapledon many years ago and got rid of it for whatever reason, without reading it. Sirius came to me via my generous brother and that gave me the incentive to plough on. The writing style is easy to read and the age of the book (1944) does not hinder a modern reader too much. The setting of this classic is mostly North Wales and Cambridge (with a diversion to the East End of London) and therefore we learn a lot about shepherding (but not too much) and how dogs work with I owned another novel by Stapledon many years ago and got rid of it for whatever reason, without reading it. Sirius came to me via my generous brother and that gave me the incentive to plough on. The writing style is easy to read and the age of the book (1944) does not hinder a modern reader too much. The setting of this classic is mostly North Wales and Cambridge (with a diversion to the East End of London) and therefore we learn a lot about shepherding (but not too much) and how dogs work with sheep. We also have the comparison of the 'wild' of the country life compared to the constricted town life with their prissy poofed-up dogs whose lovely natural smell is overwritten with cloying perfumes, according to Sirius. Sirius, of course, is a super-intelligent dog who gives mankind a view of mankind from an outsider's perspective. The inner thought processes of the dog are hard to bear at times as he 'smells' humans so well, understanding how the face can say one thing; the smell the other- the truth! I enjoyed Sirius' encounter with a minister as he works out his theological thinking. He has already encountered hypocrisy in man and appreciates a religious person who is practical in supporting his fellow mankind. My only disappointment would be the ending, although, I suppose, it was inevitable. A very worthy member of the SF Masterworks series

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kieran

    I should not have read this book. I had set myself a task of working my way through the stack of books that I have been meaning to read for sometime. Something drew me to the book shop and in turn to the sci fi section, and then to Olaf Stapledon. Sirius seemed like it would be a nice little read. So I picked it up. I was wrong. It wasn't nice, it was incredible. I resented work and sleep as it prevented me from reading. I will not go to much into the actual book itself as I don't like spoilers. I should not have read this book. I had set myself a task of working my way through the stack of books that I have been meaning to read for sometime. Something drew me to the book shop and in turn to the sci fi section, and then to Olaf Stapledon. Sirius seemed like it would be a nice little read. So I picked it up. I was wrong. It wasn't nice, it was incredible. I resented work and sleep as it prevented me from reading. I will not go to much into the actual book itself as I don't like spoilers. The style that Stapledon wrote in fits my style of reading, I found the story flowed fluidly and the way he built the scene and characters was clear and easy. Except at the end of the book, this story could have just as easily been set in the hear and now, which considering it was written over 60 years ago is not bad going. The way in which he uses Sirius and the supporting cast to explore how we define humanity, love, and religion (the soul), is really well planned out. I loved every word and plan to seek out more Stapledon. Not just his fiction but his philosophical work as well. Best side track I've ever committed.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Laurel Rogers

    This was a magical and thoroughly marvelous tale of a scientifically 'altered' canine named Sirius. The relationship between Sirius and his owner is heart wrenching and extremely genuine in its telling, and the trials and tribulations of the pair are devastating. In the end, however, the reader is left with a sense of sweet, sweet love between 'species'. I highly recommend this book, and others by Stapledon, to any reader.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas

    Picked it up because it's supposedly one of the best novels written about a non-human protagonist. Certainly some worthwhile conversations within the book, what is humanity, the nature of man and beast, the idea of souls and how one acquires one. Rather predictable ending, but touching nonetheless. Sirius is certainly a great character to be familiar with, and is indeed one of the more creative characters I've read in a while. Translated in Dog: Woof woof. Bark. *low growl* Woof!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas Whyte

    https://nwhyte.livejournal.com/3424586.html As a kid I hugely enjoyed Diana Wynne Jones' Dogsbody and A.M. Lightner's Star Dog (the latter long out of print), both of which centre around the relationship between a human and a puppy which has been born with unearthly powers due to extraterrestrial intervention. Here, the eponymous Sirius is the product of human intervention, enhanced to superior intellectual abilities and also much longer lifespan. I've read a lot of Stapledon's cosmic fiction bef https://nwhyte.livejournal.com/3424586.html As a kid I hugely enjoyed Diana Wynne Jones' Dogsbody and A.M. Lightner's Star Dog (the latter long out of print), both of which centre around the relationship between a human and a puppy which has been born with unearthly powers due to extraterrestrial intervention. Here, the eponymous Sirius is the product of human intervention, enhanced to superior intellectual abilities and also much longer lifespan. I've read a lot of Stapledon's cosmic fiction before, and not always been hugely impressed; I found Sirius much easier to relate to both as a book and as a character. Sure, it draws heavily on Frankenstein, but I think Stapledon brings a lot of new material to his source - most particulary the intense relationship between dog and girl. You know of course where it is going to end, but it kept me very engaged until we got there.

  21. 5 out of 5

    /Fitbrah/

    I liked that the dog was a fascist.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Bart

    I wrote a 10-page analysis of Last And First Men, Stapledon's 1930 fiction debut. I wasn't fully convinced by it, but I understood its historical relevance. I didn't really plan to read another Stapledon title, but I came across Sirius in a second-hand store for 5 euros, and both the cover and the subject appealed to me, so I took my chances. (...) I have to admit I was charmed by the fact Stapledon chose to stress the corporeal nature of the dog, and writes about a bodily intelligence - not some I wrote a 10-page analysis of Last And First Men, Stapledon's 1930 fiction debut. I wasn't fully convinced by it, but I understood its historical relevance. I didn't really plan to read another Stapledon title, but I came across Sirius in a second-hand store for 5 euros, and both the cover and the subject appealed to me, so I took my chances. (...) I have to admit I was charmed by the fact Stapledon chose to stress the corporeal nature of the dog, and writes about a bodily intelligence - not some detached soullike mind. But it quickly contrasts with all the talk about the spirit, and ultimately the novel is not about a human mind in a dog's body, but about an ultra-smart dog with language capacity raised partly as a human, not fitting in human society. The book's theme might seem original, but on closer inspection isn't at all. The main conflicts in the protagonist's mind are simply those of Frankenstein's monster. What might be called homage by some actually amounts to theft. Like the monster, Sirius ponders why he was created. Like the monster, Sirius wants a mate that is like him. Like the monster, Sirius feels lonely in the world of men. Like the monster, Sirius feels unacknowledged. And like the monster, he kills in a rage of self-defense. While Frankenstein's monster is tragic and believable, the dog not only manages to write a letter, but folds it in an envelop, puts on a stamp and posts it. All by himself. The epistolary effort is not portrayed as easy - Stapledon goes to some lengths to describe the practical inconveniences of having no hands - but still, Sirius is a "super-super-sheep-dog", so there you have it. He also gets the girl - spoiler, oops - and at the end there's some strange passages in which the girl's husband - that narrator novelist - discusses the dog having sex with her - I'm sure the essential, quintessential "spirit" of this novel. (...) Please read the full review on Weighing A Pig

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jani

    I had heard Stories about Stapledon. ("Stapledon is the ultimate SF writer. Olaf doesn't necessarily even have protagonists, only the history of the bloody civilization.") But instead of being intimidated, my interested was peeked. As a consequence, when I saw Sirius while shopping for my Christmas reading, I decided to pick it up, though to be fair I picked up the novel described as the most humane of his works. Although Mr Stapledon was apparently mystified that his novels were so embraced by t I had heard Stories about Stapledon. ("Stapledon is the ultimate SF writer. Olaf doesn't necessarily even have protagonists, only the history of the bloody civilization.") But instead of being intimidated, my interested was peeked. As a consequence, when I saw Sirius while shopping for my Christmas reading, I decided to pick it up, though to be fair I picked up the novel described as the most humane of his works. Although Mr Stapledon was apparently mystified that his novels were so embraced by the science fiction community, it is easy see based on this novel why he would be included in the canon. Sirius is a character made possible by technology, but like in most, if not all, good SF, how technology works isn't the important thing, but what Sirius can tell about humanity. He is a classical Other used to explore the human (and canine) world and an endearing one at that. While the novel falls sometimes into the pit many SF/fantasy text do of using the character as a straightforward, even simple, vehicle for the author's investigation into morality etc., Sirius interested me as a reader due to his conflicted nature. Conflict in the soul, beliefs and character are, of course, in the center of the story and as such you could see the novel as succeeding while perhaps not for the writing which at times left me wondering if the author meant to make Sirius as twisted as he has done or did he just miss some of the issues or was the writing a bit weak; can't really say. In the end the story was worth reading and had a heart and a mind: a good combination for any novel and especially great for a SF classic.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ana

    Vídeoreseña "Why did you make only one of me? It's going to be lonely being me" Sirius is a genetically engineered dog that has been endowed with human intelligence by his maker, Thomas Trelone. Sirius’s story comes really close to that of Frankenstein’s monster, as he tells his many tribulations while trying to achieve a human-like life. Both characters share the same troubled mentality as they gradually find out that they don’t fit either as a human or as a member of their own species. Stapl Vídeoreseña "Why did you make only one of me? It's going to be lonely being me" Sirius is a genetically engineered dog that has been endowed with human intelligence by his maker, Thomas Trelone. Sirius’s story comes really close to that of Frankenstein’s monster, as he tells his many tribulations while trying to achieve a human-like life. Both characters share the same troubled mentality as they gradually find out that they don’t fit either as a human or as a member of their own species. Stapledon’s approach to this dilemma seems more thoughtful, covering themes like empathy, love, loneliness, and fear of the unknown. Don’t let the premise of a talking dog fool you into thinking this is a Disney-like story— while the main character is technically a talking animal, Stapledon does not overlook their own biology and impulses as such. Ultimately, ‘Sirius’ is a moving story that tries to answer the question of what it really means to be human.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    060919: philosophical phantasy at its midcentury best, english version. following the life of one ‘super-super-sheepdog’ as created by cambridge scientist, cerebral, unique, lonely, fantastic. this is somewhat different than other stapledon work in that there are characters, primarily the dog ‘sirius’ and daughter of scientist ‘plaxy’... an interesting view of exactly what dogs would envy in mankind (hands) and of the difference in worlds sensed, smelled, seen, heard, thought, and of course sati 060919: philosophical phantasy at its midcentury best, english version. following the life of one ‘super-super-sheepdog’ as created by cambridge scientist, cerebral, unique, lonely, fantastic. this is somewhat different than other stapledon work in that there are characters, primarily the dog ‘sirius’ and daughter of scientist ‘plaxy’... an interesting view of exactly what dogs would envy in mankind (hands) and of the difference in worlds sensed, smelled, seen, heard, thought, and of course satirical commentary in the best understated english manner. essentially polite, of its era or earlier, this is definitely more story told than shown: there are far more ideas than images, as sirius comes ‘to grips’ with existential questions not alone of dogs or humans but something of both, through science, through religion, but his tragedy is that despite how much he might be loved (in all unspoken ways...) by plaxy, there is finally no one with whom to share his perspective...

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jersy

    While this is deeply emotional, it feels also detached because of the way it is written. It reads like a biography, while also having similarities to saga novels, coming of age and it is also so much about the meaning of life. The conflict of Sirius is relatable and his relationship to his "sister" Plaxy compelling. It tackles science, religion, occupations and relationships, so everything that can be meaningful in life, and shows it from this relatable but also foreign perspective. It had kind o While this is deeply emotional, it feels also detached because of the way it is written. It reads like a biography, while also having similarities to saga novels, coming of age and it is also so much about the meaning of life. The conflict of Sirius is relatable and his relationship to his "sister" Plaxy compelling. It tackles science, religion, occupations and relationships, so everything that can be meaningful in life, and shows it from this relatable but also foreign perspective. It had kind of a "frankensteins monster" vibe, even though Sirius had a much better life. It could have been much more touching if the writing wasn't so dry. Still, this is a good recommendation to get into Sci-Fi if you haven't read any before but also offers a lot of new and meaningful things to established sf readers.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Alien

    An intelligent dog cannot find peace and happiness among the super-apes who rule this planet. First his biggest problem seems to be that he has a hard time finding a purpose in life. Then, when the unpleasant traits of the humans show themselves, it gets really ugly. For a book from the 40s this one is quite modern. No misogyny, no chauvinism. Even the science was not embarrassingly out of date. An interesting view of humanity "from the outside". The mixture of human and canine traits was very wel An intelligent dog cannot find peace and happiness among the super-apes who rule this planet. First his biggest problem seems to be that he has a hard time finding a purpose in life. Then, when the unpleasant traits of the humans show themselves, it gets really ugly. For a book from the 40s this one is quite modern. No misogyny, no chauvinism. Even the science was not embarrassingly out of date. An interesting view of humanity "from the outside". The mixture of human and canine traits was very well done. I liked the first 2/3 quite a bit, not so much the last third. Some of the philosophical and religious aspects were over my head. 3.5 stars.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Eggp

    Existential dog much too smart to be happy you need hands for that.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Floyd Mind

    Very original and beautiful, but at the same time a very keen observation of humans, through the eyes of a strangely relatable dog.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Freya

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This is a really interesting and thought-provoking book which had me fascinated and horrified as much as Brave New World did. Maybe it is something about the era they were written in, Brave New World in 1932 and Sirius in 1944, the excitement of technological and scientific progression, the horrors of war and perhaps rose-tinted glasses of how things used to be. Sirius is a super, or super-super-intelligent dog, whose intelligence has him sometimes referred to as a Man-dog. He is created by a sci This is a really interesting and thought-provoking book which had me fascinated and horrified as much as Brave New World did. Maybe it is something about the era they were written in, Brave New World in 1932 and Sirius in 1944, the excitement of technological and scientific progression, the horrors of war and perhaps rose-tinted glasses of how things used to be. Sirius is a super, or super-super-intelligent dog, whose intelligence has him sometimes referred to as a Man-dog. He is created by a scientist who has been breeding super-sheepdogs and Sirius is kind of his crowning glory. He decides to bring Sirius up as a member of his family, raised by his wife alongside their children and particularly Plaxy, a baby girl who is roughly a similar age to Sirius. He is taught to read, write, play and reason as any normal human child is, and he and Plaxy share a close bond. As he grows up and once he reaches maturity you begin to see more and more Sirius questioning everything, as he neither fits in the human world or the dog world. He lacks coloured sight and hands and so can never be fully human, having to make adjustments for his 'deficiencies', but neither does he fit in the dog world where they seem like stupid animals to his intellect. Dogs can't understand his human behaviours and humans can't understand his sense of smell and 'animal musical habits' which are explained as being far more than mere noise - it all carries layered meaning, I would say a blend of human understanding using dog abilities, but that is not correct, more just that he is a different species to both and so he cannot assume one or the other. As he is the only one of his kind he gets lonely and frequently battles between his 'wolf' self and his Sirius self, particularly when you see his relationship with Plaxy where she is also struggling to define herself having been brought up closely with Sirius. As Plaxy loves and loathes Sirius, does Sirius experiencing the world love and loathe humans in things that they do. It is a fascinating book which looks into human behaviour from an 'outside' perspective and what is shown of us isn't always pleasant. It is also a fascinating read on how people consider their place and purpose in the world and of not belonging and of making people welcome and being careful of the feelings of others who may or may not be like you. It is a tragic story, much like Brave New World, but well worth a read.

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