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Sirius A Fantasy of Love and Discord Hardcover – 1944

16 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Secker & Warburg; First Edition edition (1944)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0006AQJ1I
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,884,177 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Dave_42 on 22 Sept. 2010
Format: Paperback
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Peeper on 28 May 2011
Format: Paperback
I got this after reading a review of Stapledon's work by the eminent scientist Freeman Dyson (in a collection of essays and reviews called The Scientist as Rebel), himself a writer of science fiction too. Dyson considers Sirius to be Stapledon's greatest work. It is certainly a profound and affecting one. The tragic hero of the piece is a superintelligent dog, capable of thought and speech. The creature is torn between his 'civilised' and his 'wild' sides, and moves between a human world where he is in part understood and a human world where he is persecuted,as well as the wilderness. In this way, the novel harks back to the gothic tradition of Mary Shelley and Louis Stevenson. No doubt there are echoes of Jack London's fiction too. So the book is as much about human nature as about the ethical dilemmas around genetically modifying animals. Unfortunately, fiction in print and on the screen about talking animals from the second half of the twentieth century onward make sections of the novel at first uninentionally amusing. It is worth repressing the impulse to smirk. You will find yourself feeling and thinking deeply well before the climax of this fine book. Thanks, Freeman Dyson, for drawing the attention of a new generation of readers to this writer of philosophical fiction.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 2 Sept. 2003
Format: Paperback
A story about a superintelligent talking dog? It sounds terrible, like something out of a twee Disney film, but in actual fact Stapledon manages to avoid anything like that, and has written an incredible, touching story. It reminds me of "Call of the Wild" and "White Fang", and doesn't avoid the dark side of Sirius' nature... there are a couple of particularly savage passages where Sirius kills a sadistic farmer, and also "murders" a horse just to indulge his canine instincts.
Sirius ends up seeing the full range of human life, from bad to good, and more. He is also not a true dog, and finds himself not only alienated from human beings who cannot accept him fully (with a handful of exceptions), but other dogs who are like cretins to him especially his "lovers" (as the book puts it). Despite having difficulty speaking and writing (he devises ways to get around that), Sirius has an advantage over other dogs through his intelligence, and over humans in his hearing, sense of smell etc. What we get is not only a satire on English life during WWII, but an almost autistic view of the world, seeing everything but not able to integrate oneself into it.
Of course some of the writing is dated, and Stapledon at times takes a very colonial view of the Welsh and their language (Sirius is originally brought up on a Welsh farm by English academics). Some of the style is very dry and typical of the period (for example when Sirius spots a holy roller farmboy pleasuring himself, Stapledon calls it "something unspeakable". Fortunately Victorian hangovers like these are not common).
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By Lark TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 15 Mar. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is hard to go wrong with the sci fi masterworks series but I think this is one of the series which out stripped the rest in terms of enjoyment for me.

The character is that of a super intelligent dog breed to possess intelligence with rivals and outstripes some humans, there is an element of tragic "meddling scientists" about it similar perhaps to Flowers For Algernon (S.F. MASTERWORKS) but I felt it was more positive than that book, although admitting the lonely plight which accompanies Sirius discovering that he is a one of a kind anomaly, neither man nor beast.

The story begins with the narrators encounter with the animal and he sets out a biographical tale of the beast from there on, for any lover of animal tales or anthropomorphic stories this is absolutely superb, it is also a story which totally commends itself to the reader for its depiction of humanity and its essential humanism. The character of Sirius is a kind of outsider who is able to observe and examine the everyday and ordinary and in doing so inspire the reader to so so too, that is a sign of a great writer often and the secret to great science fiction and fantasy writing.

There are many highs and lows to the story and it manages to evoke strong feelings but without becoming farcical or romanticising too much, when in chapters the narrative appears a little tangental or meandering the narrator himself comments upon it and asks for the readers indulgence or apologises, I thought that was a neat narrative tool but when chapters do stray from the plot its usually so interesting as to merit no complaint what so ever.
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