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Sirius Audio Download – Unabridged

4.2 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Audio Download
  • Listening Length: 8 hours and 38 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Audible Studios
  • Audible.co.uk Release Date: 13 Sept. 2012
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B009AE1NG2
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank:

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Paperback
This is the story of Sirius, who is not like other dogs. Or other humans. Or any other beings at all...

Sirius was created as part of an experimental programme to generate super-animals. He is a dog with elements of human consciousness, existing alongside his innate canine consciousness. Much of the story concerns the tension between these disparate elements, and Sirius's attempts to integrate them, whilst remaining 'true' to both his canine drives and his human intellect.
If, like me, your initial thoughts are "SuperDog? I don't think so"., I'd urge you to put such pre-conceptions to one side. Because this story really is worth your time. Olaf Stapledon explores themes such as alienation, baser instincts and "higher" yearnings, in a manner that reminded me somewhat of Hermann Hesse. I'd even go so far as to say this novel could stand comparsion to some of Hesse's works.

The premise of the book means it warrants inclusion in the SF Masterworks series (a fine series, worthy of exploration if you haven't already), but once you move past this, the general thrust of the writing is speculative in a philosophical, rather than fantastic or futuristic manner. Set in contemporary (1930/40s) Wales, it explores the human world through the idiosyncratic perception of this outsider, utilising canine senses of smell, and sound in a wonderful exploration of the artifice, and at times the yearning and longing, within human social behaviour.

It is a hard book to categorise: part Science Fiction, part philosophical pondering, part love story. In fact, there are two or three love stories here, though all are unconventional. It is easy to forget this book was written in 1944 - though set in that era, it often feels like a more recent work.
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