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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Forgotten One
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...
Published on 22 Sep 2010 by Dave_42

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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not "Disney"
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...
Published on 2 Sep 2003


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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not "Disney", 2 Sep 2003
By A Customer
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Forgotten One, 22 Sep 2010
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Once bitten, smitten., 28 May 2011
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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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stranger in a Strange Land!, 1 Oct 2001
By A Customer
More like a conventional novel than either Last and First Men or Star Maker, this deals with some typical Stapledon themes: alien intelligence or spirit, the quasi symbiosis of different species, the age old question of the purpose of existence. It's an interesting study of a creature's relationship with his creator, his difficulties in dealing with his own uniqueness, and with the fact that his own needs do not always coincide with those of the dominant human species. It raises a number of questions about the type of things which might differ between two species of equal intelligence, and how this might cause conflict between them. Well worth reading!
(I didn't find his style to be a problem; it's just different from what we're used to nowadays.)
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5.0 out of 5 stars An absolute classic, 21 Jun 2014
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This was a favourite title from my teenage years (1960's) and I purchased it to see whether it gave the same feelings of wonder and tragedy that I encountered then ... it does! Definitely a well crafted tale, and a "keeper".
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5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant, 17 May 2014
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A graphically sensitive and meaningful exploration into the tragedy of being human,viewed from an external, non human, perspective .
Compelling, moving and agonisingly accurate
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4.0 out of 5 stars Thought-Provoking and Moving, 18 Feb 2014
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P. Borrington "philipborrington" (Lincolnshire) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
My first Stapledon but definitely not my last, Sirius is a thoroughly engaging read. The plight of Sirius - neither dog nor man - is handled brilliantly by Stapledon. Like the best sci-fi, Sirius has aged well, the ideas transcending the period. Darkly comic as well, I particularly enjoyed Sirius's brilliance at the sheep dog trials despite his master's terrible instructions. Recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Absolute Classic, 10 Jan 2014
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This lyrical story was published the year before I was born and I got to read it 12 years later - age 11. I was still in absorption mode then and the story's premise of a super-intelligent dog completely captured my imagination. I was fascinated by science fiction and had few, if any, pre-conceived prejudices about writing style etc. I loved this story and almost wished it had been fact. The premise stands up very well even today, although the writing style, by today's standards, is somewhat dated. Nevertheless, it is a very satisfying read and, dare I say, would make an excellent film, if sympathetically produced.
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5.0 out of 5 stars absolutely brilliant, 27 Aug 2013
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I got this book after hearing about it on Radio 4, it is magnificent. Olaf writes in a fabulous way and his understanding of the relationship between Sirius and the humans he encounters is sublime. Great observations!

The ending is beautiful!!!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Best of the best, 30 July 2013
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Read this very quickly, as it's very engaging, and very poignant, in the sense that any family on earth could have lived with an intelligent dog, and be devastated by the wanton behaviour of inferior mortals.
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