Sirius (S.F. MASTERWORKS) Paperback – 14 Apr 2011
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Sirius is a somewhat poignant journey, incalculably emotive and immeasurably introspective, a true masterpiece of literary (science) fiction. (SFBOOK.COM)
'The most human of all Stapledon's novels' Brian AldissSee all Product description
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"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.
Let's suppose it to be possible, and let's suppose the family that the dog lived with were careful to hide Sirius's human capacities. The dog cannot talk, except in a specially created language consisting of squeaks and growls and other dog-like sounds. The dog can read, however, and enjoys having poetry read to him. He even learns to like music. He is sent to work on a neighbour Pugh's farm, and though the neighbour knows him to be an extremely intelligent animal, he's set to work the sheep.
Sirius and his master have long discussions about science, religion, the spirit - well, I can't go much further with this review. The story is okay as far as it goes, but it is rather like an extended novelette with a `so what' kind of ending. There is not enough energy in this story, though it does make one feel extremely sorry for the dog.
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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