A Man-Dog. Super-Sheep-Dogs. Nature vs. Nurture. A Life-long Relationship. Scents. Manual Dexterity.
After reading Olaf Stapledon’s rather aloof Last and First Men and Star Maker, I was delightfully surprised to find that Sirius is an intimate story. Not only does Stapledon describe the life of Sirius, a dog-man, but he also shows humans in all their complexity. The plot has a comfortable rhythm and moved me emotionally.
Briefly, Thomas Trelone is a scientist who attempts to create super-intelligent mammals. He succeeds in creating a number of super-sheepdogs. When he tries to create an even more intelligent dog, he manages to produce one viable puppy, Sirius. In order to create the most conducive environment for high intelligence, Thomas and his wife Elizabeth raise the puppy alongside their newborn daughter Plaxy, treating them as similar as possible. The results are sometimes amusing and sometimes sad. Sirius is often frustrated by his lack of hands. Sirius and Plaxy form a unique bond that is tested by the world and their own natures.
I enjoyed the story and found it ponderable. It is definitely written for adults and stays away from any cuteness. Stapledon has a skill for showing human nature. He uses the dog Sirius to illustrate people’s true intentions as well as what they do when they think no one is looking.
One of my favorite mystery series is Chet and Bernie by Spencer Quinn. I wonder whether Quinn was influenced by Sirius. They use similar perspectives to look at the world of a dog.