Sirius (novel)

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For other uses, see Sirius (disambiguation).
First edition
First edition cover
Author Olaf Stapledon
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Science fiction novel
Publisher Secker & Warburg
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardcover & Paperback)
Pages 200pp

Sirius is the titular character and a 1944 science fiction novel by the British philosopher and author Olaf Stapledon.

Scientist Thomas Trelone creates a super-intelligent dog, named Sirius. He is the only dog to have attained a humanlike intelligence. Other dogs of the same breed Trelone created, have an intermediate intelligence (they are above the dog's average intelligence, but they cannot master human language and complex analytic thinking as Sirius does. A sense of existential questioning suffuses the book, as the author delves into every aspect of Sirius's psyche. The novel deals with a lot of human issues through Sirius and his experiences, his unusual nature, his ideas and his relationships with humans.

Sirius is raised in North Wales, near Trawsfynydd. He is born at the same time as his creator's human daughter Plaxy, and the two of them are raised together as brother and sister. The characters go to great lengths to prevent Sirius from becoming a circus-type wonderdog, and instead, they seek to develop Sirius's character much like a family would create and foster that of a human child. The intelligence of the dog is comparable to normal human beings and he is able to communicate with English words, although it takes some time to understand his canine pronunciation. He travels around Britain before and during the war, meets scientists, discusses several political, sociological and religious issues along the way. He develops a mystical idea of the perfect hunting, which is associated with his sophisticated smell skills. The scent he pursues, the prey he's looking for is God. When Sirius returns home, he mostly works as a sophisticated sheep-dog. But after seeing the destruction, death and misery of war, and mankind's stupidity (and also owing to his uncommon nature, which makes him isolated and unique), he has a spiritual breakdown, and begins to indulge more and more his "wolf mood" (destructive and irrational). The final part of the story deals with his hatred towards humans and towards himself, and his violent acts. It also deals with the rumours of the rural community about Plaxy having a sexual relationship with Sirius—which the novel's narrator (Plaxy's human lover) indirectly confirms that they tried to have, but gave up due to the basic physical incompatibility between their species. They have, during the whole tale, their political and personal issues, but also a very special bond, which leads to the idea of a mystical or metaphysical relationship, transcending ordinary love and understanding. Eventually, Plaxy is conscripted during the Second World War, and Sirius subsequently sinks into a deep despair. This is worsened by his increasingly violent prosecution by the local hysterically religious population, who seek to vent their own fear and frustration with the war on an easy target. Depression with what he calls the "tyrant species" cause him to abandon many of his more humane pursuits and live wild. He starts killing other farmers' sheep and dogs, and even humans, which makes him an outlaw, hunted and eventually killed by the community. He dies professing his love for Plaxy and the inevitability that he could never have fit into the world.