Stapledon is most famous for the billion-year perspective of his future history novels Last and First Men (1930), Star Maker (1937), and Nebula Maker, and Far Encounters (1983). Sirius belongs to a second major category of Stapledon’s fiction in which his extraordinary imagination operated in a less titanic, more domestic sphere. Odd John (1935), which centers on a superintelligent mutant child, is the other important novel in this category.
Sirius is narrated by Robert, Plaxy’s human fiancé, a civil servant and novelist who has been conscripted by the Royal Air Force at the beginning of World War II. He discovers Plaxy’s unusual cohabitation with the articulate super-sheep-dog during her final attempt to recall Sirius to humane experience. Most of the novel consists of his reconstruction of their lives to that point, a reconstruction based on his conversations with the dog and the girl. Robert serves as a plain-man narrator, giving credibility to the narrative. As Plaxy’s human lover, he draws attention to Sirius’ provocative role as Plaxy’s canine lover. Although, at the publisher’s insistence, Stapledon toned down this aspect, the intimacy between the girl and the dog remains a controversial element in the novel.
A more serious theme concerns the question of what it means to be human in various respects. In intellect, Sirius is equal to a human. In practice, his lack of hands is a serious defect. His monochrome sense of sight is a disadvantage, but his superior senses of hearing and smell give him decided advantages. The latter sense is particularly significant. Not only can Sirius smell odors imperceptible to humans, but he also can smell different kinds of odors, such as odors of fear and dishonesty. Stapledon’s triumph is to convey through Robert’s matter-of-fact style the skewed, not-quite-human perceptual world experienced by Sirius.
(The entire section is 524 words.)