The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

A combination of selective breeding and hormonal injections has endowed the sheepdog Sirius with a human intelligence. He employs his intellect within the family and professional world of the scientist who developed him, engaging in a series of revealing relationships with local farmers, Cambridge scientists, London proletarians, and, above all, his “sister,” the daughter of the scientist. In Sirius: A Fantasy of Love and Discord, as in all of his fiction, Olaf Stapledon’s professional background as a philosopher-teacher makes itself evident.

Thomas Trelone is a “great physiologist” who maintains an affiliation with Cambridge University but performs his experiments with animals in a sheep district of northern Wales, a district familiar to Stapledon. Sirius is his great triumph. By breeding generations of “super-sheep-dogs” and using special hormone injections, Trelone has managed to create Sirius, superior to them all. With his wife, Elizabeth, he raises Sirius as the sibling of their daughter, Plaxy.

Sirius’ life falls into four stages. In the first, he and Plaxy grow to maturity. The two prove to be equal in intelligence. Sirius learns to speak English, with a strong canine accent, and with the assistance of specially designed gloves, he even learns to write. Plaxy’s hands are her most distinct advantage over the dog. Sirius, however, has an advantage in his sense of smell. When the two companions finally are...

(The entire section is 493 words.)