July 2004
© 2004 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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Sirius - The Dog Star by Martin H.Greenberg (ed)
Daw / Penguin Putnam PPBK: ISBN 0756401860 PubDate: 06/01/04
Review by Cathy Green

320 pgs. List price $ 6.99
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Every dog must have its day; now they get their own anthology as well. According to the editors of Sirius, they decided to put together a dog anthology because all the attention was being paid to cats. When I first agreed to review this book, it was with a little trepidation. The last dog anthology I read was All Dogs Go To Heaven, which was given to me by my grandmother when I was nine. All the dogs in the book are dead and they’re telling their tragic death stories to a newcomer. Since we’d only just gotten our beagle, I can’t imagine what my grandmother was thinking when she gave me the book. Maybe she was trying to point out that I shouldn’t get too attached because my beloved dog was going to die some day in the not too distant future. Fortunately, there are only two fatalities in Sirius, and the dog really isn’t the focus of either story.

If you like science fiction or fantasy where animals play a role, then you’ll like this collection of sixteen stories. Mostly the stories stay on the scent and bring home a choice bone for the reader to gnaw on, starting with  “Finding Marcus”, a well written, somewhat melancholy story by Tanya Huff about a dog traveling through dimensional gates in search of his owner. Along the way the dog picks up a crow as a traveling companion, and their interaction is amusing, as well as being the narrative device to give the reader the back story. The crow reminded me a little of the raven in Peter S. Beagle’s “A Fine And Private Place”.

Other stories worth a biscuit follow, nipping on its heels:

Julie Czerneda’s story “Brother’s Bound” is less about the dog and more about what we get from our relationship with dogs. The dog’s alien owner and how he achieves emotional growth and understanding of humans from interacting with the dog is the focus of the story.

In “Heartsease”, Fiona Patton does a nice job of getting inside the head of her Chihuahua protagonist, including his joy at rolling around on a deal seagull and his outrage at having the wonderful scent of said gull washed off him by his annoyed owner. The story provides an interesting science fiction twist to the notion that owning a pet can prolong a person’s life.

India Edghill imagines a day in the life, from the dog’s viewpoint, of one of Charles II’s spaniels in “A Spaniel For The King” and suggests that if the Duke of Monmouth had been kind to animals he might have gained the throne. India’s sister Rosemary contributes a story that also features a spaniel.

In “Final Exam” whether or not criminals are redeemable is determined by how they treat small fluffy lap dogs. It’s no small test since a bad reaction to the dog or a bad reaction from the dog results in execution.

Stephen Leigh imagines what might happen to a genetically enhanced canine that achieved human levels of intelligence in “Among The Pack Alone”, a story that shares similar themes with Olaf Stapledon’s “Sirius”. It is not a happy story and the title neatly encapsulates why being so different would cause a problem for a dog.

In “After The Fall”, Kristine Kathryn Rusch imagines several alternate paths for the protagonist’s life. The one where he has a dog turns out to be the best and longest one, although not necessarily the happiest in the traditional sense.

“Precious Cargo” by Bernie Arntzen is an amusing story in which the nefarious purpose behind a shipment of adorable genetically enhanced little puppies is discovered by the one person aboard the spaceship who was immune to their charms because she did not like dogs, a possibility that simply did not occur to their maker.

The anthology also contains three supernatural stories and two “shaggy dog “ stories. Both “Dog Gone” by John Zakour and “Improper Congress” by Elaine Quon are nicely humorous stories. In “Dog Gone”, written like an old-fashioned hard boiled detective novel but set in the future, the world’s last freelance PI is hired to find Max-9, a genetically altered dog with an IQ of 157.9 that has either been kidnapped or run away. In Elaine Quon’s story, a dog and her owner get their minds switched, and Quon does a good job of imagining how a dog in a human body might act. “Life’s A Bichon” by Bethlyn Damone offers an interesting twist on the werewolf story and “Keep The Dog Hence” by Jane Lindskold is a ghost story and cautionary tale about why people should be kind to and care for their pets, and “Snow Spawn” by Nancy Springer is a mood piece about a woman who turns into a dog with some ghostly assistance. The concluding story, more of a novella in length, is “Huntbrother” by Michelle West, set in her kingdom of Breodanir. While the dogs are irrelevant to the story, it is well written and offers readers of Ms. West’s novels another story set in the same universe. It also offers readers who might not be willing to invest up front in several novels a quick test to see if they like her writing and her universe enough to commit to a multibook series.

Though the over all ratio of diamonds to dogs (or should that be there way around) is very good, a few stray hairs made up on the couch. “Hair Of The Dog” by Doranna Durgin is the one story in the collection that did not work at all. For one thing, the dog is irrelevant to the story. Also, to a large degree the story seemed to suffer from the sort of 1970’s era political feminism where the message was served and the point made at the expense of the writing. Another story that was not very satisfying compared to the rest of the collection is “All The Virtues” by Mickey Zucker Reichert. The point of the story is the loyalty and self-sacrifice of man’s best friend. Stylistically, it was similar in tone to “Lad: A Dog”, and Albert Payson Terhune is not a popular writer today for good reason. The editors would have been better off commissioning a retelling of the story Hachiko, Japan’s most faithful dog.

Overall the quality of this anthology is pretty high. If you enjoy reading fantasy and science fiction with animal protagonists, it’s worth picking up this book.

© 2004 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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