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Odd John and Sirius Paperback – June 1, 1972

4.3 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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About the Author

A preeminent figure of British science fiction, Olaf Stapledon (1886-1950) wrote several influential novels. Praised by H. G. Wells, Aldous Huxley, and Virginia Woolf, Stapledon's works introduced such innovative concepts as genetic engineering and terraforming.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications (June 1, 1972)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486211339
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486211336
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.6 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #369,965 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Stefan Jones on May 11, 2001
Format: Paperback
A thousands thanks to Dover for keeping Olaf Stapledon's novels in print.
_Odd John_
John is a terribly precocious and at first frighteningly amoral child born to only modestly intelligent parents. With time, he learns to master his superhuman intelligence and develop telepathic powers which allow him to find others of his kind. By the end of the book, he and his band of superhuman mutants are trying to create a new civilization on an isolated island.
This is an early novel, and to some extent it shows. A lot of Stapledon's views of what a highly intelligent creature would be like and do with his time seem awfully cliched today; there are odd parallels with Stapledon's thinking and some current-day "New Age" thinking. But it may be that _Odd John_ created those cliches! Stapledon was an immensely influential writer in 1930s Britain.
Wonderful Trivia: The copyright for Odd John is held by George Pal . . . the filmmaker who brought us the movie versions of "The Time Machine" and "War of the Worlds." Forrey Ackerman told me that Pal had hopes and plans to film _Odd John._ Oh, what might have been!
_Sirius_, written during World War II and published in 1944, is a far more mature and insightful work. It is also a really _sad_ book . . . a genuine tragedy.
As the title suggests, it's about a dog; a mastiff / alsatian / border collie mix with a brain enlarged by _in utero_ hormone treatments. Sirius is as smart as an above-average human, but with the senses and instincts of a dog.
Sirius' life is not easy, despite having loving "step parents" and siblings. The novel follows his childhood and education in Wales, his experiences as an anonymous social observer in 1940s London, and his career as a sheep farmer.
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Format: Paperback
Most people don't even know that Olaf Stapledon even existed as an author and those that do most often gravitate toward his more famous (and certainly more groundbreaking) novels Last and First Men and Starmaker (also available as a twofer job and well worth your time), but if they pass up these books they're definitely missing out. Far more accessible than either of his other books, mostly because if you're not ready for the almost textbook style of LAFM/SM it might just bore the heck out of you before you realize how awesome those books actually are. Here Stapledon gets to show off his narrative skills and he more than succeeds. The first story Odd John is about a bloke who basically is one of the Second Men, as advanced over the rest of mankind as we're advanced over dogs and cats. Stapledon has some fun with the idea, mostly with John's utter inability to figure us out (or he knows us too well and can't figure out our motivations), the only problem is that John himself is a bit of a hard character to like, he uses people mostly because he can and justifies every act he does no matter how bad it is based on the fact that he's far superior to us. Granted you still care about the big lug, but sometimes he's so snotty you just want to slap him. Still, Stapledon does a great job of taking some shots at humanity and pretty well rationalizing the thought processes of a guy who's just not like us. Thankfully Sirius has the compassion that Odd John lacks in parts. This one is even stranger, it's about a really smart dog who might as well be human. The fact that Stapledon manages to pull this one off without it seeming silly or far fetched is a testament to his writing genius, he makes Sirius, who could have just been a talking dog, into something three dimensional and worthy of your attention.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
Until 2002 Sirius was the only thing by Stapledon I had read. Now with Last and First Men, Star Maker, Nebula Maker and Odd John, plus a good few more years, behind me, it means a lot more to me. Like his author, the dog with an equal-to-human brain is one of a kind, but the main theme is Stapledon's familiar tragic theme of the futile destruction of what intellect, mind and spirit can achieve. This is a Stapledon story with some very unfamiliar ingredients like characters and humour. It may be the strangest love story ever, but it's a love story all right, and a harrowing one. This time Stapledon is not looking directly into the mind of the Creator, but the religious professionals still get it in the neck from him. That strikes a chord with me. At a recent college reunion I attended a service for which 'unctuous and complacently servile' would have been an excellent description. If there is a Creator, to behave to him in this manner seemed to me to be verging on blasphemous, and I was relieved to get out before a thunderbolt struck. 'Find your calling...or be damned' may be the main message of this book, but it seems that the forces of futility may still get to you whether you do or not.
Bertrand Russell has a story that Macaulay never spoke until the age of 6, when hot tea was spilled over him at a children's party and he reassured his fussing hostess with 'Thankyou madam, the agony is abated'. The early story of Odd John Wainwright, the son of slightly eccentric and moderately talented parents, started by reminding me of this, but I knew I would soon have to take it seriously. Odd John is a superhuman and he knows it. He is not cruel or evil, but like Stapledon's Star Maker he has more important priorities than, say, human life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
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