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REVIEW: The Left Hand of Dog – SI Clarke

The Left Hand Of Dog

Genre: Sci Fi, Comedy

LGBTQ+ Category: Ace, Aro, Agender

Reviewer: Scott

About The Book

Escaping intergalactic kidnappers has never been quite so ridiculous.

When Lem and her faithful dog, Spock, retreat from the city for a few days of hiking in Algonquin Park, the last thing they expect is to be kidnapped by aliens. No, scratch that. The last thing they expect is to be kidnapped by a bunch of strangely adorable intergalactic bounty hunters aboard a ship called the Teapot.

After Lem falls in with an unlikely group of allies – including a talking horse, a sarcastic robot, an overly anxious giant parrot, and a cloud of sentient glitter gas – the gang must devise a cunning plan to escape their captors and make it back home safely.

But things won’t be as easy as they first seem. Lost in deep space and running out of fuel, this chaotic crew are faced with the daunting task of navigating an alien planet, breaking into a space station, and discovering the real reason they’re all there…

Packed with preposterous scenarios, quirky characters, and oodles of humour, The Left Hand of Dog tackles complex subjects such as gender, the need to belong, and the importance of honest communication. Perfect for fans of Charlie Jane Anders’ Victories Greater than Death – especially ones who enjoy endless references to Red DwarfStar Trek, and Doctor Who. This book will show you that the universe is a very strange place indeed.

The Review

When you pick up a copy of SI Clarke’s latest book, The Left Hand of Dog, You don’t expect a serious treatise on the exploration of space or the existence of alien life forms.

Instead, it recalls most the Hitchiker’s Guide to the Universe series.

Which is not far off.

The Left Hand of Dog tells the story, in first person, of Lem and her dog Spock. Lem was assigned male at birth, but identifies as agender, a fact that we’re introduced to slowly over the course of the novel. Lem’s gender identity is never obtrusive, but instead is nicely woven into the fabric of the tale.

Lem wakes up with Spock in a strange place, which she soon discovers is a spaceship run by a rainbow-colored squad of giant bunnies – bunnyboos, as Lem calls them. They are alien bounty hunters who have picked up Spock and a handful of other aliens to deliver them for a cash payment, and have mistaken Lem for Spock’s left hand, or pet.

Lem connects with the other strangers/aliens on the ship via a universal translator, and when the bunnyboos are called away, a cross-galaxy romp ensues as the prisoners take over the ship and try to figure out how to find their way home.

The core genius of this book is the universal translator, which has two modes, literal and figurative. Literal mode doesn’t work so well cross-species, but figurative mode allows the translator so substitute things the listener knows for the foreign words/concepts. So you get dilithium crystals and planets like Trantor and Dark Web, and it all makes perfect sense, freeing the author to find both the heart of her characters and the full silliness of the story and the situation.

I loved the different characters, which include a bird-like alien, a gaseous being, a cranky robot, and a bouncy, excitable spaceship engineer named Bexley whose irrepressible energy always made me smile.

As in the author’s White Hart series, it’s clear that Clarke has spent a lot of time thinking about the details of the story, and what a human trying to navigate an alien galaxy as the pet of her dog might have to deal with. What if you were allergic to the cute alien you had your eye on? What if the ship chef loved to serve you your favorite foods, but mixed together? Clarke answers these questions, and more.

I had a great time exploring the far-flung reaches of the Milky Way with this rag-tag band of loveable misfits. The Left Hand of Dog is a hilarious modern take on the Hitchhiker genre, with a lot of heart. I can’t wait to see what this rag-tag band gets up to next (spoiler alert – book two is coming in 2022)!

The Reviewer

Scott is the founder of Queer Sci Fi, and a fantasy and sci fi writer in his own right, with more than 30 published short stories, novellas and novels to his credit, including two trilogies.  

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