Book Review | The Left Hand of Dog, Si Clarke

Goodreads Blurb:

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…

My Thoughts:

This was exactly the book I needed right now. The type I could get completely caught up in. When I say I love Sci-Fi as a genre, this is the kind of Sci-Fi I mean. Why would I read about intergalactic space wars (but no issues if that is what you love), when I could read about a rag tag group of kidnapped aliens – and one human and her dog – as they become allies and then unlikely friends in their bid to escape? Good question methinks! (In a similar vein, I do much prefer Doctor Who over Star Wars – but I digress.)

It didn’t take me long to realise I would absolutely love this novel. Within the first chapter Lem, and her dog Spock get abducted by aliens, and from there things just kept getting stranger and stranger. Wonderfully so, which I loved! Every alien Lem meets is a vibrant and individual character who has been beautifully imagined and brought to life on the page. Especially with the AI implanted in Lem’s watch to help translate, which is kept on figurative mode – which means that rather than stating an exact translation which in a lot of cases would make little sense without context, the watch finds the closest point of reference in Lem’s subconscious and uses that as the translation. At first this led to some rather confusing dialogue between the different species, but as I read further and I became familiar with the ‘translations’ and speaking patterns for each character I found them more charming than confusing. My favourite had to be the AI speaking for Spock, Lem’s dog, Spock’s dialogue, while only comprising for 2-4 word phrases, they felt accurate, and were very amusing.

The story as a whole was such a fun read. Lem’s initial confusion at the whole, almost ridiculous, situation was comically narrated and had me grinning and sometimes laughing with her reactions to certain events. Throughout the story there was also a wonderful collection of references to other Sci-Fi greats – though I am sure I didn’t pick them all, I definitely got quite a few (especially the Doctor Who ones). These were beautifully and naturally threaded throughout the text both in AI translated dialogue and in Lem’s own thoughts. I am sure I will find any I missed in my reread of this wonderful tale.

While this was a fun and at places a rather farfetched story, with friendship, humour, and banter at the forefront, this novel also touches on the complex questions of gender, sexuality, identity, family, and home in a meaningful and insightful way. I love it when an author can create such positive messages in genre fiction like this. It just makes me love this story and its characters even more. I highly recommend this read for lovers of fun, exciting, and at times beautifully strange Sci-Fi at it’s best.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher BooksGoSocial who sent me this free eARC (eAdvanced Reader Copy) in exchange for an honest review. This title was published 17th August 2021.

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