People love pups, so it’s not surprising when humankind’s best friend shows up in the stories we write, even if those stories take place in some fantastical realm or on an alien planet thousands of years in the future.
Oftentimes these dogs (or wolves, or other dog-adjacent species) play the sidekick or the supportive friend to a human character, such as the direwolves in The Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin. Other times, however, a canine character can be the antagonist of the story, such as in Stephen King’s Cujo. And still other times, most often in middle grade books but not always, there’s a dog who speaks like a human and has adventures of their own.
There are many books out there that feature our canine friends in some form, even when you narrow your scope to the genres of science fiction and fantasy. And even within the genre space, there is a broad array of SFF doggos for you to choose from. Read on for examples of five very different SFF books that can scratch your dog-loving itch.
Nighteyes in The Realm of Elderling Series by Robin Hobb
Nighteyes falls in the dog-adjacent category for being a wolf, but he’s a major character in three trilogies that fall under Robin Hobb’s expansive Elderling series. We first meet him in Royal Assassin, the second book in The Farseer trilogy, when he bonds with the main character, FitzChivalry Farseer. The bond that Nighteyes and Fitz have lasts their entire lives, and it goes beyond the muggle love a man can have for his dog. The two are Wit-bonded, a form of magic that allows them to speak with each other telepathically and see what the other is doing. They are for the most part inseparable throughout their hardships and adventures over the course of three trilogies, and Nighteyes’s unwavering support and devotion to Fitz make this relationship one of my favorites in all of fantasy.
The Tines in A Fire Upon The Deep by Vernor Vinge
Shifting from epic fantasy to space opera, we have the Tines in Vernor Vinge’s A Fire Upon The Deep. The Tines are extremely dog-adjacent—they are an alien canine-like species who share a single consciousness across a group of several dog-like members. We meet the Tines after a human-occupied spaceship crashes onto their planet. Two children become the ultimate survivors, and they soon find themselves caught in the middle of a medieval-like battle between two factions of Tines. The Tine conflict is resolved in the book, but not before it becomes tied up in an intergalactic struggle replete with an evil super-intelligence called the Blight.
Bumbersnoot the Mechanical Dog in The Finishing School series by Gail Carriger
If dogs and steampunk are two things you enjoy, then Bumbersnoot the mechanical dachshund from Gail Carriger’s Finishing School series will be right up your alley. This young adult series takes place in a school that’s located in a dirigible floating around a city set in a time period that’s the steampunk version of 1850s London. The main character is a girl named Sophorina, a student at the school who has a mechanimal named Bumbersnoot, a robot dog who eats coal and steamwhistles out warnings. Bumbersnoot is a reliable companion to Sophorina; he helps her out of more than a few pickles and even gets the chance to meet Queen Victoria at one point, making him a very special dog indeed.
Lopside and Others in The Voyage of the Dogs by Greg van Eekhout
The Voyage of the Dogs is a middle grade book set in space, but the premise is cute enough to engage dog-lovers of any age. In this tale, the main character, a terrier named Lopside, is a Barkonaut on a primarily human-run spaceship. Things go wrong, of course, and Lopside and the other Barkonauts (including a Corgi…a Corgi!) are on their own to figure out what happened to their humans and save the day. While the story appropriate for younger readers, the book holds up for older humans as well. Read this one with your favorite furry friend snuggled against you on the couch, and you’ll have a warm and furry feel-good evening.
Dol in the Villians Duology by V. E. Schwab
Many people, including myself, don’t enjoy reading anything where a dog dies. Dol is a unique exception to this rule—because although he does die (more than once, actually) in V. E. Schwab’s grippingly dark duology about two best-friends-turned-enemies with supernatural powers, he is brought back to life by his loving owner, a young girl named Sydney who can bring once-living things back from the dead. Dol, despite dying multiple times, is the closest on this list to being a regular pup—he’s just a big old black dog with floppy ears who loves his owner Sydney. He is a great friend, and keeps her company while her world is threatened by the supernatural machinations going on around her.
Hopefully one of these books combines your dog-loving desire with your favorite SFF sub-genre. Dogs love everyone, after all, and it’s great to see them shine in books of all kinds.
Originally published in March 2020.
Vanessa Armstrong is a writer with bylines at The LA Times, SYFY WIRE, StarTrek.com and other publications. She lives in Los Angeles with her dog Penny and her husband Jon, and she loves books more than most things. You can find more of her work on her website or follow her on Twitter @vfarmstrong.