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Written by Si Clarke

The Left Hand of Dog (Starship Teapot #1) ebook

The Left Hand of Dog (Starship Teapot #1) ebook

An extremely silly tale of alien abduction

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Find out why BookRiot included this series in their list of 10 Cozy Sci-Fi Books to Give You Hope for the Future.

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 Dwarf, Star Trek, and Doctor Who. This book will show you that the universe is a very strange place indeed.

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The Left Hand of Dog

Chapter 1: Bunnyboos

‘Geez, Spock, you want me to freeze to death?' I tried to grab some of the duvet and … wondered why I couldn't move. I opened my eyes, but it was too dark to see.

‘Hang on,' I muttered. ‘You sleep at my feet. Why are you stealing my covers?' Surely my eyes should have started adapting to the darkness by now. I tried to move my hand again. No joy on my right; it was pinned in place. My left arm was tangled around Spock, her fur thick between my fingers. I lifted my hand to my face and used my nose to tap my watch to activate the torch – and promptly began hyperventilating.

This wasn't my house. No, wait. I wasn't at home. Spock and I had gone away somewhere. My mind felt like it was swimming through treacle – my reactions were sluggish and my head was foggy.

And now we were spooned together in some sort of double-wide coffin. No room to move. I was curled up on my side with a squishy gel supporting me. It felt cool and slick, like it ought to be liquid, but acted more like memory foam.

‘I'm dreaming. I'm not trapped. It's just a dream.' Closing my eyes again, I took slow, deep breaths.

Two, three, five. I struggled to remember what came after five. Seven, eleven, thirteen. Another deep breath.

We'd left Toronto and gone… Where did we go?

Some sort of back-to-nature break – that was it.

Spock tried to roll over.

We both panicked at the same time – her scrabbling desperately and me screaming. A light appeared beyond what turned out to be a clear roof above us. Although I couldn't make out what was outside the confines of our little prison, I could at least see that there was an outside. That's comforting, I suppose.

‘Algonquin Park! That's where we were.' We'd gone hiking and then we'd retired for the night in a little log cabin.

I sat upright as the lid of the coffin lifted and slid aside with a soft kshhh. Wave after wave of nausea made me wish I hadn't moved. Spock made that hur-hur-hur that was both a motion and a noise. I scrambled to one end of the coffin just as she threw her dinner up at the other end.

A pink ball of fuzz in the corner of the coffin-box caught my eye. I reached out and picked it up. Spock's brain. A handmade squeaky toy shaped like a human brain. I'd bought it for her a year earlier. She carried it with her everywhere. She must have been clutching it in her sleep when we … when … when whatever had happened. Spock snatched it out of my hands.

I looked around the dim room. Maybe a workshop? No, too clean for that. A dentist's office? Lots of shelves, cupboards, and bits of strange equipment.

Spock sat back on her haunches and panted. I wrapped my arms around her. ‘We'll be all right, mate. Just gotta figure it out.'

A few months back, I'd packed up my dog and everything I owned. I'd moved us from England to Canada. It was all part of my grand plan to reinvent myself. Ergo the hiking: I was determined to become the kind of person who had adventures.

Finding myself in an alien dentist's office wasn't really the sort of adventure I had in mind, though.

Startled by the sound of movement behind me, I whirled around to face three … they had to be children in bunny costumes. ‘What?' That's what they had to be, right? I mean, they weren't actually rabbits. Definitely not. For one thing, they stood upright. Real bunnies don't normally do that, do they? For another, they were about the size of Spock.

But the costumes looked real in that no skin showed through – not even on their faces – and I couldn't see any zips. Also, I was pretty sure rabbits didn't come in pastel rainbow colours. Actually, they reminded me of a toy I'd had as a child. Bunnyboo, I'd called it. Four-year-old me was terribly inventive.

‘Check out your floopy-floppy ears! How adorable are you?' Nervous sarcasm still intact then.

I was nauseated enough that shaking my head seemed like a bad idea. ‘It was beer I had last night, right? Not, like, psychedelic mushrooms? Maybe some natural tree spore that makes a person have trippy visions?' No one answered me. Or even looked at me.

Spock sat neatly and dropped her brain in my lap. She lifted a paw towards the nearest of the bunnyboos – for want of a better word. The creature's mint green fur matched the emerald hue of its humongous Disney princess eyes. ‘Yip,' said Spock in her smallest, most polite voice.

This is not happening. I must be dreaming. Or hallucinating. Something.

The creature pulled a device from a holster like a carpenter's apron and pointed it at Spock. Or maybe it was merely reading what was on the screen – if it even had a screen. Who was I kidding? I had no idea what they were doing.

Another, slightly taller bunnyboo – this one periwinkle blue with eyes like Wedgewood plates – stepped forwards and ‘spoke' to Spock as well. That is, its mouth moved and Spock's full attention was on it. But no sound emerged. Spock yipped again in response to whatever it was I couldn't hear.

Spock pointed at me with her long, sable nose then looked back at the bunnyboos and emitted a low noise, not quite a growl.

‘Would someone please tell me what the bollocking pufferfish is going on here?' I demanded. Okay, not demanded. Requested. Well, pleaded. Whined, maybe. Whatever verb it was I verbed, no one paid me any heed.

The bunnyboos of my strange hallucination were too deeply engrossed in their silent conversation with my very real dog to spare me any of their attention. It was like watching a TV on mute – except I could hear movements and breathing and the sound of my heart beating a drum on the inside of my chest.

After a few further moments of this bizarre fever dream, Spock leapt down out of the coffin and turned to face me. She sat on her haunches and looked me in the eye. Then she lifted one paw at me in a clear imitation of the ‘stay' command I used with her.

A bunnyboo with heather purple fur lowered a rope lead over Spock's head. Spock stood and followed them from the room.

‘Where are you taking my dog, you fluffy bastards?' I clambered out of the coffin-bed and scrabbled after them as fast as my besocked feet would carry me. But the thick metal door slid shut seconds before I got to it.

I pounded impotently on the door, screaming, ‘Spock! Come back. Don't let those fuzzy arseholes hurt you.' Unable to find a doorknob or control panel or anything, I leant against the wall next to the door and slid down until I landed on my arse. I shivered and hugged my knees to my chest.

Why can't I wake up? Letting my head fall forwards, I cried for a bit, whimpering Spock's name periodically.

* * *

After a while, I took a deep breath. And another. I counted primes up to thirty-one.

‘Time to snap out of it, Lem. Think, think, think. If this is a dream, you'll wake up soon enough, have a nice shower, go for a hike, maybe later you'll get some therapy – and everything will be fine. But if it's not a dream, and you really have been kidnapped by small furry creatures, then you need your wits about you, right?'

I'd read somewhere that talking to yourself didn't mean you were crazy – it was only crazy if you answered yourself.

‘Right,' I replied. ‘Okay, first things first.' I checked my smartwatch. Where the date and time normally were, there was just a single word: ERROR.

Hmm, that's weird. I checked the relevant settings. Offline. I suppose that was to be expected.

Deep breath. ‘Right, let's check this place out.' I hauled myself to my feet and looked around, stopping to grab Spock's brain toy. I clutched it to myself as I explored the perfectly ordinary room. The walls were a brilliant, glossy white and the shiny, clean floor was pale grey.

The ceiling was more than two metres high, but the door Spock and the bunnyboos had walked through had a clearance of well under two metres – I'd have to duck to walk through it.

The tops of the bunnyboos' ears barely reached my shoulders, so that fit. The edges of the space were lined with cupboards and worktops – all sized for beings much shorter than me.

There was something that looked like a sink. Smacking my lips, I wondered how long it had been since I'd had anything to drink or eat. How long had I been unconscious?

A series of coffins on plinths stood in the middle of the room – not just the one Spock and I had climbed out of. Four of them. They looked a bit like commercial fridges lying on their backs. I approached the nearest one and peered in. The top was frosted over. I touched it to see if it was cold – but then the room was like a giant refrigerator. Everything felt cold.

I focused on looking through the window rather than just at it. There was something in there. Another person, maybe? It dawned on me to use my watch's torch again, so I switched it on and aimed my wrist at the window. I gazed into the abyss and … a large yellow bird stared back at me.

It opened its beak and screamed. Well, I thought it screamed – much like when the bunnyboos spoke, I couldn't hear anything. I could definitely hear myself howling, so I knew my ears worked.

The door to the room whooshed open with considerably more urgency than it had whooshed shut with. The three bunnyboos and Spock ran back in.

Oh, thank God!

The purple one still held Spock's lead. Thankfully, she didn't look any the worse for whatever they'd done. I ran to her. Dropping to my knees, I wrapped my arms around her neck and buried my hands in her thick fur. ‘My baby. Are you okay?' She sat on the floor and leant her head into my chest.

The lid of the coffin-fridge I'd disturbed slid open and the bunnyboos gathered around it. They had their backs to us. This was my chance. I lifted the end of the lead up over Spock's head, then beckoned her to follow me as I ran for the door.

As before, it slid shut before I got to it. I skidded to a halt in my sock-feet and slammed into the closed door. You know that definition of stupidity that involves repeating the same actions and expecting a different outcome? Yeah, well, I may or may not have searched for a doorknob in the same spots I'd already examined. But what else was I supposed to do?

Hearing footsteps behind me, I turned to find the blue one was pointing a device at me. Weapon? Communicator? Weather-sensor? Coaster? How the hell was I supposed to know?

Blue looked at me. Green raised her arms. Wait, his arms? Their arms? I shook my head. Not the time to wonder about alien pronouns. I decided to stick with she until someone told me otherwise.

Blue's lips moved rapidly. But with no noise. The bird-creature stood up in its coffin and squawked. Frantically.

Spock leapt in front of me. Alsatian genes told her to protect me. In stressful situations, they tended to override any good sense in her tiny dog brain.

The bunnyboos had a silent conversation. Looked heated, though.

‘Wrooh.' Spock made a plaintive bark.

Didn't work. Blue moved towards me. The Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog raced through my mind. But a dog-shaped shield flew through the air and chomped down on her child-sized leg. She pulled the bunnyboo away. Then, it was all a blur. Fur flew in every direction. Green. Blue. Purple. Spock's sable. Limbs and bodies tumbled and rolled. Spock snarled and snapped her teeth.

Green pointed her device at my dog. Spock crumpled like an empty bag. My vision glowed red. Not literally, of course. Figuratively. Still…

‘You killed my best friend, you fuzzy little bastard. I'll kill you all, you monsters.' I launched myself at the nearest bunnyboo, whichever arsehole it was. The last thing I saw was the same weapon being pointed at me. Then something hit me and I died.

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How will I get my book?

You will receive your choice of epub (suitable for most ereaders or devices), mobi (for Kindle), or PDF files (for reading in your browser). Files will be delivered by BookFunnel.

How long is this book?

Estimated reading time: 4–5 hours

54k words / 175 pages

Why should I buy direct from the author?

When I published my first book in January 2020, someone at work laughed and asked me when I was going to quit my job. 

There's this perception out there that authors are wealthy people. And I'm sure the big names (e.g. Richard Osman, Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, etc.) are doing just fine.

But it's not like that for indie authors. It's tough out there. There are great, amazing things about being an indie author. But most of us aren't making bank.

You know who is making money out of books? Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.

You may have noticed a move in recent years of indie authors selling their books directly to you. There's a reason for that. 

If you buy a book for 0.99 from Amazon, the author gets to keep maybe 0.26 of that. Maybe. It depends on the file size. And they won't even get that for around 3 months. But if you buy a book from an author for 0.99, the author gets to keep around 0.83. And we get that money within days.

Because that first book I mentioned? Four years later, it hasn't come close to paying for itself. 

If you can't buy direct, libraries are a great way to get books for free while still helping authors get their fair share. 

Customer Reviews

Based on 4 reviews
Shea Curry
A fantastically fun space adventure!

I'd like to start by thanking Si for being incredibly kind and giving me a free copy of this book to read in exchange for a review. I'm so glad to have gotten around to reading this wonderful, witty, fast-paced ode to everything sci-fi with a huge dash of whimsy and a ton of heart. As with all of the best books, I fell in love with the characters and storyline right from the start and enjoyed each page more than the last.

Lem, our protagonist, is instantly lovable. Her voice as a narrator is a perfect representation of the emotions and expectations that any of us would have if we were suddenly abducted by a teapot-shaped spacecraft piloted by pastel bunnies. Lem's dry sense of humor, penchant for sci-fi references, and unyeilding determination to stand by her friends (and dog) shone throughout her interactions with her newfound companions and introduction to the book's colorful cosmic setting.

I always try to keep my reviews spoiler-free, but you don't even KNOW how much I want to talk about the rest of the cast. A collection of zany, diverse, brilliant characters who really bring so much joy and depth to an already amazing story and MC. I especially loved how many of the conversations between them all (but particularly between the rest of the cast and Lem) were filled with misunderstandings and confusion over differing experiences. The reason I loved this is because, despite often lacking common ground, there was still such a gentle level of care shown. You don't have to fully understand someone else's life or experience in order to accept those things as valid and worthy of respect.

I adored the conversations and scenes surrounding Lem's gender and her asthma and allergies. I felt that they were handled wonderfully. For a whimsical, light-hearted sci-fi romp, this book had lots of beautiful moments thar truly touched me. (And just as many that made me laugh!)

Thanks again so much to Si for providing me with my copy AND for creating this world and these characters. I can't wait to continue the series!! (Also, not to pick favorites, but Bexley is absolutely the BEST. 😁)

Enjoyable romp

An enjoyable bit of SciFi whimsie, with an underlying kindness. On a technical note, the ebook download worked perfectly with my Linux desktop and Calibre ebook manager.

Andrew Cannan

Very easy, enjoyable read. An exciting paces.

Annalise Clark
Great book!

Really enjoyed this book and looking forward to reading more.