Thursday, January 6, 2011

Laika - Nick Abadzis



I should know better than to read a book with a dog on the cover. Or an animal of any kind. This always means tears, lots of them. But I remembered reading Alyce's review of this graphic novel, and on a library/graphic novel spree of gluttony, I grabbed it on impulse.

Everyone in my house knows the story of Laika, being animal lovers that we are. The Russian street dog that became a hero overnight, as a result of his one-way trip to space on Sputnik 2, a rushed mission to prove to the world that Russia reigned supreme in the field of space exploration.

Nick Abadzis diligently researched Laika's story, added his own interpretations, and the result was this heart-wrenching story of a dog that will forever be remembered.

Synopsis: Korolev was once a political prisoner in a Siberian gulag, now an engineer for the Soviet Space Program. He is a "man of destiny", and was saved from frostbite and starvation by the barking of a dog. He has been charged with making history by sending Russian orbital vehicle in space before the Americans.

Yelena is a soft-hearted animal handler for the dogs that are test-subjects for the space program. She is attached to the animals, and often can even imagine their thoughts, and is deeply distressed by their ultimate fate.

Laika is a scruffy but high-spirited dog who was once an abused pet, then a stray, and finally one of the test subjects for the Sputnik program. He was identified as a resilient and good-natured animal, and was sent into space knowing he would not return to earth alive.


This graphic novel weaves the stories of these three characters into a part fiction, part non-fiction account of Laika's legacy.

My thoughts: In almost every book I read, somebody dies and I just tool along like it is expected. An innocent dog dies, for the sake of Russian glory, and I fall apart. I would dare you to read this one, even knowing the ending, and not shed a tear or two.

The illustrations are not necessarily outstanding, but what sets this graphic novel apart from the rest is the emotion that is rendered. When Abadzis provides the thoughts of Laika and her other test subjects, or repeats various phrases like "Good dog", "Don't worry" or "You can trust me", I thought my heart would break into a million pieces. Never mind that this is the poetic license that Abadzis adds to the facts of the true story, it resonates as completely believable.

Abadzis also delves into the personal histories of the main characters of Korolev, Yelena and Laika, which gives the story some depth, something most people might think is impossible for a graphic novel. Korolev wasn't just a task-master dooming a dog to death, he was a man who had nearly died in Siberia, had a strong will to survive, and had a soft spot for canines. It was hard to be angry at him. Laika's life as an abused stray, in one situation was dumped into the river by a former owner, tested my desire to finish the book. But I'm glad I did. Laika's story deserves to be told. Good dog.


4.5 out of 5 stars

22 comments:

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

I have pretty much banned animal without exception. They always die and I always cry. I actually grieve, so I just stopped.

Nymeth said...

This book made me cry like a baby, but I LOVED it. In fact, thinking about it still makes me tear up!

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

This story sounds so incredible, but I really cannot read a book about a dog - I literally cannot handle it. I cry to the point of being unable to do anything for hours and my husband thinks I'm a complete wackadoo. For crayon' out loud, just reading your review is making my chest hurt a bit.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I agree with Nicole - if there's a dog on the cover, I'm skipping it, unless I have absolute assurance everybody is alive at the end of the book! :--)

farmlanebooks said...

I love the sound of this one! I haven't read that many graphic novels yet, but this one is really calling me. I don't think I've read many books centering on animals so am not sure if they would afftect me more - I guess there is only one way to find out :-)

marthalama said...

I don't know if I just tried to avoid thinking about the awful truth but I never did think about Laika's fate. I'm going to have to read this book even though I know it's going to make me cry. Thanks for the review.

caite said...

what does it say about me that I get more upset at books about animals that get hurt of die than people....
gee, I need a tissue just from the review.

Zibilee said...

Oh no! This one sounds like it would be way too sad for me! I can't even imagine sending a dog up into space only to know that it is going to die there without getting upset. I always have trouble with animal books, because so few of them have happy endings. I liked your review on this one, but I don't think I could handle this one.

bermudaonion said...

I don't think I could handle this one right now. That Laika is just adorable.

Anna said...

Looks like a good book, but I know I can't read it. I don't do animal stories, unless they're happy children's picture books. ;)

Alyce said...

I was tearing up just thinking about this one again. I don't know if I'm odd, but I don't mind so much reading about animals if they are true stories. I don't like animal fiction much though. You would think it would be the other way around, but I think it's because fiction feels emotionally manipulative.

Darlene said...

I know I won't be reading this one any time soon. I'd never make it through it in one piece.

heidenkind said...

I am NOT reading a book where a dog dies. Nope.

ds said...

I don't think I could handle this one--I'm tearing up at your review!

Julie P. said...

Why is it that I cry more when animals die than people? Not always, but...

Jeane said...

I want to read this one! I haven't read many graphic novels but I've started to come across more and more about animals- unfortunately, my library doesn't seem to have any...

Beth F said...

I am kind of with Nicole on this -- I basically don't read animal books. Too heartbreaking.

Jenners said...

I know what you mean ... you read about people being murdered, killed and you just think "well, that was a good mystery." But then a book about an animal just rips your heart out. This looks so sad ... not a good choice for me right now I think. I just can't imagine what the dog was thinking up there. Makes you wonder.

Alice Teh said...

My siblings have been trying to get me to watch Hachiko, a dog story with a sad ending and I just refused to do it. I know I would cry my heart out and be "paralyzed" for hours, sometimes days. I'm tearing up just by reading your review and knowing Laika's fate.

C.B. James said...

Laika's story makes me angry more than sad. Too much stuff like that still goes on, more in the name of profit than of science.

But, I am glad that her story is still told.

Kathleen said...

I will cry my eyes out when I read this one so have to be prepared and read it at the right time.

Swapna said...

I love all things space, so I really want to read this one, even if it makes me cry!