Sunday, May 5, 2013

Laika Review

Laika - Nick Abadzis



You ever get that feeling sometimes, where you really just need to cry, but for some reason you can't quite squeeze those tears out? Like, it's just been a real crappy week and you just need something to trigger that cathartic release? WELL, have I got the book for YOU!

So, history lesson! In 1957 the Soviet Union shoots a dog into orbit, thus becoming the first country to launch a living creature into orbit, right after being the first country to launch a non-living thing (Sputnik I) into orbit. Which is just one of the examples of the massive posturing fest that was the Cold War. Anyway, the dog, Laika as she's known in the US, and Kudryavka (Little Curly), as she's known in Russia, died about six-hours in to the launch, though that information wasn't released until around 2002. Sorry if that's a spoiler, but c'mon guys, this is history. I mean, even if you didn't already know the story,  the fact that it's a book about a dog should sort of be a tip off. Because if the dog's name is in the title of a book, it most likely won't be around at the end of the book.

Anyway, Laika is part history, part speculation on the kind of life Laika may have had leading up to her final odyssey. She's caught between the kindness and the cruelty of humans, and despite the abuse and neglect she receives, she never seems to lose her faith and her trust in us, which makes for a truly heart-rending ending.The story is meant to question the ethical quandary of the mission. On the one hand, at that stage in experimentation they really couldn't use people because people tend to rank higher than animals in our collective sense of morality (though, that depends on who you ask). On the other hand, one of the scientists responsible for the project did say,
"We did not learn enough from the mission to justify the death of the dog." 
Have I mentioned this is a graphic novel? Because makes it about 10x sadder. It is a good choice of medium, as Abadzis is able to put a human, and canine, face on the subject matter, and Laika's death scene is handled with artistic care and sensitivity. Also, according to the Author's Note, the moon phases on specific dates are accurate to the day. Which is some pretty detail-oriented work there.

According to Amazon, this book is intended for ages 10 and up. I would say based on language and subject matter, it's probably more suited towards the older end of the middle-grade group. It's definitely a denser graphic novel, with a lot of text. As I mentioned, it does get pretty depressing, but then again, little kids are all sociopaths anyway. I don't know how else I could've watched The Land Before Time over and over without batting an eye back when I was a wee-one. 

Basically, it's very well done, but also sad, sad, sad, and sad. So, if you're not one for weeping uncontrollably, or if you're a vehement dog lover, you might want to stay away, though I suggest you steel yourself and pick it up anyway, because it's definitely a good read.

4/5 Fancies

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