Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Laika

Nick Abadzis

This recent graphic novel offering from First Second Books is the fictionalized account of the first creature from Earth to voyage into space: an adorable dog named Laika. In 1957, the U.S.S.R. launched Sputnik II into the Earth’s orbit, the second artificial satellite launched by the Soviets in two months, though this one contained the passenger in question, who ultimately captured the imagination of the world. While some of the tale is told from the perspective of Laika herself, and a short chapter is devoted to the chief designer of the satellites, the bulk of the story is seen through the eyes of Laika’s dog handler Yelena after the homeless pooch is taken in by the space program, where Yelena becomes increasingly attached to the animal despite the impending separation. This is a really neat story that seamlessly blends fact with fiction amid great art and an even greater story. It’s a pretty bleak story overall, with animal abuse and a lot of lonely people, but the characters are great, it’s riveting all the way through, and ultimately, it’s one of the best books of the year so far. A+

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