Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Laika by Nick Abanzis

Books Completed: 55
Completion Date: February, 2009
Pages: 208
Publication Date: October, 2007

Reason for Reading: New Author Challenge, Graphic Novel Challenge
Laika was the abandoned puppy destined to become Earth's first space traveler. This is her journey.

Nick Abadzis masterfully blends fiction and fact in the intertwined stories of three compelling lives. Along with Laika, there is Korolev, once a political prisoner, now a driven engineer at the top of the Soviet space program, and Yelena, the lab technician responsible for Laika's health and life. This intense triangle is rendered with the pitch-perfect emotionality of classics like Because of Winn Dixie, Shiloh, and Old Yeller.

Abadzis gives life to a pivotal moment in modern history, casting light on the hidden moments of deep humanity behind history.

Laika's story will speak straight to your heart.

I really should know better than to read books of this nature. Death of any kind bothers me, but there is something very troublesome about the death of an innocent animal. I knew going into this book how it was going to end, but I read it anyway! This is just another example of why everyone should just get along. If the Russians had not been in such a hurry to beat the U.S. into space, this book would never have had to be written. But, it was the Cold War and both countries were determined to get to the moon so they could hopefully have a strategic advantage over the other country should war be declared. This is why there is so much speculation over whether or not we have actually even been to the moon. Anyway, probably should not move in that direction, although it would be interesting to see what people think on the subject.

Getting back to the book. This is the story of Laika. I would think that the dogs early life is mostly imagined. If the dog really was a stray like it was portrayed in the book, I wouldn't imagine his exact history would be known. I enjoyed it, though. The dog had lots of adventures before he even made it into the space program. When he arrived there, though, he was deemed special right from the start. Abanzis also imagines the thoughts that would have been running around in the dogs head if that was possible. It resulted in even more of a connection with the little dog that would wind up having a big future.

Another character in the book is Korolev. When we first meet him, he has just been released from Siberia. We all know the history of Russia and how the blame game worked. He was blamed and sent away, but he was granted a second chance. Working to build the Sputnik's would be his chance to show what he is really made of. He did not always agree with his work, but he knew the price for failure and was not ready to make the same mistake again. The character that I really liked was Yelena. I think she is a lot like I would be if I had to work in her position. When the dogs are brought in, she is told not to get attached to them. That is easier said than done. She really falls in love with these dogs and has a special connection with Laika. As she comes to understand the mission that he is being sent on she finds her job harder and harder to perform. Her 'imagined' conversations with Laika were really heart-breaking.

I am really on the fence in terms of this book. I went into the story knowing what happened, but that did not make it any easier when it did happen! It has always bothered me that we put science and exploration above life. I really think that the story of Laika is a good example of what is lacking in society, but that is a discussion for another day. I think that Abanzis did a very good job with the story, though. I took the book out of the library, but I think I might like to own it eventually. It really stayed with me. It has been a while since I read the book and I still find myself thinking about the events portrayed. Just because I didn't like the ending, doesn't in any way effect my thoughts on the book. I think it is worth a read.


  1. I hate to see harm done to animals too :( Be it fiction or reality. Despite that, I think I'll still give this one a sounds good!

  2. Chris: It was good... just sad.

  3. I have to get my hands on this book! It sounds so great but so sad.

  4. Vasillis: That's exactly how I would describe it.

  5. I was really upset when it happened too :( I loved the book, though. Like you said, it stayed with me.

  6. Nymeth: It is totally a book I need to own...

  7. Excellent review. I just finished this book tonight!! Still fresh with me and I cried...Laika was a sweet puppy who "trusted."

  8. Staci: Thanks! I agree with you. Too bad the people he trusted had other plans for him...

  9. I really need to get a copy of this. It's heartbreaking to know what has happened to animals 'in the name of science/research/discovery ____ fill in the blank' but I think reading, writing and learning about the animals is good in that it helps to memorialize their lives. And maybe in the process show that animals are just as human (if not more) than some people. This was not just a nameless mutt - this was a loving creature named Laika.

  10. Joanne: I hear you! It really bothers me, the story of experiments in the name of science...


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