Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Reader's Diary #1090- Nick Abadzis: Laika

I'm not a dog person. But what I mean by that is I don't want one for a pet. Still, I've read what some might feel is an unusual amount of books about dogs for someone who doesn't claim to be a dog person. I even went through a dog book phase there for a while. That's okay, I've also read an odd amount of hockey books for someone not into hockey. I guess it's my roundabout way of saying that my reading choices don't define who I am. But enough about me...

Laika, is historical fiction based on the first dog in outer space. Actually though it's more about the people who's lives are touched by Laika than the dog herself. But Russia, early space exploration, and the Cold War, are also worked in so seamlessly, that I can hardly think of a better way to learn about those topics. Certainly the potential was there for this to be a dry history lesson, but I was so caught up in it that I barely realized I had learned anything, though I learned a great deal.

The potential was also there to be overly sentimental and judgmental. Laika is a street dog at first, living a tough life. Suddenly captured and made part of the Russian space program, she seems destined for greatness. Plus, the animal technician in charge of Laika's care has taken a liking to her. Alas (and spoiler alert for those who don't already know the history), Laika died within hours of the launch. Sad, clearly, but Abadzis never really rested his story on that. Instead, he's used the opportunity to describe these wonderfully complex individuals, all of whom are touched affected in profound ways by the very simple-yet-good dog. As for the death at the end, there's a sense of outrage, sure, but one suspects the cries of cruelty from the Western world were disingenuous, more about Cold War technological jealousies than anything else. It was those closest to Laika that really felt the injustice of it all.

The drawings are okay, though nothing great. I did, however, enjoy the colouring. The pastels suited the era, and the lighting in various scenes brilliantly capture the figurative and literal temperature of the scenes.

No comments: