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 moment in modern history, casting light on the hidden moments of deep humanity behind the cold hard facts. It is so much more than history - Laika's story will speak straight to your heart.
“Work with animals is a source of suffering to all of us. We treat them like babies who cannot speak. The more time passes, the more I’m sorry about it. We did not learn enough from the mission to justify the death of the dog.”
-Oleg Georgivitch Gazenko, 1998
If you think this is just another sad dog story…don’t bother to read on.
This graphic novel is about a man that escaped the Gulag, a little dog that is caught on the streets of Moscow, and Sputnik II, the second Soviet Satellite that was launched into the outer atmosphere with its’ first live passenger.
October 4th, 1957, it has been 18 years since Sergei Pavlovich has escaped the Gulag and returned to his work as a Rocket Scientist. On this day in Tyura-Tam, Kazahkstan, Sputnik I, the first artificial satellite, successfully launched to orbit around the Earth thanks to him. It looks like he is back in the game. With this achievement comes the pressure to top his assignment of another launch in time of the 40th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution on November 7th.
On the streets of Moscow, three years earlier, a sweet litter of 7 pups was born that a family can’t keep. They try their best to find them homes and for most of them they do. Laika ends up with a family who’s boy is an irresponsible teenager and taking care of another life is supposed to teach him a lesson. Well, that boy does the unthinkable and throws the dog into the river one night to get rid of it.
Laika befriends another street pup that knows its’ way around the market to get scraps, but one day they are not so lucky. Laika is picked up by animal control and the other pup is beaten to death on the streets. (This is not for the sensitive dog person)
Summer of 1956 at the Institute of Aviation Medicine in Moscow, Alexandrovna Dubrovsky just landed a job as the new dog trainer assistant at the kennels. All the dogs in these kennels go through rigorous training to one day be sent into space. And this is where Alexandrovna meets Laika.
What happens from here you should read for yourself. It is a sweet, poignant read. Even for a comic book. I was pleasantly surprised, if not a bit overwhelmed to get so much out of it.
I really appreciated the afterword. Nick Abadzis did extensive research to write this novel and wove the available historical elements into this powerful narrative.
“A luminous masterpiece.” – Kirkus Reviews