I may have read Soviet Space Dogs only last year but Laika gives a much more emotional slant on the story. It’s a mix of fact and fiction, giving her a backstory of how she became a stray and her life on the streets. For most the story, her original name is used (which means curly tail). This is interwoven with the human characters of Yelena, a fictional dog handler within the space programme, and the man who went on to become the Chief Designer.
Having read up on the subject previously, I know that the scientists did grow attached to the dogs and they were not detached about their fates at all. I thought that the emotional connection with the dogs was cleverly done. The dogs don’t really talk, Yelena just projects a voice onto them. This is what humans do around dogs, Scully has a little internal monologue we give her and you do start to believe in it. It is not hard to imagine the panic and hurt Laika would project when locked up for her flight.
The main complaint I have seen in other reviews is that it’s emotionally manipulative. I don’t know about you, but I believe that’s what good fiction does, makes us feel things. What kind of person goes into a fictionalised version of Laika’s life and doesn’t expect their heart strings to be tugged? And, yes, I cried.
I didn’t like how the humans were drawn to be honest. They’re a bit blobby and I found the male characters hard to tell apart. The dogs are pretty cute though and the rest of the artwork fitted the story. There’s also a recurring motif of Laika flying, maybe she had a premonition of her fate in her dreams, but mostly she seems happy in them.
One lovely touch in the edition I have are alternative endings, where she is rescued or doesn’t go to space at all. They just lift the heart a little after such a sad, and true, ending.
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Book Source: Purchased
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