Saturday, June 1, 2024

Voyage of the Dogs, by Greg Van Eekhout

HarperCollins, September 2018

Hi, there. I'm Lis's service dog, Cider. Lis finally got me a book for me to read and review.

I'll just say this up front, because I'm one of those readers for whom this is important: No dogs die in this book. We do get the story of Laika*, told by one of the dogs to the others so that, at a critical point, they can make an informed choice, but Greg Van Eekhout kills none of his fictional dogs in the course of this story.

Lopside, Bug, Daisy, and their pack leader, Golden retriever Champion, are Barkonauts, dogs specially trained and equipped to be part of the crew of Laika, the first Earth ship to head out to start a colony on an alien world in a distant solar system. There are four human crew as well, and we only meet two of them before one, Roro, helps the dogs into hibernation for the FTL portion of their travels.

When the dogs wake up, the humans are gone, having taken the lifepod, and the ship is badly damaged.

They're on the outskirts of their destination star system, but with with the ship's drives not working, too far from their destination planet, Stepping Stone. The dogs struggle to make repairs. They manage to redirect the communication antenna, and send a call for help to Earth.

They are good dogs, and they are Barkonauts. Barkonauts complete their missions, and their mission is to get to Stepping Stone.

There are real personalities at work. There is both conflict and cooperation among the dogs. Lopside, a little terrier mix, the only non-purebred, is our viewpoint character. From time to time he reminds us that unlike the others, he wasn't bred to please everyone. (Champion's a Golden, Bug is a Corgi, Daisy a Great Dane puppy. All bred to work with people, not to consider people's opinions and then make their own decisions.)

Looming over their efforts is the name of the ship, Laika. They know Laika was the first dog in space, the very first Barkonaut, but for some reason, her story is missing from The Great Book of Dogs, the book Roro read to them, full of the stories of heroic dogs. Lopside really wants to know that story. He's sure it would help inspire them to even greater heroism and ingenuity.

But with or without the story of Laika, these dogs love their people and their jobs, and are determined to succeed They don't quit. They don't fail.

This is a very satisfying story.


Lis bought this book.

*Considering how long it's been, and how much younger than Lis are the people raising young children today, I think I have to say outright what Laika's story is. She was the first dog in space, yes. She went up in Sputnik 2, on November 3, 1957. There was never a plan to bring her back, but she died within hours, when a malfunction caused the Sputnik cabin to overheat. This was the result of the Soviet space program taking barely four weeks to design Sputnik 2, and that wasn't enough time to make a reliable temperature control system for Laika. Laika's story is one of  humans behaving badly. Greg Van Eekhout, on the other hand, is a good human, who gets well-deserved cuddles from his dogs.

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