Posted on Oct 21st 2021 at 08:00:00 AM by (GrayGhost81)
Posted under books, sci fi

Books are like video games to me in that no matter how many I own, physically or digitally, I am always looking for more to add to my collections. In the past few months I've been on a sci-fi streak and have made an effort to try out some new authors rather than leaning on my more prolific favorites. This leads me to do internet searches of "sci fi hidden gems" and "underrated sci fi authors" and if I spent as much time reading books as I did hunting more down, I'd get a lot more reading done.

I can't remember exactly where I saw it, but as an animal lover, Greg Van Eekhout's 2018 children's novel Voyage of the Dogs caught my eye and was an almost instant purchase. VotD tells the story of Lopside and his compatriots who are dog astronauts known as Barkonauts. The Barkonauts are assigned to assist the human crew on a long term mission to set up habitat on a distant planet. Unfortunately, something went wrong during the hibernation phase of the voyage and the human crew have disappeared. Lopside and the Barkonauts must figure out what happened and survive long enough to get help.

When reading this short novel, it is best to immediately allow the story some leeway when it comes to suspension of disbelief in that the dogs are sentient and "talk" to each other by barking. There would be no characterization without it, and it would be hard to relate to the struggles the dogs go through if it weren't this way. Think Watership Down and this will make sense.

Unlike Watership Down, VotD is neither violent nor harrowing, but the situation is amazingly desperate. The dogs being forced to face their own mortality is brilliantly framed against the unfinished story of Laika, the first dog sent into space by the Soviet Union. The dogs are read stories of heroic animals by the human crew but the ending of Laika's story is kept hidden from the dogs. I loved this use of a real world historical event into a fantastical sci-fi novel.   

This would be a great book to read to young children who are not quite ready for novel length books themselves. If you are like me, an adult who has no children to read this book to, you could finish it in a few hours. It is an inspiring and fun read with high stakes and a lot of love between the anthropomorphized characters. I highly recommend it to anyone in grade school or above, but especially to animal lovers like me. 

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