I’ve had a harder time concentrating these past couple of months, and have struggled to get into the books in my TBR pile. So I decided to skip ahead to Greg van Eekhout‘s middle grade SF Voyage of the Dogs. I hoped the voice and the shorter length would work better with my current state of mind.
This was the right choice.
Here’s the publisher’s summary of the book:
Lopside is a Barkonaut, a specially trained dog who assists human astronauts on missions in space. He and the crew aboard the spaceship Laika are en route to set up an outpost on a distant planet.
When the mission takes a disastrous turn, the Barkonauts on board suddenly find themselves completely alone on their severely damaged ship.
Survival seems impossible. But these dogs are Barkonauts — and Barkonauts always complete their mission.
SOS. Ship damaged. Human crew missing.
We are the dogs. We are alone.
The best word I can come up with to describe this one is sweet. These are four Very Good Dogs, doing whatever they can to complete their mission. They care about each other, just like they cared about their humans. I’m not sure exactly how van Eekhout did it, but he makes you want to reach into the book and give them all belly scritches and reassure them that yes, they’re good dogs.
There are plenty of dangers – the ship is in bad shape, and the dogs don’t know what happened to the humans. And there are parts where the dogs have to struggle with feeling abandoned, and with fears of what’s going to happen to them. But the book never dwells on the darkness or lets the reader lose that sense of doggie determination.
I particularly loved the moments of dogness, like the way Lopside keeps wishing he could hunt a rat, or Daisy watching the viewscreen because it’s the closest she can get to sticking her head out the window.
It’s obvious van Eekhout loves dogs – it comes through in every bit of dialogue, in the personalities of the four Barkonauts, and in the stories sprinkled throughout the book of other heroic dogs from history. Not to mention his author photo.
This book was fun, hopeful, heartfelt, and just what I needed.
I’ll be passing it on to my son, who’s also a dog-lover. I expect him to completely adore this book.