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First in Space

3.54 of 5 stars 3.54  ·  rating details  ·  26 ratings  ·  10 reviews
Extensively researched, First in Space is based on the true-life adventures of Ham, a chimpanzee the Americans trained for the first sub orbital flight. The story follows his training and experiences through the launch, as well as those of the other chimps and trainers involved. Because it is Ham's exciting adventure, it is told primarily through his eyes, along with anecd ...more
Paperback, 96 pages
Published May 8th 2007 by Oni Press
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This is a graphic novel, meant for middle readers, about the chimps that were trained and sent into space early in the US space program. I liked the idea, but I felt that Vining did a poor job of providing context for both the characters and the larger events taking place in the novel. I'm an adult reader, and I had difficulty in distinguishing what the actual roles were of the men and scientists caring for and training the apes (in fact, I frequently had trouble recalling if the human character ...more
Touching and fun, but not very fleshed out; if this is designed to make someone look up details about the principals involved, then it works very well. Also, as introductory material for kids, this would be more or less okay. The author attempts to soften the sadness of reality by re-jiggering the flow of events with a kind of flashback/memory sequence, but the end result of this is a little flat and depressing. Still: chimps and space, and the B/W line art here is great.
Touchingly told from the monkey's perspective, the story realistically portrays the relationship of the keepers and their monkey charges, including the struggle to maintain objectivity and distance to prevent becoming too attached. The epilogue, showing the end of Ham's life, followed by the beginning of his career with NASA, provides an emotional low and high that is effective in showing how these animals were indentured servants their whole lives.
Wow. You want to talk severe expositionitis in a comic? This is the place to start. Besides the bad, stilted dialogue and the cramming of exposition into each speech balloon, the art is one step away from Scooby-Doo--flat, 2-dimensional lines, no shading or depth to it at all.

And the paper quality was shit, but that's not the fault of the book, exactly, just the publisher.
Christian McKay
I am completely baffled by this book. Is it a happy story? A sad story?

Also, NASA were dicks . . . when it came to apes.

Very interesting. I often forget about the ones that really were the "first in space" and how they got there.
read for NoveList booklists; reviewing for No Flying No Tights
learning about history through graphic novels is awesome!
Mary Lee
2007 Cybils Graphic Novel nominee
Public library copy.
Colleen marked it as to-read
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