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October 23, 2012 / Leslie

Review: The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

The Dog Stars by Peter HellerThe Dog Stars
by Peter Heller

Genre: Dystopian, Science Fiction
Publisher: Knopf
Publish Date: August 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover | 336 pages
Rating: 5 of 5

In the near future a virus rapidly sweeps through the human population followed by a horrific blood disease, killing almost everyone. Hig was one of the few survivors. His wife died, his friends died, everyone he knew is gone.

Nine years later Hig lives in a hanger at an abandoned airport with his dog, Jasper. The airport is one of the few places remaining with sustainable power: wind and solar energy and water from a nearby creek. Also, there is plenty of fuel for Hig’s small plane, a 1956 Cessna. Together with his only friend and neighbor, Bangley, a survivalist with an arsenal of weapons, they patrol the perimeter and guard against other survivors who would attack and kill them for their supplies.

One day while Hig is flying his plane he catches a short radio transmission. And then it’s gone. Is someone else out there? Hig wants to find out, but to get closer to where the signal originated Hig must fly beyond the half-way point, the point where he will have enough fuel to return to the hanger. He decides the trip is not feasible. A short time later something happens to change his mind and Hig believes it will be worth it to try.

The story is narrated by Hig. We experience his world as he relates it in the present tense. This is a reality filled with loss and pain and sorrow. He dreams of the past and of his wife. His dog is his best friend and co-pilot. He has a garden that he tends with love and care. The world he lives in is both bleak and at times beautiful, sometimes funny, too often sad. But he still has some glimmer of hope for the future.

The book is written in a very free-form, stream of consciousness style jumping from one thought to another, often leaving sentences incomplete and with little punctuation. I thought this would be disorienting but it wasn’t. It fit the style of the story perfectly and in no time I was right there with Hig, experiencing his world and feeling his loneliness. But for all the sadness and loss, this is not a depressing book. There is also action, adventure, a little romance and possibilities. I would have liked to know a little more about Hig’s world, (I always want more world-building), but we were provided enough detail to make most readers happy.

The story starts a little slow in the beginning, but by the second half I was flying through the pages. I wasn’t ready for this book to end. And while I was satisfied with the ending, I still wanted more. I loved this book and recommend it to everyone, even those who don’t usually read dystopian fiction. It’s not your typical post-apocalyptic story; there are no vampires, robots or zombies. Just a wonderful, heart-warming story about what it’s like to be human in the face of adversity. Definitely one of my top ten for the year.

Source: Review copy.
© 2012 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.



Leave a Comment
  1. Mystica / Oct 23 2012 2:31 am

    A story of how to survive with a dash of science fiction thrown in. Sounds very good.


  2. Diane@BibliophilebytheSea / Oct 23 2012 6:06 am

    Hmmm, I was going to pass on this one, but may now reconsider. Great review Leslie


    • Leslie / Oct 23 2012 11:12 am

      Give it a try, it’s a short book. It starts out a little slow. I was struggling to relate to Higs and didn’t see where the story was going. About a third of the way through something happens (can’t say what, it’s a spoiler) to change the direction of the story and it really took off for me.


  3. therelentlessreader / Oct 23 2012 9:29 am

    This has been on my wishlist forever, I don’t know what I’m waiting for, lol. Thanks for the review!


  4. Suko / Oct 23 2012 11:21 am

    This sounds wonderful, Leslie! I will keep an eye out for this book.


  5. BermudaOnion / Oct 23 2012 1:28 pm

    I generally don’t like books written in a stream of consciousness style but your enthusiasm for this book makes me curious.


    • Leslie / Oct 23 2012 1:38 pm

      I don’t usually like them either. And I didn’t know this was written in this style. I was a little disappointed when I first opened the book. I’ll admit I started it and then put it down for a week because I wasn’t in the mood to deal with the writing style. But I am so glad I kept reading because it really, really is a great story.


  6. Edouard / Oct 24 2012 3:09 am

    I read a similarly positive review in an environmental blog and yours just gave me more reasons to read it. Thank you and keep up the good work ! 🙂


  7. Leeswammes / Oct 24 2012 8:18 am

    Your review convinces me once more that I should read this book. If my to-read pile was a little lower I would buy this book instantly. For now, it’ll have to live on the wishlist.

    Glad to hear that it is so good. I expected this, and I’m glad to see it confirmed.



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