Review: The Dog Stars by Peter Heller
Genre: Dystopian, Science Fiction
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.
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