A riveting, powerful novel about a pilot living in a world filled with loss - and what he is willing to risk to rediscover, against all odds, connection, love, and grace.
Hig survived the flu that killed everyone he knows. His wife is gone, his friends are dead, he lives in the hangar of a small abandoned airport with his dog, his only neighbor a gun-toting misanthrope. In his 1956 Cessna, Hig flies the perimeter of the airfield or sneaks off to the mountains to fish and to pretend that things are the way they used to be. But when a random transmission somehow beams through his radio, the voice ignites a hope deep inside him that a better life - something like his old life - exists beyond the airport.
Risking everything, he flies past his point of no return - not enough fuel to get him home - following the trail of the static-broken voice on the radio. But what he encounters and what he must face - in the people he meets, and in himself - is both better and worse than anything he could have hoped for.
Narrated by a man who is part warrior and part dreamer, a hunter with a great shot and a heart that refuses to harden, The Dog Stars is both savagely funny and achingly sad, a breathtaking story about what it means to be human.
©2012 Peter Heller (P)2012 Random House Audio
"Richly evocative yet streamlined journal entries propel the high-stakes plot while simultaneously illuminating Hig's nuanced states of mind as isolation and constant vigilance exact their toll, along with his sorrow for the dying world.... Heller's surprising and irresistible blend of suspense, romance, social insight, and humor creates a cunning form of cognitive dissonance neatly pegged by Hig as an apocalyptic parody of Norman Rockwell...a novel, that is, of spiky pleasure and signal resonance." (Booklist)
"In the tradition of postapocalyptic literary fiction such as Cormac McCarthy's The Road and Jim Crace's The Pesthouse, this hypervisceral first novel by adventure writer Heller (Kook) takes place nine years after a superflu has killed off much of mankind.... With its evocative descriptions of hunting, fishing, and flying, this novel, perhaps the world's most poetic survival guide, reads as if Billy Collins had novelized one of George Romero's zombie flicks. From start to finish, Heller carries the reader aloft on graceful prose, intense action, and deeply felt emotion." (Publishers Weekly)
"Leave it to Peter Heller to imagine a post-apocalyptic world that contains as much loveliness as it does devastation. His likable hero, Hig, flies around what was once Colorado in his 1956 Cessna, chasing all the same things we chase in these pre-annihilation days: love, friendship, the solace of the natural world, the chance to perform some small kindness, and a good dog for a co-pilot. The Dog Stars is a wholly compelling and deeply engaging debut." (Pam Houston, author of Contents May Have Shifted)
I teach. I Listen. I trust your judgment as a fellow listener.
This first person apocalyptic narrative is sometimes hard for listeners/readers to stomach. I understand that. However, The Dog Stars overcomes all the pitfalls of broody end-of-days pessimism by engaging the listener in a myriad of believable and realistic scenarios that might occur should North America be devastated by a biological holocaust.
I found the main character compelling and believable due to his self-doubt, empathy, and a touch of true-to-life skills that make his survival and subsequent experiences plausible.
It is my contention that this book is worth of your credit, if for nothing else than the truly human uncertainties expressed by the protagonist. I usually found myself sympathetic with the main character, often asking the question, "Is that what I would have done?" The answer was more often than not, "Yes!"
This writer has much to offer all of us in terms of insight into our own fears and angst about a future uncertain. We all could learn much from his narrative.
Say something about yourself!
What a debut! Heller proves, WOW, he can write; and the fact that he creates a beautiful story of regeneration and hope against the background of such a bleak dystopian world makes this debut novel altogether stunning.
Nine years have passed since a virulent flu-like pandemic annihilated 99% of the population, or *The End.* Hig is in the 1%...a gnawing fact that keeps him searching for answers. All he knows about this new world--is what is in *the perimeter*, the area he can fly over in his primo '56 Cessna he calls *Beast,* the area before the point of no return (*PNR*) or when the fuel is emptied. He lives in an abandon subdivision, choosing to sleep under the stars (to avoid being attacked and trapped in a shelter) with his aging, much loved, cannine companion, Jasper, and his memories--memories he'd like to forget. Also in the perimeter is co-survivor, Bangley, an ornry old gun-packing survivalist/misanthrope, and a neighboring colony of friendly, but blood-sick, Mennonites. Together, Hig, Jasper, and Bangley have survived a day-to-day existence of loneliness and *necessary violence,* more like *an old married couple* than friends.They know that together is their only chance of survival, and that outside of the perimeter is certain death. The marauders are fellow survivors--what you would expect to crawl out if you threw humankind into a fighting pit--not rabid infected changelings or zombies, but brutal savage men -- this is a more believable apocalyptic world. Daily, Hig flys recon with Jasper perched in the co-pilot's seat on a stack of heirloom quilts..."The whole time I fly I talk to him, and it amuses me to no end that the whole time he pretends not to listen." Then one day he hears a voice over the radio transmitter that ignites in him another question...what is beyond the perimeter. The Dog Stars is the story of Hig's journey, both concretely and existentially.
Though Dog Stars is his debut, Heller is a gifted writer and story-teller. His style is choppy and blunt, but absolutely precise, and adds to the sense of an abbreviated world. Throughout, the book is powerfully emotional, you'll laugh and you'll cry (maybe even blubber like a baby...just saying) and I doubt you'll ever forget. Heller just intuitively knows how to connect with all the facets of the human spirit. Dog Stars is rich with prose that are at once beautifully intimate and simple, and as profound and gut wrenching as the post-apocalyptic setting. It speaks straight to your soul. Heller's descriptions of nature are breathtakingly beautiful. Narrator Mark Deakins does a remarkable job bringing this text to life with such profundity that I found myself often in awe of simple sentences, or consummed with the loneliness, or sometimes even on the edge of a stream looking for trout, surrounded by the scent of fir trees and sounds of the forest.
"Life and death lived inside each other. That's what occurred to me. Death was inside all of us, waiting for warmer nights, a compromised system, a beetle, as in the now dying black timber on the mountains. And life was inside death, virulent and insistent as a strain of flu. How it should be."
"Is it possible to love so desperately that life is unbearable? I don't mean unrequited love, I mean being in the love. In the midst of it and desperate. Because knowing it will end, because everything does. End."
This is more a story of a sensitive man's search for meaning (apologies to Frankl) than a post-apocalyptic tale--more Alas Babylon, Earth Abides, than McCarthy's depressing gem The Road. Though Hig mostly contemplates what drives a man to live when they have lost everything but their life, he still finds humor and beauty in this world, he still appreciates the wonder of nature, the desire for human connection, the glowing light of hope. I'm not sure if the ending was abrupt or whether I just regretted any ending--possibly both. The Dog Stars is everything I hope a book will be, highly entertaining, creative, evocative, the kind of book I'd gift or pass along. I think it will appeal to almost everyone, and may even linger on to become a classic. (There is some harsh language and violence that might cross this one off some people's list, but considering the subject--relatively little.) Best book I've read in a long while, and I can't wait to see what Peter Heller does next. Just stunning.
Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. C.S. Lewis
My reading list includes very few stories with post-apocalyptic settings. I have high regard for "On the Beach" and "Alas Babylon" but those were of another era. I wasn't sure I would enjoy "The Dog Stars." It was almost an impulse purchase.
I was very pleased with my purchase. Peter Heller has written a very well rounded novel. The overall melancholy and the episodes of violent encounters were there, as I expected, but it was the description of introspective thoughts and emotions which made the novel stand out for me.
Heller does an excellent job of introducing story threads into the novel and then following and expanding them with great attention to details and overall pacing of the tale. Nothing gets shoved into a corner or suddenly dropped in the next chapter.
Heller's writing of Hig's relationship with his dog Jasper touched me most of all, and a man's love for his dog is something that's as timeless as the constellations in the sky.
I really enjoyed this audiobook. I am a fan of apocalyptic literature, and this did not disappoint. However, I think the apocalyptic scenario was more the background, against which played out themes of trust and faith in oneself and others. It delves into the basic dependence we must have on others to survive, and is very thoughtful. I think if I had read this, I would have skimmed over much of the internal dialogue the main character has with himself. I tend to do that when trying to get to the action. I am glad I listened to this book instead - I would have missed so much had I skimmed over some of those parts. Thought provoking and it stays with you. The reader was great.
The 1st person narrative and the almost poetic descriptions and flowing rythm. The narrator was perfect for this book. A unique experience, I'll recommend to everyone and read again.
Obviously, Big Hig -- THE story.
My complaint is it was too short because it was over too soon. I was continually impressed by the poetic descriptions and deep personal points of view. I have never read Peter Heller's books and didn't know what to expect - I was completely satisfied with the choice. Bravo and thank you!
One of those books better in audible format than written not because the text version would leave something to be desired but because the performance was so outstanding.
Heller gives readers a look into a future that we fear. What remains of one's humanity when survival depends on meeting basic needs and killing any and all who venture into range? The hero is a unique character. Hig reads & writes poetry, is kind to outcasts and cries a lot. He is also a good if reluctant hunter and a pretty good killer when the situation warrants. The story is told in first person but not always in complete sentences--more like thoughts. The plot progresses slowly but I enjoyed every minute. Even though the book stands on its own merits, I want a sequel!
Another reader suggestion, and another hit. This one is abit erotic, abit violent, and a whole lot interesting. The story really doesn't go in any linear direction, but rather is a slice of post apocalpytic life, with a very complex narrator and associated characters.
I have been listening to quite a few of these types of "end times" books lately, and this one qualifies as "best of breed". Very definitely more of a psychological study, and a good one at that.
Needless to say, highly recommended.
The Path Between the Seas to The Great Bridge ~ Kagan's Peloponnesian War to Gaddis' Cold One ~ Mornings on Horseback to a River of Doubt ~ Tom to Huck ~ Lennie to Charley ~ Cadfael to Cross ~ Rhyme to Reacher ~ Blomkvist and Salander to Wallander and Wallander ~ Moving Cheese or Eating Frogs ~ On the Road and Into Thin Air ~ The End of History to A Short History of Everything to ... well ... everything else.
Much more than On the Beach or a Boy and His Dog or other better-known post-apocalypse fiction, The Dog Stars offers a realistic vision of life after ~ the life we live and the life we feel.
This is a story of life leavened by sadism, by courage, by terror, by loss, by hatred, by madness and, ultimately, by the many types of love. A remarkable debut novel ~ watch for more from Peter Heller!
My review is titled as such - instead of a hyperbolic "Ten Dog Stars out of Five" or "Brilliant Post-Apocalyptic VIsion" or some other extravagant moniker - because I love the fact that there is very little dialogue and a complex vision of the ruination of a world as we know it is accomplished with almost no conversation.
I am not a fan of dialogue. It's only in the hands of a master that such a device advances a plot or defines character. Many writers fail at it, and there are very notable exceptions, but usually it leaves me frustrated, annoyed and ultimately bored. I want description of the inner landscape, thought, meditation, confession, deep ruminations. If I want conversation I can listen to a morning talk show on my way to work, or host a dinner party. One of the main reasons I read is to find a quiet interior space that is without conversation.
So, having said that, it's evident why I love this book. The story proceeds for the most part in the thoughts and recollections of the narrator, the "I" in the story, semi stream-of-consciousness style. What dialogue does arise is well-considered, brief, economical and spare.
I have now read a few books in this genre, if you can call it that, describing the "after", when all our alleged greed and selfishness afforded by extreme prosperity destroys life on the planet as we know it.This is more of an interior meditation on that state of affairs, rather than the dark, "noir", yet humorous, vision portrayed in "Super Sad True Love Story", for example. The two main characters survive by managing and defending their limited resources in mutual co-operation, although one wonders if in any other context these two would be likely comrades or even know each other.
The only downsides to this book that I noticed are the semi-predictability of the plot resolution and the slow pace with which the first half of HIg's story proceeds. I almost put the book down several times during Part 1, and wanted to move on to another book - perhaps return to "The Dog Stars" later, or as a filler in between reads. But I am glad I stayed with this.
I also wanted to know more about the pandemic to which 99% of the world's population succumbed. How did it start? How was it passed on? Is it viral, bacterial, or something else? These questions are only partially answered but that's all okay, and I'll give the book an all-star rating anyway, "downsides" accepted as the price of admission.
Narration was perfect.
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