The Dog Stars

The Dog Stars

Book - 2012
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Random House, Inc.
“Leave it to Peter Heller to imagine a postapocalyptic world that contains as much loveliness as it does devastation. His hero, Hig, flies a 1956 Cessna (his dog as copilot) around what was once Colorado, chasing all the same things we chase in these pre-annihilation days: love, friendship, the solace of the natural world, and the chance to perform some small kindness. The Dog Stars is a wholly compelling and deeply engaging debut.” —Pam Houston, author of Contents May Have Shifted

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.

Baker & Taylor
Surviving a pandemic disease that has killed everyone he knows, a pilot establishes a shelter in an abandoned airport hangar before hearing a random radio transmission that compels him to risk his life to seek out other survivors.

& Taylor

Surviving a pandemic disease that has killed everyone he knows, a pilot establishes a shelter in an abandoned airport hangar before hearing a random radio transmission that compels him to risk his life to seek out other survivors. A first novel by the author of The Whale Warriors. 60,000 first printing.

Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, c2012
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780307959942
Branch Call Number: FIC HEL
Characteristics: 319 p. ;,23 cm.


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ArapahoeMaryA Apr 11, 2019

I re-read this story of post-apocalyptic America told in poetic, fragmented prose to refresh my memory. Yes, I still like this book – because of and in spite of Heller’s unique style. Oddly, the love scenes did not resonate, but the love between a man and his dog tugged mightily at my heartstrings.

Mar 15, 2019

Do not let the guns and gore steer you away from this exceptional post-apocalyptic tale of a world trying to make a comeback from a flu pandemic.

A man (Hig) hears a radio transmission. He know there are other people alive somewhere besides himself and his beloved dog, Jasper. Will he fly his 1956 Cessna to the point of no return to find them?

At its core, it is really about humanity, love and loyalty.

One of the best books I will ever read in my lifetime.

Jan 21, 2019

Excellent story. Writing is a bit ragged and hard to get use to. Probably should read a second time to pick up the nuances. Would recommend the book.

Oct 13, 2018

Other readers have a LOT to say. There is not too much that I can add to those wonderful appraisals. I have not enjoyed a book this much in a long time. It is very different than most apocalyptic books. This is the story of the human spirit, 9 years after the decimation of most of the world's population. When you lose the very last of those you love, what do you do?

Jan 27, 2018

Interesting that I saw others say they enjoyed the first 200 pages or so - that part of the book was, to me, a slow slog that could have easily been half its length. It boils down to a cycle of 1) something bad happens, 2) main character goes fishing, 3) hikes/hunts, and then 4) a little progress is made talking to half-friend half-protector Bangley. Rinse and repeat.
I can see why the author would chose to do this. It's in line with the theme of the book. When is life worth living? How can you move on from trauma - do you really? But I personally found this section stretched thin.
The last third of the book takes a much different pace. After reading about the main character's routine for so long, this change is more strongly felt.

May 10, 2017

The author fluidly assesses the intrinsic worth of a person's life and the accompanying notion of when is living worthwhile. The Dog Stars reads as an individual's (Hig's) daily profit and loss ledger statement, presented in the form of a forensically detailed, introspectively interlaced, play-by-play. Heller engenders a melancholy atmosphere, subtly pervaded by a continual sense of chance, possibility, and at times, inevitability. Post apocalypse scenarios are difficult situations for sustaining credibility vis-à-vis a typically normal, average existence. Heller succeeds by setting up and maintaining an austere, matter of fact, framework throughout.

IanH_KCMO Oct 04, 2016

A heartbreaking post-apocalyptic novel written by a poet. No seriously! Poet and adventurer! And it's easily the most beautiful prose I have read in a long, long time. The voice Heller installs in his protagonist Hig is one of a man with pretty much one thing keeping him together nearly 10 years after a pandemic wiped out almost everyone. He lives with his dog and a borderline sociopathic gun nut at a small Colorado airport near the mountains fending off marauders and waiting for the moment his "neighbor" realizes Hig is obsolete. Not pulling his weight despite his airborn reconnaissance missions. And then something happens that causes Hig's whole life to become unglued because of course it does. That's what makes this such an excellent human sort of experience. It's like Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" in re the lyricism of the prose and the no-man's-land the Earth's survivors create in the absence of a structured society. But where McCarthy's worldview was a bleak one of a father trying to get his son to safety via overcoming horror after horror in the future world, Heller's novel is full of hope and pinpoints the small pleasures that emerge after everything you love has been taken away. It's about a broken man attempting to fix himself. Then again, I'm just a total sucker for guy-and-his-dog stories.

TSCPL_ChrisB Jun 04, 2016

If Hemingway had written a post-apocalyptic novel, I think it would’ve looked very similar to The Dog Stars. Our protagonist, Hig, is built from the same mold as Nick Adams. He likes the outdoors, fishing, and life. That last one is important because, keep in mind, this is a very, very dark world. It bears great similarity to the world of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

Oct 13, 2015

This is another nail biter with no explanation of what the horror is...
Great characters and an ending which could well be continued in a sequel, to fill in the back story and extrapolate into the future. I like how the author goes back and forth in time, connecting threads at the end.

May 14, 2015

Oh boy, where do I begin?

The first 200 pages of this book were very interesting. Heller does a great job describing the places he imagines. I could really feel myself in this foggy and mountainous Coloradan forest with a redneck (which I inexplicably imagined as Trevor from GTA5 with a big bushy beard) and a dog (perhaps a Jack Russell? I know the breed is mentioned, but I don't usually really care about the specifics. I prefer using my imagination). It made me want to listen to some Bob Dylan for some reason. Anyways, everything is totally fine by me until I realized the early story has no plot. Higs embarks on a couple of adventures, but comes back after a while like nothing happened. Also, why does everything have to be so dark? Gosh, it's a miracle he never tried to deliberately crash his plane into a cliff. Nevertheless, if the book had been only 200 pages long, I would not have had a problem giving it 4-5 stars.

But these last 120 pages. Oh dear, these last 120 pages. Pure torture to read through these last 120 pages. The fact that I actually finished this book is unfathomable to me. Heller tries (and fails) to make us like Cima and Pops. How could he fail so drastically when Jasper and Bangley were such lovable characters? These last pages are confusing as hell (made worst by the fact that narrative text and dialogue are the same. No quotations mark, nothing!). I still have no idea who the antagonist is, though it is made pretty obvious (or is it?) that something came down in the end. The end is cheesy at the very best. You don't have to read them; since there is no plot in the 200 pages worth reading, why should you put yourself through all of this?

I loved reading the beginning of the Dog Stars, but I swear to God I'm never picking it up again.

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ArapahoeMaryA Apr 11, 2019

You can't metabolize the loss. It is in the cells of your face, your chest, behind the eyes, in the twists of your gut. Muscle, sinew, bone. It is all of you. When you walk you propel it forward....Then it sits with you. The pain puts its arm over your shoulders. It is your closest friend, steadfast. And at night you can't bear to hear your own breath, unaccompanied by another. And underneath the big stillness like a score, is the roaring of the cataract of everything being and being torn away.

So I wonder what it is this need to tell. To animate somehow the deathly stillness of the profoundest beauty. Breathe life in the telling.

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