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The Dog Stars

Heller, Peter

Book - 2012
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
The Dog Stars
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.

Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2012
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 0307959945
Characteristics: 319 p. ;,22 cm


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Sep 30, 2014
  • gendeg rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

The doomsday narrative is a tired one. Pick your poison on how the world ends: asteroids, killer viruses, alien invasion, zombies. All have their day in the world of fiction, not to mention in movies and television shows. I wasn't really sure what to expect from Peter Heller's The Dog Stars, except that it was different. In The Dog Stars, it's an epidemic that decimates the world, killing off 99 percent or so of the human population. Nothing special there. But wait.

It's a luminous world Heller paints. It is the end of times and yet the end is rich and full of beauty and grace. Heller is a nature/environmental writer and his descriptions of the natural world are evocative. Example: "[The moss] is dry and light to the touch, almost crumbly, but in the trees it moves like sad pennants." It's almost as if a world purged of humans is actually a purer, more beautiful one. As Bangley says, "We are like kings. It took the end of the world."

But don't assume this book is just a collection of sensitive ruminations about loss and survival. There is plenty of combat and violence, too—the gun-toting and club-wielding kind from raiders and wandering gangs of pillaging, raping brutes that regularly assail Higs and Bangley. The latter half of the book has a few battles/showdowns that are breathtaking. Oh yeah, Higs is also a pilot. His trips in his Cessna produce some of the most devastatingly beautify commentary on the world. Bird's eye view, searching, ever searching. The book's narrative arc is really about Higs looking for and finding others—and the cost of that.

For all intents and purposes, the world has ended. It's a testament to Heller's writing that he can give us a post-apocalyptic story that is so beautifully rendered. If you don't like fragmented writing, this may be hard to get through, but I say let the rhythm wash over you. This odd style is used to mimic our narrator's thoughts and the fractured state of the world to great effect.

Jul 25, 2014
  • 671books rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

If you are in to those 'end of days' kind of novels (think The Road) then you'll probably enjoy this book. My full review can be found here:

Jun 14, 2014
  • IPL_Mandy rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Post apocalyptic survivor story of Hig and his dog. Hig is a pilot who bunkers down at a small airport along with a militant survivalist named Bangley. It's kill or be killed when strangers approach, but how long can people live like that? Only so long, for Hig. He takes more and more risks as he seeks companionship beyond his guarded enclave.

Serving suggestion: anything that can be eaten straight from the can using your fingers.

Apr 08, 2014
  • oO_Oo rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

[SPOILER ALERT] Beautifully written, although the style of narration takes a little getting used to. It's right on the edge of a little too flowery in prose. One of my favorite post-apocalypse type books because [SPOILER ALERT] it has a somewhat happy ending.

Nov 24, 2013
  • jtkretzschmar rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

This will be my last post-apocalyptic book I read in a long while. As someone who has had a lung transplant, the idea of a mutant superbug wiping out 99.99% of the population... not really that crazy...

I found Heller's writing style to be disjointed; the book itself was engaging however, and I couldn't go back to sleep until I finished it.

Oct 23, 2013
  • SophieMontague rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

I loved this book. The story is a bit dark but i was very moved by it and after I finished it i felt under its spell for several days.

Sep 23, 2013
  • steppn_razr rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

The Dog Stars is a wonderful antidote to the deluge of immature, shallow post-apocalyptic fiction available. At its heart, the book is a story of loss and a man's love for his dog. I loved the backdrop of earth after being ravaged by a catastrophic disease and the world is lovingly and believably rendered by the author. Characters are very thoroughly developed and detailed. One of my favorite books in recent memory.

Apr 29, 2013
  • JCLGreggW rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

When was the last end-of-the-world novel you've heard of that can be plausibly described as "lyrical"? Yet, Peter Heller's beautifully written work describes the aftermath of a global viral epidemic that leaves a tiny percentage of people left on the planet. The main character, a pilot, along with his faithful dog, flies on patrol from an abandoned airport, listening on his shortwave radio for any survivors. After years of loneliness, he must overcome his isolation - and the enemies that still lurk in the world - and learn to reconnect. If you enjoyed Cormac McCarthy's THE ROAD, you'll enjoy this one, but there's a lot more hope and faith in humanity here. Beautiful, sparse, and understated - something that Ernest Hemingway might have come up with - THE DOG STARS is a winner.

Apr 21, 2013
  • snarski rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Brilliant and surprisingly beautiful. The infrastructure collapses and it's kill or be killed. Hig flies around the Colorado wilderness in an airplane with his dog, looking for attackers. His only other companion is a volatile gun nut with an itchy trigger finger. I wasn't sure I was up for a 300-page book filled with gory descriptions of extreme survival that I've come to expect from post-apocalyptic lit. It definitely starts out with McCarthyist violence. But then makes an unexpected detour (thank God) from the daily blood-and-guts battle for basic needs when Hig undertakes a dangerous and uncertain emotional journey motivated by grief. As his discoveries unfold it's nearly impossible to put down.

Apr 17, 2013
  • ariesman rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

I listened to this audiobook and the narrator was magnificient. Never did I feel the story was disjointed. We are witness to a slice of time without lots of backstory or predictive future. One of my all-time favorites.

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