Dog Stars, The

Peter Heller
“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.

Reviews

Reviewed: 2018-09-28
DNF at 30%

I think this is a case of it's me not you. I just have no desire to pick this back up. :(
Reviewed: 2018-02-24
I finished this book this week but forgot to mark it read! Oops!

This is the first dystopian, post-apocalypse novel that I've read and enjoy. The author, besides writing fiction, also writes poetry and brings a wonderful poetical, lyrical quality to the writing. It's a haunting tale of Hig; pilot, gardner, carpenter, survivor. Who lives out his days in a small airport in Colorado. Joining him is Bangley, soldier, fighter, and gun nut. The two live out an uneasy trust until Hig goes flying off into the wild blue.

I loved this book too much to be able to talk coherently about this book, let alone write about it. The writing reminded me of Cormac McCarthy in the way that Heller takes liberty with how we write. Unlike McCarthy, in the end it's not so bleak. It's fairly uplifting.

My favorite quote in the book is long. It's when a character, Cima, describes life with her husband before the pandemic flu and collapse of society. It's about the time in between life's big events. We all say it as we try to rush through life; when I get married, when we buy a house, when we have kids, when the kids go to college.

This is our ritual while we waited for our lives to truly begin and i think now that maybe true sweetness can only happen in limbo. I don't know why. Is it because we are so I sure so unsure, so tentative, and waiting? Like it needs that much room, that much space to expand. The not knowing anything really, the hoping, the aching transience: this is not real, not really, and so we let it alone, let it in unfold lightly. Those times that can fly. That's the way it seems now looking back. Like those pleasantly exhausted bike rides up the side of a country highway on a warm evening. To a bridge. To a little rootsnaked trail through heavy maples. Where we padded barefoot upstream to a swimming hole. Even getting poison ivy so badly one weekend I missed two days of work. Seems from here that was the sweetest time ever vouchsafed to two people. Ever. On earth. While we waited for him to finish his degree, for me to have a child, to do the real work of living.


Just love that.

Anyhoo. One of my faves of the year, maybe in the best of life for my life. Just achingly, hauntingly beautiful writing and story.
Reviewed: 2016-04-08

One question - why are all post-apocalyptic worlds full of crazy and horrible people. I gave this 4 stars because the good characters are really developed and, although grumpy, are likable. It ended on a sad note without a possibility of hope for the future. 

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