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The Dog Stars by Peter Heller
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The Dog Stars (edition 2012)

by Peter Heller

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1,7291474,094 (3.95)226
Member:PamDon
Title:The Dog Stars
Authors:Peter Heller
Info:Knopf (2012), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 336 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:2012, post-apocolyptic

Work details

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

  1. 50
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» See also 226 mentions

English (146)  Spanish (1)  All (147)
Showing 1-5 of 146 (next | show all)
I listened to the audio of The Dog Stars by Peter Heller and wondered why the narrator, Mark Deakins, seemed to pause between every phrase. When I looked at a written version, I discovered the reason. There were lots of short sentences. Here's an example:

There is a pain you can’t think your way out of. You can’t talk it away. If there was someone to talk to. You can walk. One foot the other foot. Breathe in breathe out. Drink from the stream. Piss. Eat the venison strips. And. You can’t metabolize the loss. It is in the cells of your face, your chest, behind the eyes, in the twists of the gut. Muscles, sinew, bone. It is all of you.

The reason for this style seems to be that the main character spends a lot of the book alone, thinking about his life and life in general. To get that internal thought process across, Heller resorts to moments that get close to stream of consciousness writing. It took a little while to get used to his style, but once I did, it worked.

Hig is a widower who loved his wife. He is living in a world where most of the people have died from a flu epidemic and a blood disease that followed the flu. In this dystopian world most everyone is out for themselves, fighting off any strangers that show up in their territory. Hig lives with two companions. The first is Bangley, a violent man who believes in killing anyone who shows up in his territory. The second is Hig's dog, Jasper, with whom he shares all his thoughts.

Hig is a pilot with a working Cessna. He flies patrols along the perimeter of the area he and Bangley have declared their own. If he identifies intruders, Bangley kills them. They appear to have a lot of ammunition and a decent amount of airplane fuel.

The world they live in has problems beyond the flu and blood disease. The climate is changing and certain species are extinct or nearly extinct. There are no more trout and very few, if any, elk. However, other animals such as deer are still prevalent enough to hunt.

The novel's greatest strength is the depth of the main character's thoughts. He spends a great deal of time thinking about his past life and the limited possibilities for his future. For example:

Life and death lived inside each other. That's what occured 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.

At times the novel feels like an outdoor life story, dwelling on the joys of fishing, hunting, and being alone in the wilderness. It also spends a decent amount of its words on radio technology, airplanes, and guns, which, along with the point of view remaining with Hig, gives it a macho feel. I had a few issues with the plot, mostly with the random changes to the world, but also one specific incident late in the story that had a simple way of being much less dangerous than it was. I won't say more than that, but I had trouble believing Hig didn't think of it.

Steve Lindahl – author of Hopatcong Vision Quest, White Horse Regressions, and Motherless Soul ( )
  SteveLindahl | Jun 10, 2017 |
I didn't click with the writing style. Thought it kind of messy. Might give it another chance in the future, though. ( )
  Wilwarin | May 23, 2017 |
A spare, beautifully-written story of a handful of people struggling to survive nine years after a world-wide flu pandemic killed about 99% of the population. At a small Colorado airport, narrator Hig lives in an uneasy alliance with Bangley, who showed up one day with a truckload of heavy weapons. Hig and his dog Jasper serve as an early warning system for Bangley, who handles defense. Hig also farms their garden, hunts, occasionally go into the nearby hills to kill a deer, and makes regular flights in an 80-year old Cessna to check their perimeter or to check in with a small group of Mennonites who live nearby. Several years after he hears a radio message from a city which is farther than his turn-back distance, when invaders into their lives seem to have wound down, Hig decides to investigate, and he discovers examples of both the positive and the negative human reaction to the devastation. Both heart-warming and truth-telling, this tale takes a good look at how a decent man deals with the necessities of continuing to live in such a future. ( )
  auntmarge64 | Apr 27, 2017 |
The Dog Stars is an aching beautiful, post-apocalyptic, love story set in the Colorado Mountains after a super-virus has wiped out 99.99% of the population.

It's about the love of a dog, the need for connections, the yearning for something better. The stream of consciousness writing is hard to get used to at first, but after the first 30 pages or so you realize that the book couldn't have been written any other way.

This book has echoed in my mind for days after finishing it. A classic and a must read. ( )
  bhuesers | Mar 29, 2017 |
Book on CD read by Mark Deakins

From the book jacket: Hig survived the flu that killed everyone he knows. He lives in the hangar of a small abandoned airport with his dog, his only neighbor a gun-toting misanthrope. In his 1957 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.

My reactions
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I am not a great fan of post-apocalyptic novels. And yet, here I am reading/listening to another one. S*I*G*H

Heller’s writing is both poetic and spare, with short sentences that come at the reader like staccato gun fire. This gives the novel a feeling of impending danger, of uncertainty and fear. I wanted to rush through it, and yet, I wanted to take my time to understand what was happening and how these characters were dealing with this different world.

In contrast to Emily St John Mandel’s [Station Eleven], Heller does not envision communities of survivors helping one another. Instead one or two people “maintain the perimeter” – shooting first and asking questions later. It is a “kill or be killed” kind of world. And Hig, with his poet’s soul, and his longing for peace and quiet, for nature, and his long-dead family and friends, is never at ease in it.

Neither am I. I found the violence hard to take. Even with Hig’s obvious recoiling and reluctance to participate, he did participate. He had to, even if he didn’t like doing so. I felt a little like that – I had to finish reading even if I didn’t like it.

Mark Deakins does a fine job performing the audio version. Deakins’s narration and skill with voices was such that I was never confused about who was speaking. After listening to the entire book, I picked up the text to check a few things before writing this review. I understand now some of the reviews that criticize the book for lack of quotations. ( )
  BookConcierge | Mar 17, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 146 (next | show all)
Heller's writing is stripped-down and minimalist, like a studio apartment in Sparta. It's an Armageddon book as written by Ernest Hemingway. The future is spare. If you see an adjective, kill it.
added by WeeklyAlibi | editWeekly Alibi, John Bear (Jul 26, 2012)
 

» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Peter Hellerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Deakins, MarkNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I keep the Beast running, I keep the 100 low lead on tap, I foresee attacks.
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Book description
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.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0307959945, Hardcover)

Amazon Best Books of the Month, August 2012: Adventure writer Peter Heller’s The Dog Stars is a first novel set in Colorado after a superflu has culled most of humanity. A man named Hig lives in a former airport community—McMansions built along the edge of a runway—which he shares with his 1956 Cessna, his dog, and a slightly untrustworthy survivalist. He spends his days flying the perimeter, looking out for intruders and thinking about the things he’s lost—his deceased wife, the nearly extinct trout he loved to fish. When a distant beacon sparks in him the realization that something better might be out there, it’s only a matter of time before he goes searching. Poetic, thoughtful, transformative, this novel is a rare combination of the literary and highly readable. --Chris Schluep

Amazon Exclusive: Author Peter Heller on the Star of The Dog Stars

Jasper the Blue Heeler Mix
The inspiration for Jasper, a Blue Heeler mix, who is an integral part of this novel.

Our Hero, Hig, lives at a little country airstrip which he shares with his beloved blue heeler Jasper, and a mean gun nut named Bangley. It's nine years after a super-flu has killed 99.7% of the people on the planet. Hig sleeps out under the open sky at night with Jasper. He does it because he loves to see the stars, and because it's safer: if marauders come he won't be trapped in one of the nearby houses.

He used to have a book of the stars, but now he doesn't, so when he's lying out at night he makes up constellations. Mostly they are animals, and he makes one for his best friend Jasper. The Dog Stars. It's Hig's way of reinventing the lost world, and keeping in touch with the things he loves.

Jasper, to me, is the star of the book. He is fiercely loyal, and he gives Hig something to live for when there is not much else to hold on to.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:49 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

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.

(summary from another edition)

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