I read post-apocalyptic books constantly, but only about half of what I read gets reviewed here. The rest are either books that I don’t finish at all, or that didn’t have enough of an impact, or leave enough of an impression that I feel like I can do a true review. But at the same time, I feel like I should at least take the opportunity to put down some impressions, so I might start doing some shorter posts just to give my overall thoughts on a story.
The Dog Stars by Peter Heller is one of those books. I know I liked it, but I can’t really give a good explanation of why.
Here’s the official blurb:
The Dog Stars is 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.
So, general thoughts: For the first quarter of the book, I wondered if I’d finish it, but then it got more interesting, and by the final sections, I was happy to keep reading. The writing style seems like it’s modeled right off of McCarthy’s The Road. Heller likes to write. In fragments. Of sentences. Lots of periods where there should be commas. And also no punctuation or quotes around dialog. But like The Road, I got used to it, and it wasn’t really a bother. There isn’t a lot of action, but what there is is very violent; Heller’s post-flu world is very bleak, but also feels completely realistic.
Whenever someone asks me what kind of apocalyptic scenario I’d like to see, I always pick plague. I figure that with a reduced population and all of the resources freely available, survivors would be less likely to mess with each other. But The Dog Stars has me rethinking that a bit. I think it would still be the best apocalypse to survive, but I may have been underestimating the inhumanity of people, particularly several years after the end when they’ve had some time to revert, so to speak.
So overall, I thought The Dog Stars was pretty good. I don’t think I’ll ever read it again, but it was worthwhile enough to add it to your to-read list, especially if you’re in the mood for something more literary than action-oriented.