The Dog Stars, Paperback
4 out of 5 (3 ratings)


Shorlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award 2013. THE ROAD - but with hope. Hig, bereaved and traumatised after global disaster, has three things to live for - his dog Jasper, his aggressive but helpful neighbour, and his Cessna aeroplane.

He's just about surviving, so long as he only takes his beloved plane for short journeys, and saves his remaining fuel. But, just once, he picks up a message from another pilot, and eventually the temptation to find out who else is still alive becomes irresistible.

So he takes his plane over the horizon, knowing that he won't have enough fuel to get back.

What follows is scarier and more life-affirming than he could have imagined. And his story, THE DOG STARS, is a book unlike any you have ever read.




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Showing 1 - 3 of 3 reviews.

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Peter Heller's book is about an essentially cultured man forced into an alien role when most of the population has been wiped out by some sort of plague. Only infected people and marauding gangs remain. On the Colorado airfield to which he's retreated (and from which he still flies his two-seater plane), Hig will do what he has to to survive, but he's not going to seek out trouble for its own sake. As he tells his story, often terse and sometimes contemplative, we learn that, although by necessity capable of self-defence, he's no tough, unimaginative outdoors survivalist and he is unapologetic about his affection for his dog, Jasper, who is a much better and more appreciated companion than the man he shares the airfield with. Bangley is a survivalist, weaponed up and ruthless, but he and Hig each gain from having someone else to watch their backs and have weathered a number of attacks. Hig is haunted, though, by a faint message that suggests there are other healthy survivors, and he sometimes wonders whether he'll settle Jasper on his special quilt in the front of the Cessna and set out to look for them. But mostly he's as content as it's possible to be with the day-to-day routines of his life, growing vegetables, lying out under the stars at night, and flying, which offers detachment from the "sticky details" of everyday existence. Until something happens to spur him into action...In this very plausible depiction of post-apocalyptic America, the action alternates with lyricism to make something much more than a run-of-the-mill adventure story. There are echoes of Saint-Exupery, not just in the transformative nature of flight but in an essential innocence in the hero. Even while aware of the need to be mistrustful of other people, Hig can still feel warmth towards them, and he grieves for the animals that are gone, and the trout he used to catch. In Hig's relationship with the world that is left, the author's love of the outdoors is palpable -- here is no imagined wilderness, but one that is real and intimately known. And hope remains. If this is a parable of our impending and self-inflicted apocalypse, Heller is telling us that it's not yet time to give up.

Review by

Set in a post-apocalyptic America where most of the population has been wiped out by disease, this is Hig’s story. Hig is alone, well almost alone – he relies on his dog Jasper for company. And there is also Bradley, homicidal and uncommunicative, but who provides a measure of protection. Hig loves to fly his Cessna – he patrols the boundaries of their territory and scares away unwanted visitors; he also loves to fish and hunt in the hills. But neither of these activities can quite fill the emptiness in his heart. So one day he fills up the Cessna with as much fuel and water as he can carry and sets out into the unknown.Often compared to Cormack MacCarthy’s The Road, this book is a sensitive and moving tribute to man’s spirit in the face of adversity. It is written in the form of a journal in which Hig talks directly to the reader, which gives it huge “immediacy” and power. I loved the poetic writing style, and wasn’t bothered by the lack of punctuation. Personally I liked this book a great deal more than The Road because of its positive messages about life, love and what it means to be human. It will definitely be in my top 10 reads for this year.

Review by

This is definitely a novel of two halves: the first affected yet strangely effective, the second half better paced, but obnoxiously masculine. I seem to be reading a run of apocalyptic/dystopian fiction at the moment, and I thought Peter Heller's novel about one man and his dog sounded promising, only to be sadly disappointed. The stop-start staccato narrative didn't bother me at all, and I even took a while to notice when Hig's voice started to even out, but all the macho hunting/shooting/woodsman blather grew a bit tedious. The first part, in my view, is set nine years after a super-flu outbreak kills all but a few survivors. Hig and his gun-toting neighbour Bangley are two such specimens, sadly, living near a small Colorado airport. Hig and his dog Jasper fly around in circles, patrolling the perimeter and hunting for game, while Bangley picks off intruders. Hig speaks in short, erratic bursts, presumably because he's forgotten how to have normal conversations, which reaches a peak when he loses yet another link to civilisation - 'The only sight which. Tomorrow I'll. I don't know'.The second half is a survivalist's wet dream. Guns! Killing wild animals! Sleeping under the stars! Finding the only woman within a hundred mile radius to shack up with! More guns! I think I preferred Hig when he was monosyllabic and miserable. The 'high' point is Peter Heller's poetic description of grief and loss. The shootouts and shagging under the night sky will probably appeal more to male readers.

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