Book Review: The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

The Dog Stars by Peter HellerThe Dog Stars: What it is about

The publisher says: “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.”

The Dog Stars: What I thought

I treated myself to this book after having heard so much about it. Well, treated… it cost me $0.41 as I had some vouchers for an US online bookstore. And it’s a beautiful hardback with serrated pages!

This book turned out very different from what I expected, but in a good way. It was much more a book about human relationships than about the harsh reality of survival. It was also about that, but much more about trusting others and living in isolation rather than letting others in your life if you don’t know whether you can trust them (The “Shoot first, ask questions next” idea).

I was very curious about the world Hig lives in. Really, he doesn’t know too much about it, just that many people died after a virus. He only knows the world as far away as half a fuel tank in his Cessna plane can bring him. I wanted to know more, and so did Hig. So, after a devastating event, he doesn’t care about his safety quite so much anymore, and decides to fly beyond the point of return.

This is practically suicide, unless he really finds other people to live with. But will they shoot before asking questions? I really wanted Hig to find a better world, a society that he didn’t know about and that didn’t know about him. Whether he does, I won’t reveal.

The writing is convincingly the voice of someone who isn’t a writer. Hig doesn’t always use grammatical sentences. He narrates the story in the way he speaks, often just in fragments, missing verbs. At first that seemed odd, but I got used to it quite soon. I found Higs very honest about his situation and about the past. He often is frightened and doesn’t pretend to be a great hero. I felt compassion for him and hoped all would be well for him.

If you love post-apocalyptic story, then this is a great literary novel for you!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars (very good)

Number of pages: 328

First published: 2012

I got this: bought it online

Genre: science fiction, post-apocalyptic

About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

9 Responses to Book Review: The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

  1. Alyce Reese says:

    This was one of my favorite reads last year. It was a different style of writing, but the rawness of the story drew me in.

  2. Leslie says:

    I knew you would like this book! I’m glad you finally got to read it. This was one of my favorite books of 2012. When I first saw the writing style I thought it would be a difficult read but nope, it was perfect for Hig’s character. And I still want to know more. A sequel would be nice!

  3. I am very glad although not surprised that you loved this book. It is, indeed, very good.

  4. I was sure you would like this book, Judith. I read it a couple of weeks ago and like you, loved it from the moment I got used to the language (which was very soon).

  5. Crystal says:

    As always….thanks Judith for the great book selections. I adore dystopian novels…just bought this on Audible website. Think it will sound awesome, especially since you all say its written as if in “spoken” English. Will report when finished! Be well, and happy reading

  6. Great review! I love well-written dystopia, so this is going on my to-buy list!

  7. Pingback: Book Review: The Painter by Peter Heller | Leeswammes' Blog

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