Monday, August 20, 2012
Book Review: "The Dog Stars" by Peter Heller
Hig survived the flu, although his wife didn't. He and his trusty dog, Jasper, live in an abandoned airport in Colorado along with a cranky, well-armed misanthrope named Bangley. Hig and Bangley have a marriage of sortsHig hunts and fishes and cooks and plants, while Bangley berates Hig for his lack of strategic thinking as he keeps Hig protected from roaming survivors who wander into their compound with nefarious purposes on their minds. Hig and Jasper fly "The Beast," a 1956 Cessna, both to monitor the perimeter and simply to escape the reality of losing everything and everyone you love. One day, Hig decides to go in search of the voice he heard briefly on the plane's radio three years before, to see if there are others out there. He flies beyond the point where he has enough fuel for the return trip home, but he does encounter people he never thought he would, and comes face to face with emotions he has hidden deep inside of him.
This is a book that wonders, how do you keep hope alive when everything around you has been destroyed or will die? How do you keep on living when you know there may be an all-too-finite end? In Hig, Peter Heller has created a complex, resolute character, lonely and sad, hopeful and grateful, who really doesn't know what to do beyond putting one foot in front of the other. While this book isn't quite as apocalyptic as, say, Cormac McCarthy's The Road or Justin Cronin's The Passage, the vision of isolation and destruction is still disturbing.
It took me a while to truly get into this book, mainly because Heller's writing style became less disjointed as it moved forward. (I think he tried to write the way Hig thought, and instead of providing verisimilitude it was a little disorienting.) I also wasn't a fan of the interactions between Hig and Bangley, at least at first. But I loved Hig's character (among others) and found the emotions the story provoked were very real. It is always a testament of how much I enjoy a book when I wonder what happened to the characters after the story ended. That was definitely the case with The Dog Stars.