The Dog Stars by Peter Heller is a heavenly book, a stellar achievement by a debut novelist that manages to combine sparkling prose with truly memorable, shining, characters. It contains constellations of grand images and ideas, gleams with vitality, and sparkles with wit. And for a story of this ilk, it is also—a rarity—radiant with hope. Despite the many terrible events threatening to engulf our heroes, The Dog Stars never falls into the black hole of hopelessness common in many post-apocalyptic fictions.... Luminous with bright ideas.... The Dog Stars is the story of Hig’s conversation with his faith, with his humanity, with his former life. By turns moving, articulate and, exciting, it is also one of those stories that remains with the reader long after the book is closed. It contains all of the lyricism of Cormac McCarthy at his best—Hig fights for ‘things that have no use anymore except as a bulwark against oblivion. Against the darkness of total loss.’ And he reaches for the stars. For the constellations of his memory. He looks up and not down.
A. J. Kirby - New York Journal of Books
With its soulful hero, macabre villains, tender love story and action scenes staggered at perfectly spaced intervals, [The Dog Stars] unfolds with the vigor of the film it will undoubtedly become. But it also succeeds as a dark, poetic and funny novel in its own right.... That [Hig’s] story is not in the end depressing may be the most disturbing part of this novel. In fact, at times, the destruction of civilization seems to have given Hig the chance to live more richly in the present, to feel grace more acutely, to sleep outdoors and gaze up at the stars in his purged, rejuvenated universe. It is frightening to face up to the apocalypse. It’s perhaps even more frightening when we get past that and start seeing its upside.
Jennifer Reese - NPR
The Dog Stars is a post-apocalyptic adventure novel with the soul of haiku..... Heller is a well-known adventure writer, and his knowledge of and sensitivity to nature and outdoor pursuits come through here with precision and power.... A novel that gets under the skin of what it means to survive unbearable loss.
Margaret Quamme- Columbus Dispatch
A heart-wrenching and richly written story about loss and survival—and, more important, about learning to love again.... The Dog Stars is a love story, but not just in the typical sense. It’s an ode to friendship between two men, a story of the strong bond between a human and a dog, and a reminder of what is worth living for.
Michele Filgate - Minneapolis Star Tribune
By putting us in the worst of all possible times, literature can allow us to experience the best side of humankind, where instead of giving up, we struggle desperately in the ruins for love, connection and hope. And that brings us to Peter Heller’s ravishing doomsday novel, The Dog Stars.... An indelible core of kindness beats like a heart within [Hig]..... The supreme pleasure of this book is the lovely writing. Hig talks to himself, and to us, in a kind of syncopated rhythm that’s as intimate as a conversation, with pauses and clipped words.... In the midst of all the devastation, Heller shows us the stunning beauty of the natural world.... The pages of The Dog Stars are damp with grief for what is lost and can never be recovered. But there are moments of unexpected happiness, of real human interaction, infused with love and hope, like the twinkling of a star we might wish upon, which makes this end-of-the-world novel more like a rapturous beginning.... Remarkable.
Caroline Leavitt - San Francisco Chronicle
When Hig takes his plane into the wilderness surrounding the airport, The Dog Stars can feel less like a 21st-century apocalypse and more like a 19th-century frontier narrative (albeit one in which many, many species have become extinct). There are echoes of Grizzly Adams or Jeremiah Johnson in scenes where Heller lingers on the details of how the water in a flowing stream changes color as the sun moves across the sky, or making a fire from fallen twigs on a bed of dry moss. Modern technology finds its way back into the story, but we’re so far inside Hig’s head that it feels like one more element in the dreamlike landscape. Though it is punctuated by intensely violent outbursts, once these recede into the background, Heller’s novel can approach moments of quiet, poetic beauty.
Ron Hogan -Dallas News
Heller crafts a richly emotional perspective on how humans choose to respond when confronted with calamity.... [T]here’s a singular voice at work here in Hig’s halting first-person narration that turns his mind into a battleground between two choices of handling apocalypse: self-preserving fear, or risky humanity. At times funny, at times thrilling, at times simply heartbreaking and always rich with a love of nature, The Dog Stars finds a peculiar poetry in deciding that there’s really no such thing as the end of the world—just a series of decisions about how we live in whatever world we’ve got.
Scott Renshaw - Salt Lake City Weekly
The Dog Stars is a compelling debut from author Peter Heller, which decisively strikes at the ever-arching desire to know what makes us human.... Gruff, tormented and inspirational, Heller has the astonishing ability to make you laugh, cringe and feel ridiculously vulnerable throughout the novel that will have you rereading certain passages with a hard lump in the pit of your stomach. One of the most powerful reads in years.
(Starred review.) In the tradition of postapocalyptic literary fiction such as Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and Jim Crace’s The Pesthouse, this hypervisceral first novel by adventure writer Heller (Kook) takes place nine years after a superflu has killed off much of mankind. Hig, an amateur pilot living in Colorado, has retreated to an abandoned airport from which he flies sorties in “the Beast,” his vintage Cessna, over isolated pockets of survivors. His only neighbor is the survivalist Bangley, who’s sitting on a stockpile of weapons and munitions, and the only visitors are plague survivors who have descended into savagery. Hig’s one real comfort, besides the memory of his dead wife, Melissa, who fell victim to the flu while pregnant, is his dog, Jasper. But when that comfort is withdrawn, Hig flies west in search of the radio voice that called out to him three years before. Instead, he ends up being shot down and restrained by a doctor named Cima and her shotgun-toting father, a former Navy SEAL. With its evocative descriptions of hunting, fishing, and flying, this novel, perhaps the world’s most poetic survival guide, reads as if Billy Collins had novelized one of George Romero’s zombie flicks. From start to finish, Heller carries the reader aloft on graceful prose, intense action, and deeply felt emotion.
(Starred review.) In the near future, a flu pandemic has decimated civilization, leaving only scattered pockets of survivors to fend for themselves. Hig is one of the healthy ones. For the past nine years, he has coexisted with a loner named Bangley...find[ing] sanity in fishing, staring at the constellations, and flying his plane.... Verdict: After an award-winning career as an adventure writer and NPR contributor, Heller has written a stunning debut novel. In spare, poetic prose, he portrays a soaring spirit of hope that triumphs over heartbreak, trauma, and insurmountable struggles. A timely must-read. —Donna Bettencourt, Mesa Cty. P.L., Grand Junction, CO
(Starred review.)Richly evocative yet streamlined journal entries propel the high-stakes plot while simultaneously illuminating Hig’s nuanced states of mind as isolation and constant vigilance exact their toll, along with his sorrow for the dying world.... Heller’s surprising and irresistible blend of suspense, romance, social insight, and humor creates a cunning form of cognitive dissonance neatly pegged by Hig as an "apocalyptic parody of Norman Rockwell"—a novel, that is, of spiky pleasure and signal resonance. —Donna Seaman
(Starred review.) A post-apocalyptic novel in which Hig, who only goes by this mononym, finds not only survival, but also the possibility of love.... Although Heller creates with chilling efficiency the bleakness of a world largely bereft of life as we know it, he holds out some hope that human relationships can be redemptive.
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