Review: The Dog Stars

The Dog Stars

The Dog Stars
By Peter Heller
(Knopf, Hardcover, 9780307959942, August 2012, 336pp.)

The Short of It:

Unassuming, sad and occasionally funny. A book about the Apocalypse but minus the zombies, suppurating wounds, or gratuitous violence that we’ve come to associate with the genre.

The Rest of It:

Nine years after 99% of the population has been wiped out by the flu, a man and his dog navigate the wasteland he’s come to call home, in an aging Cessna, limping along on fuel he’s salvaged from abandoned airports. Hig’s future is bleak. In spite of the “not so nice” people he encounters from time to time, he’s managed to become good friends with a loner named Bangley and when he is flying overhead, with his dog Jasper by his side, things don’t seem too awful.


Hig is lonely. His wife and unborn child were lost during the epidemic and although he’s comfortable and sometimes even has a sense of humor over his current situation, his need for human contact sends him to uncharted landscapes with the hopes of finding that elusive something that can offer up some hope for tomorrow.

I think this book is a tough read for a lot of people. Not because it’s graphic or too heavy but because the first half of it so hard to get into. Hig’s train of thought is presented in short, clipped half-sentences. This took a bit of getting used to and caused the story to halt along as an unnatural pace, but once I got used to the rhythm of it, I really wasn’t bothered and felt that it added something to the story. Hig is a guy who’s spent the better part of ten years with limited human contact; it made sense for him to lose the art of conversation.

The Dog Stars can be compared to The Road – but it’s light. It’s a lighter, more upbeat version of the apocalypse books you’ve come to know and with its limited list of players, the sense of desolation and loneliness take center stage. I could have done without the poorly penned sex scene at the end of the book, but given its rocky start, I liked it quite a bit (not the sex scene, but the book). It’s serious, sad and funny which is an odd combination for a book with this subject matter, but somehow it works.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher via Edelweiss.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

24 thoughts on “Review: The Dog Stars”

    1. Funny, I was just cross posting the review over at Amazon and thought the exact same thing. It was probably one of the most upbeat, post-apocalyptic books I’ve read thus far.

  1. As dark as it was, I loved The Road. Nobody really expects the Apocalypse to be a happy thing anyway. So…based on your comment, at least he meets someone (at least temporarily). 🙂

    1. Yeah, in this book there are people around, just not many you’d want to spend any time with. Remember those idiots from Mad Max? That is what I envisioned here.

  2. I am not sure about the choppiness of the beginning of this one, but have heard that it’s quite an amazing book. My issue comes in with the first bits. If I have to try so hard to get into a book, it usually doesn’t end up going too well for me. I will have to see if I can get a peek into this one before I commit. It does intrigue, I am just a little gun shy.

  3. Understanding that he’s went 10+ years without human contact makes me realize that the chopped begining is needed. I’m actually a bit drawn to this one..trying to imagine to what lengths I would go to in order to find another human!

  4. Sounds a bit unusual — an unusual combination. Upbeat but lonely! The hubby likes apocalypse books perhaps he’d like this one too …

    1. Guys might like it more, only because the main character is quite an outdoorsy type. I guess the author is too.He seemed to know a lot about the shelf life of fuel, etc.

  5. Not the kind of novel you can really sink into easily, it sounds like. I really like books with lots and lots of conversation best, so this loner guy on his own sounds a little tedious! 😉

    1. Yep, the conversation is brief in this one and when there is some, it’s a bit disjointed. It really irked me at first but I got used to it.

  6. Hmmmm, I haven’t heard of this one before but it sounds really good. The only thing I probably wouldn’t like is that there is just a male as a main character. I don’t know why but it seems I don’t enjoy books like this as much – maybe just difficulty in relating to male characters.

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