The Dog Stars by Peter Heller (2012)

9780307950475_custom-f7950600e0708cc5a21ab50b1f196dba6039a6e7-s6-c30I’ve actually not read much post-apocalyptic literature, and I know many are not fans of it; however, I enjoyed The Dog Stars. I think there are some holes in the plot (for example, the Arab storyline gets dropped, the purpose of the old couple’s antics at the Grand Junction airport are unclear), but in terms of character development, Heller does a good job. The most compelling feature is the relationship between Hig and his dog, but eventually, the relationship between Hig and Bangley is also quite endearing. The whole concept of the population being wiped out due to a flu strain is far less far-fetched than some books of the genre, and while I didn’t spend too much time thinking about the possibilities, it did make me wonder a bit.

Perhaps what I liked most was that the book didn’t focus on death and destruction, but rather on how to make the best of what was left. Heller delved into characters and motives and emotion, but not into the whole of the outside world. Most of the story takes place in a small airport where Hig lives in his hangar and flies his 1956 Cessna around the perimeter to ensure their safety. By focusing in on a tiny piece of what’s left in the world, we’re sort of transported to their bastion of safety, seeing it in full detail.

I also loved the first person POV and the somewhat fragmented, disjointed sentence and paragraph structure because it seemed to mimic their remaining world and the way Hig’s thinking felt. At first it made me wonder if he was suffering from dementia or some other disorder, but later I realized it was simply part of his character after 9 years of loss and survival and the way he constantly talks to himself in a stream of consciousness fashion.  This writing style fit the character and the plot whereas some writing like this feels more like an author simply trying to be avant-garde.   (fiction)

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