The Dog Stars – Peter Heller


Of all the post-apocalyptic narratives out there this one is my favorite (although Daybreak is really good). There are no zombies here. Just the everyday reality of what would happen once the immediate threat disappears – and you’ve somehow survived.

The writing style seems to give people a lot of trouble, I think these are the same people who’ve never read a poem or for whom a minimalist painting somehow is a threat to their worldview. Either that or they are grammar nazis. But who is to say that every sentence needs a period or needs to be grammatically correct in a novel?

I think the writing style was one of my favorite parts of the book. Stream of consciousness style. Done really well I thought. Full of distractions, half thoughts, other people’s voices, memories… You get to really enter the mind of the character – who happens to be a pilot, own a dog, and share his somewhat miserable life (are their lives really any more miserable post-apocalypse then before?) with someone whose moral standards are a bit different from his own (but are they wrong or is survival the only thing that matters?).

These questions and others are presented as part of the, one could say mundane, existence of Hig. I guess all these zombie and other disaster movies try to show us that we are only a thin line away from utter chaos and reversion to an animalistic survival instinct and that societal niceties are the first to go – and this book shows those beautifully – but this book is also an amazing meditation on loss and longing under the circumstances. And really it’s the little things – amazing descriptions of flying, and gardening, fishing, the little pleasures in life – the only things left really – once everything else is gone – that really gave me joy and kept the pages turning.

Thank you Peter Heller, and thanks K for a great birthday read.