I’ve recently come upon a wonderful read I want to share with other bibliophiles. Lately, I’ve been so busy and focused on the details of my little world, I’ve not made time to blog. But, I love this book, so I’m dashing off a few words to inspire you to read it.
The Dog Stars takes place in the future after a viral flue epidemic wipes out most of the world’s population. Climate change has ravaged the balance of the earth’s ecosystems and the trees are dying, the rivers are drying up, and the earth is warming. Civilization as we know it, has been destroyed and human beings are reduced to life in survival mode. The values, ethics, and codes of honor that had sustained society have been replace by the brutal behaviors of the physically strong. Survival now depends upon people’s ability to scavenge for food, weapons, and resources. Killing and stealing, raping and terrorizing others is now the status quo.
The world has become a post apocalyptic hell where all demons have been unleashed.
Yet, Peter Heller’s main character and narrator, Hig, is moved by the sight of the earth’s remaining birds, and is still thrilled to see the remnants of beauty found in nature. He and another survivalist live in a deserted airport in Colorodo where he’s found a small plane he uses to scout his territory. Hig loves his dog, Jasper, a blue healer, who is his healer and best friend in the literal sense. Jasper offers Hig the loyalty, the camaraderie, and the deep connection of one sentient being to another. Hig has lost his wife, his friends and family, and Jasper is the one connection that remains of his previous incarnation. It is this connection that nourishes his soul and offers him relief from the prevailing brutality of daily life.
Hig, once a star gazer who was mesmerized by constellations, continues to gaze at the night sky, making up his own constellations of animals – including Jasper. Yet, he has his feet on the ground and his heart in the sky. He continues to hunt far up in the Colorado mountains where he’s still able to find elk. He continues to fish even though the the once clear streams are now muddy and the trout are gone – only carp have survived the warming of the mountain streams.
I sometimes ask myself, “Who would I be if the world falls apart?”
I became hooked from the first page of The Dog Stars. I soon became invested in Hig’s inner life, inspired by the flame of love that failed to be extinguished in the face of the darkest night of his soul. Having read Cormac McCarthy’s, The Road, also a great novel and fascinating read, it’s interesting to compare how each author tells his apocalyptic tale. This subject fascinates us because we’re invited to consider how we would be, who we would become should the world crumble and we are forced into a chaotic and unfamiliar abyss. Would we become victims or perpetrators? Is there a righteous middle ground? Could we still be capable of love, of the finer feelings that define humanity? Would we simply give up or continue the fight for life?
The end of this novel does not disappoint. There is an optimism, a reminder that the narrative of our lives, however bleak in the moment, can still offer new chances to find love, to discover friendship, and to find redemption.
“Extraordinary. . . . One of those books that makes you happy for literature.” —Junot Díaz, The Wall Street Journal
“This end-of-the-world novel [is] more like a rapturous beginning. . . . Remarkable.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“For all those who thought Cormac McCarthy’s The Road the last word on the post-apocalyptic world—think again. . . . Make time and space for this savage, tender, brilliant book.” —Glen Duncan, author of The Last Werewolf
“Heart-wrenching and richly written. . . . 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.” —Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“A dreamy, postapocalyptic love letter to things of beauty, big and small.” –Gillian Flynn, author of Gone Girl
“Heartbreaking” —The Seattle Times
“A brilliant success.” —The New Yorker