The Dog Stars – Peter Heller

The Dog Stars is a post-apocalyptic novel published in 2012 by American author Peter Heller. I did not think that I would read such a novel in the middle of the pandemic, but I am glad that I put this book on my must-read shelf at the beginning of the year. I found myself grateful for science, and I was happy to see that good people can live with kindness despite everything.


Let me point out right away, even if you don’t particularly like post-apocalyptic novels or dystopias;The Dog Stars is not a book you should hesitate to read in this period. The author set the tone of the brutality so well that even cowardly readers like me can easily read it.

In The Dog Stars, the world has ceased to be the world we know after a flu epidemic and has become a horrible place where chaos and violence reign. The main character, Hig, is a pilot in his forties who lost everyone he loved except his dog because of the flu. In his new post-pandemic life, he cares about three things: his dog Jasper, his gun-savvy and strategist neighbour Bangley, and his Cessna model aeroplane.

The Dog Stars - Peter Heller

Hig and Bangley live in a small airport. While Hig jumps on his plane and looks around, Bangley protects their living space with the defence mechanisms he developed. We understand from the very beginning that these two are opposite characters. However, as the book progresses, we do not delay seeing that this contrast is crucial to keeping them alive. However, Hig does not intend to spend the rest of his life at this airport, and something that happens to him will completely change his life.

With its author Peter Heller’s very different style, The Dog Stars is one of the books that forces the reader to get used to its own rhythm. After a few pages, when you reach the rhythm desired by the author, the feeling of the book begin to change and the pleasure of reading increases as you can entirely focus on the story.

The Dog Stars is about the struggle for survival. But it’s also a struggle not to compromise one’s humanity while surviving. From time to time, I put myself in Hig’s shoes and thought about what I would do in that situation. I can say that I was happy when I realized that I found myself more or less in all the characters in the book.

Since the characters of The Dog Stars are immediately lovable and very realistic, it became one of the novels that I read quickly and with pleasure, despite its subject. I also realized that I haven’t read a novel by a male author with an all-male character in a long time. I even got a little uncomfortable with these male voices at one point in the book. Then I got annoyed with myself for being annoyed by such a ridiculous reason.The Dog Stars, which was nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 2013, will please the enthusiasts of its genre. Enjoy!

The Dog Stars - Peter Heller

The Dog Stars

THE ROAD – but with hope.

The Dog Stars: Hig, bereaved and traumatised after global disaster, has three things to live for – his dog Jasper, his aggressive but helpful neighbour, and his Cessna aeroplane. He’s just about surviving, so long as he only takes his beloved plane for short journeys, and saves his remaining fuel.

But, just once, he picks up a message from another pilot, and eventually the temptation to find out who else is still alive becomes irresistible. So he takes his plane over the horizon, knowing that he won’t have enough fuel to get back. What follows is scarier and more life-affirming than he could have imagined. And his story,The Dog Stars, is a book unlike any you have ever read.

Peter Heller

Peter Heller is a longtime contributor to NPR, and a former contributing editor at Outside Magazine, Men’s Journal, and National Geographic Adventure. He is an award winning adventure writer and the author of four books of literary nonfiction. He lives in Denver. Heller was born and raised in New York. He attended high school in Vermont and Dartmouth College in New Hampshire where he became an outdoorsman and whitewater kayaker.

He traveled the world as an expedition kayaker, writing about challenging descents in the Pamirs, the Tien Shan mountains, the Caucuses, Central America and Peru. He was the first man, with a Kiwi paddler named Roy Bailey, to kayak the Muk Su River in the High Pamirs of Tadjikistan. The river was known as the Everest of Rivers in the Soviet Union, and the last team that had attempted it lost five of their eleven men. The run was 17 days of massive whitewater through a canyon inhabited by wolves and snow leopards.

In the winter of 2002 he joined, on the ground team, the most ambitious whitewater expedition in history as it made its way through the treacherous Tsangpo Gorge in Eastern Tibet. He chronicled what has been called The Last Great Adventure Prize for Outside, and in his book Hell or High Water: Surviving Tibet’s Tsangpo River.

The gorge — three times deeper than the Grand Canyon — is sacred to Buddhists, and is the inspiration for James Hilton’s Shangri La. It is so deep there are tigers and leopards in the bottom and raging 25,000 foot peaks at the top, and so remote and difficult to traverse that a mythical waterfall, sought by explorers since Victorian times, was documented for the first time in 1998 by a team from National Geographic. The book won a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, was number three on Entertainment Weekly’s “Must List” of all pop culture, and a Denver Post review ranked it “up there with any adventure writing ever written.”

The Dog Stars - Peter Heller
The Dog Stars author Peter Heller

In December, 2005, on assignment for National Geographic Adventure, he joined the crew of an eco-pirate ship belonging to the radical environmental group the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society as it sailed to Antarctica to hunt down and disrupt the Japanese whaling fleet.

In the fall of 2007 Heller was invited by the team who made the acclaimed film The Cove to accompany them in a clandestine filming mission into the guarded dolphin-killing cove in Taiji, Japan. Heller paddled into the inlet with four other surfers while a pod of pilot whales was being slaughtered. He was outfitted with a helmet cam, and the terrible footage can be seen in the movie. The Cove went on to win an Academy Award. Heller wrote about the experience for Men’s Journal.

Heller’s debut novel, The Dog Stars, was published by Knopf in August, 2012. It was the Apple iBooks Novel of the Year, Hudson Booksellers top fiction pick of the Year, and an Atlantic Monthly and San Francisco Examiner Best Book of the Year. It was critically celebrated and a breakout bestseller, and has been published in eighteen languages.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges: 

Reading Challenge 2021

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