The Dog Stars by Peter Heller was recommended to me by my mother who rarely recommends novels to me. A dystopian novel told through the narrow vision of Hig, a survivor who is both haunted by the weight of memory and the diminishing hope for the future. Flying his Cessna with his dog, Hig does what he can to connect with a world that has changed, providing resources for isolated communities, befriended and protected by a man who would not even be an associate before the devastation.
There is something that is desperately delicate about this novel. It is less poetic than The Road and far more hopeful than The Age of Miracles and yet holds its own against both. Hig’s experiences are believable and surprisingly familiar, in spite of the post-apocalyptic world in which his story unfolds. If his reality is unreal, his responses, his choices are genuine. It was hard for me to put the book down, yet I cannot recall anything particularly compelling about the events.
Is there any better praise than that? There are a couple of predictable moments but each was gratifying even if inevitable. The novel’s conclusion felt a bit rushed and wasn’t as enchanting for me as the rest of the novel but, weeks after I finished reading it, I would catch myself thinking about a particular moment in the novel, mulling over the events. The story haunted me, or perhaps it was just Higs.
I really don’t know what to say about this novel except that I loved it for reasons that don’t come easily. McCarthy’s novel is poetic and brutal; Walker’s is raw and simple. Heller’s is emotionally complex and honest, poetic for its truthfulness, and one I would recommend with more ease than either of the other two.