Peter heller has written a remarkable and breathtaking first novel set in a bleak, post-apocalyptic world. It takes place seven years after most of Earth’s population has been wiped out by a flu pandemic. Hig, a pilot with a 1956 Cessna who — along with his beloved senior dog, Jasper — lives in a small country airport in Colorado, narrates the story. His only neighbor, Bruce Bangley, is an old, misanthropic, ex-navy Seal whose survivalist skills are employed eagerly and willingly when desperate marauders threaten their existence. Jasper does his part, serving as a sentinel, guide, hunting/fi shing companion and keen listener—a relationship probably similar to those shared at the beginning of human/dog friendships.
Searching for reasons to stay alive, Hig is determined to remain attached to the natural world, going off into mountains and “greener woods” to fish and hunt with Jasper. Before he leaves on these sojourns, he makes recon fl ights, with his dog as his co-pilot. Although so much life has been lost—including the lives of his friends, his wife and their unborn child—and global warming plagues the planet, there are still vistas of stunning beauty to behold.
It is Hig’s relationship with Jasper during the first third of the book that allows the reader to understand the true measure of this man. This reviewer would be hard-pressed to think of anything in recent literature, except perhaps Rick Bass’s elegiac Colter, that comes close to expressing how tender, complete and vital a relationship between a man and a dog can be.
The Dog Stars, poetic, graceful, funny and, yes, very dark, is a tale of primal instincts and the survivalist spirit. This spirit can be found in the threads that connect us to one another, to nature and beyond, to the stars—and that lead us to seek out new possibilities, even though sometimes it takes a great loss to find our way to them. This is a book about discovering the resiliency of that thread.