Hig is a survivor, a lone pilot who's wife, friends and almost all neighbours are long dead. Living in the hanger of a small abandoned airport with only his dog and his gun-toting neighbour for company. He flies his 1956 Cessna around the perimeter looking out for trouble and occasionally sneaks off to the mountains to fish; trying to built the illusion for a brief time that things are like what they used to be. When a random transmission is intercepted on his radio he decides to risk everything in an attempt to find life and hope beyond his little run down corner of a hostile world.
The Dog Stars is something pretty different, for a start it's written in an unusual style with short, sharp sentences and mostly brief, fluid paragraphs with no chapters or such to break the flow of the narrative. It's something that does take a little getting used to, especially being written in the first person which includes the narrators own vernacular and narrative style. When you do get used to it though it begins to feel so natural and organic, I'd love to see more books take this approach.
The depiction of a post-apocalyptic, post-society world where pockets of survivors struggle to stay alive is incredibly emotive, you can really feel for the characters having to make choices that we all hope we will never have to make. The story itself is wonderfully meandering, or at least it appears to be at first and yet at the same time it does move forward pretty constantly even if at times you don't realise it. This organic approach works perfectly with the fluid prose and dynamic narrative structure which results in something that feels so real and is quite moving, thoughtful and more importantly totally immersive. If this narration set's the scene it's the characters that bring the book to life and Heller provides a masterful performance, I defy anyone not to get emotionally drawn to this book and the people who populate it's pages.
The way the author manages to depict the best and worst of humanity without gratuity or over the top sentimentality is incredible. Unlike many post-apocalyptic novels the book feels very personal, a microcosmic journey that holds a tremendous amount of power.
The Dog Stars is simply superb, an emotive and powerful novel in a refreshingly original style, breath-taking.
Written on Wednesday 27th June 2012 by Antony.
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