The Dog Stars

The Dog Stars

Book - 2012
Average Rating:
Rate this:
"Leave it to Peter Heller to imagine a postapocalyptic world that contains as much loveliness as it does devastation. His hero, Hig, flies a 1956 Cessna (his dog as copilot) around what was once Colorado, chasing all the same things we chase in these pre-annihilation days: love, friendship, the solace of the natural world, and the chance to perform some small kindness. The Dog Stars is a wholly compelling and deeply engaging debut." --Pam Houston, author of Contents May Have Shifted
A riveting, powerful novel about a pilot living in a world filled with loss--and what he is willing to risk to rediscover, against all odds, connection, love, and grace.

Hig survived the flu that killed everyone he knows. His wife is gone, his friends are dead, he lives in the hangar of a small abandoned airport with his dog, his only neighbor a gun-toting misanthrope. In his 1956 Cessna, Hig flies the perimeter of the airfield or sneaks off to the mountains to fish and to pretend that things are the way they used to be. But when a random transmission somehow beams through his radio, the voice ignites a hope deep inside him that a better life--something like his old life--exists beyond the airport. Risking everything, he flies past his point of no return--not enough fuel to get him home--following the trail of the static-broken voice on the radio. But what he encounters and what he must face--in the people he meets, and in himself--is both better and worse than anything he could have hoped for.

Narrated by a man who is part warrior and part dreamer, a hunter with a great shot and a heart that refuses to harden, The Dog Stars is both savagely funny and achingly sad, a breathtaking story about what it means to be human.
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, c2012.
ISBN: 9780307959942
Characteristics: 319 p. ;,23 cm.


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Nov 22, 2019

Interesting apocalypse story of an epidemic that has wiped out about 98% of the population. Main character lives on an acreage with one other survivor and they share patrol duties to fend off mauraders. He is a lonely pilot with a small plane and he and his dog can occassionally venture out to explore and look for other survivors. Satisfying ending.

ArapahoeAnnaL Aug 05, 2019

If you don't already treasure our beautiful planet you will after reading this post-apocalypse story narrated by a man who longs for the lush forests, cold streams, and healthy trout of the time before.

Jul 14, 2019

I read enough dystopia and thought that between The Road and Blindness it had all been said, but then Heller does something fresh. I liked the stream of consciousness-type writing and the truncated sentencing, I liked the protagonist Big Hig, I liked where the plot went and how it got there. All of the traits Heller imbued in Hig - his cluelessness, his yearning, his despair, his denial, his wisdom, his guilt - all made perfect sense. Then there's Jasper. Loved him as a Symbol, loved him as a Dog.

ArapahoeMaryA Apr 11, 2019

I re-read this story of post-apocalyptic America told in poetic, fragmented prose to refresh my memory. Yes, I still like this book – because of and in spite of Heller’s unique style. Oddly, the love scenes did not resonate, but the love between a man and his dog tugged mightily at my heartstrings.

Mar 15, 2019

Do not let the guns and gore steer you away from this exceptional post-apocalyptic tale of a world trying to make a comeback from a flu pandemic.

A man (Hig) hears a radio transmission. He know there are other people alive somewhere besides himself and his beloved dog, Jasper. Will he fly his 1956 Cessna to the point of no return to find them?

At its core, it is really about humanity, love and loyalty.

One of the best books I will ever read in my lifetime.

Jan 21, 2019

Excellent story. Writing is a bit ragged and hard to get use to. Probably should read a second time to pick up the nuances. Would recommend the book.

Oct 13, 2018

Other readers have a LOT to say. There is not too much that I can add to those wonderful appraisals. I have not enjoyed a book this much in a long time. It is very different than most apocalyptic books. This is the story of the human spirit, 9 years after the decimation of most of the world's population. When you lose the very last of those you love, what do you do?

Jan 27, 2018

Interesting that I saw others say they enjoyed the first 200 pages or so - that part of the book was, to me, a slow slog that could have easily been half its length. It boils down to a cycle of 1) something bad happens, 2) main character goes fishing, 3) hikes/hunts, and then 4) a little progress is made talking to half-friend half-protector Bangley. Rinse and repeat.
I can see why the author would chose to do this. It's in line with the theme of the book. When is life worth living? How can you move on from trauma - do you really? But I personally found this section stretched thin.
The last third of the book takes a much different pace. After reading about the main character's routine for so long, this change is more strongly felt.

May 10, 2017

The author fluidly assesses the intrinsic worth of a person's life and the accompanying notion of when is living worthwhile. The Dog Stars reads as an individual's (Hig's) daily profit and loss ledger statement, presented in the form of a forensically detailed, introspectively interlaced, play-by-play. Heller engenders a melancholy atmosphere, subtly pervaded by a continual sense of chance, possibility, and at times, inevitability. Post apocalypse scenarios are difficult situations for sustaining credibility vis-à-vis a typically normal, average existence. Heller succeeds by setting up and maintaining an austere, matter of fact, framework throughout.

IanH_KCMO Oct 04, 2016

A heartbreaking post-apocalyptic novel written by a poet. No seriously! Poet and adventurer! And it's easily the most beautiful prose I have read in a long, long time. The voice Heller installs in his protagonist Hig is one of a man with pretty much one thing keeping him together nearly 10 years after a pandemic wiped out almost everyone. He lives with his dog and a borderline sociopathic gun nut at a small Colorado airport near the mountains fending off marauders and waiting for the moment his "neighbor" realizes Hig is obsolete. Not pulling his weight despite his airborn reconnaissance missions. And then something happens that causes Hig's whole life to become unglued because of course it does. That's what makes this such an excellent human sort of experience. It's like Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" in re the lyricism of the prose and the no-man's-land the Earth's survivors create in the absence of a structured society. But where McCarthy's worldview was a bleak one of a father trying to get his son to safety via overcoming horror after horror in the future world, Heller's novel is full of hope and pinpoints the small pleasures that emerge after everything you love has been taken away. It's about a broken man attempting to fix himself. Then again, I'm just a total sucker for guy-and-his-dog stories.

View All Comments


Add a Quote
ArapahoeMaryA Apr 11, 2019

You can't metabolize the loss. It is in the cells of your face, your chest, behind the eyes, in the twists of your gut. Muscle, sinew, bone. It is all of you. When you walk you propel it forward....Then it sits with you. The pain puts its arm over your shoulders. It is your closest friend, steadfast. And at night you can't bear to hear your own breath, unaccompanied by another. And underneath the big stillness like a score, is the roaring of the cataract of everything being and being torn away.

So I wonder what it is this need to tell. To animate somehow the deathly stillness of the profoundest beauty. Breathe life in the telling.

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at Library

To Top