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The Dog Starsby Peter Heller
Monday, May 19, 2014 07:30 PM
Powell's City of Books on Burnside, Portland, OR
Peter Heller, the celebrated author of the breakout bestseller The Dog Stars, returns with an achingly beautiful, suspenseful second novel about an artist trying to outrun his past. A stunning, savage tale of art and violence, love and grief, The Painter (Knopf) is the story of a man who longs to transcend the shadows in his heart, a man intent on using the losses he has suffered to create a meaningful life.
A post-apocalyptic story with an open, elegant heart, Heller's debut novel follows a pilot, Hig, and an ex-military man, Bangley, in their fight for survival. Although stuck together in an uneasy partnership, they each flawlessly compensate for the deficits in the other and guard their "home" — an abandoned airport — from marauding intruders. Even as danger lurks around every corner and death is present in every exchange, the two work together as a well-oiled machine. Yet, nine years on, Hig is lost and yearning for something he can't quite name. Leaving Bangley on his own, Hig takes off in his little Cessna and flies beyond the point of no return, holding onto the only thing he can — hope.
The Dog Stars is an achingly beautiful book with characters that are wholly human. It's a dazzling story full of loss, pain, and sorrow, but also truth. And every page is absolutely humming with brilliance.
Synopses & Reviews
A riveting, powerful debut novel from an award-winning adventure writer: the story of a pilot surviving in a world filled with loss — and of 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 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.
"Great expectations for this first novel, featuring a pilot lost in a world gutted by a flu pandemic. When he receives a random radio transmission, he realizes that he's not alone. Heller comes naturally by the edgy adventure promised here." Library Journal
"Leave it to Peter Heller to imagine a post-apocalyptic world that contains as much loveliness as it does devastation. His likable hero, Hig, flies around what was once Colorado in his 1956 Cessna, chasing all the same things we chase in these pre-annihilation days: love, friendship, the solace of the natural world, the chance to perform some small kindness, and a good dog for a co-pilot. The Dog Stars is a wholly compelling and deeply engaging debut." Pam Houston, author of Contents May Have Shifted
"Take the sensibility of Hemingway. Or James Dickey. Place it in a world where a flu mutation has wiped out ninety-nine percent of the population. Add in a heartbroken man with a fishing rod, some guns, a small plane. Don't forget the dog. Now imagine this man retains more hope than might be wise in such a battered and brutal time. More trust. More hunger for love — more capacity for it, too. That's what Peter Heller has given us in his beautifully written first novel. The Dog Stars is a gripping tale of one man's fight for survival against impossibly long odds. A man who has lost nearly everything but his soul. And what's so moving about Heller's book is that he shows us how sometimes a big soul is the only thing a man needs: the keystone, the center pillar, the hunk of masonry upon which all else will rise or fall." Scott Smith, author of A Simple Plan and The Ruins
"Heller is a masterful storyteller and The Dog Stars is a beautiful tribute to the resilience of nature and the relentless human drive to find meaning and deep connections with life and the living. In this chillingly realistic post-apocalyptic setting, readers will root for Heller's characters and be moved by their toughness as well as their tenderness." Julianna Baggott, author of Pure
"The Dog Stars is a giant of a novel that goes about its profound business with what looks alarmingly like ease. For all those who thought Cormac McCarthy's The Road the last word on the post-apocalyptic world — think again. Peter Heller has dark and glittering news from the future, and delivers it in prose that stops you like a wolf in the snow. Make time and space for this savage, tender, brilliant book." Glen Duncan, author of The Last Werewolf and Talulla Rising
"Richly evocative yet streamlined journal entries propel the high-stakes plot while simultaneously illuminating Hig's nuanced states of mind as isolation and constant vigilance exact their toll, along with his sorrow for the dying world....Heller's surprising and irresistible blend of suspense, romance, social insight, and humor creates a cunning form of cognitive dissonance neatly pegged by Hig as an 'apocalyptic parody of Norman Rockwell' — a novel, that is, of spiky pleasure and signal resonance." Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred)
"In the tradition of postapocalyptic literary fiction such as Cormac McCarthy's The Road and Jim Crace's The Pesthouse, this hypervisceral first novel by adventure writer Heller (Kook) takes place nine years after a superflu has killed off much of mankind....With its evocative descriptions of hunting, fishing, and flying, this novel, perhaps the world's most poetic survival guide, reads as if Billy Collins had novelized one of George Romero's zombie flicks. From start to finish, Heller carries the reader aloft on graceful prose, intense action, and deeply felt emotion." Publishers Weekly (starred)
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.
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.
About the Author
Peter Heller holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop in both fiction and poetry. An award-winning adventure writer and longtime contributor to NPR, Heller is a contributing editor at Outside magazine, Men's Journal, and National Geographic Adventure, and a regular contributor to Bloomberg Businessweek. He is also the author of several nonfiction books, including Kook; The Whale Warriors; and Hell or High Water: Surviving Tibet's Tsangpo River. He lives in Denver, Colorado.
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