In The Dog Stars, a flu pandemic, and then a blood disease, has swept through the United States, Europe, and other parts of the world, killing most people and destroying much of the environment. One of the survivors is the story's narrator, Hig.
When the story opens, nine years have passed since the crisis hit. Hig, a pilot, lives with his dog Jasper at a small abandoned airport in Colorado, just a few miles from the mountains. Also living at the airport is another survivor, Bangley. Bangley's sole focus is, in this extremely dangerous new world, on defending their turf by whatever means necessary: guns, rockets, grenades, whatever it takes to keep out marauders. Hig understands the necessity for this violence. Most of the other survivors are, he says, "Not Nice." But unlike Bangley, Hig doesn't enjoy the killing. He does what is deemed necessary to survive.
The Dog Stars is Hig's story of survival, which author Peter Heller writes in a spare, yet powerful style that perfectly draws the reader into Hig's experience. The somewhat jumpy narrative reflects Hig's condition, emotionally and physically. Although a survivor, Hig did get ill and suffered from high fever for two weeks. The fever "cooked my brains", he says, and ideas no longer rest comfortably together in his mind. In addition to a cooked brain, Hig is still shaken from memories of his losses and from the experiences that occurred during the height of the pandemic. And although he is now relatively safe, that safety cannot be taken for granted.
And so here is Hig. Barely surviving. Marginally safe. A man who has lost everything. A poet who must now kill to defend his corner of the world. A fisherman who mourns the destruction of the environment. After all the terrible things that have happened and continue to happen, will he move beyond merely surviving to being happy? Can he? That is what we find out.
For an amazing reading experience, check out The Dog Stars.