Wednesday, 30 January 2013

The Dog Stars - Peter Heller

Product Details
Hig. Widowed. Healthy after the world wide plague or whatever it was. Can fly. Has a plane.

This is the way Hig talks, a sort of fractured stream of consciousness because he'd had the fever, the fever that sort of fries your brains a bit, but come back to the land of the living and had to get on with it. He's living, no, make that holed out, at a disused airfield, along with Bangley, a man of few words but a lot of weaponry. As luck would have it, the airfield is on a flat plain in the mountains so it's easy to see anyone who approaches and pick them off whether they look friendly or not. There's plenty of aircraft fuel because the Cessna doesn't use much, so Hig can fly his observation circle every few days, and also fly over to see a small group of Mennonites who seem to have survived so far although their health is now damaged with something akin to AIDS. So Hig and his dog Jasper, and Bangley live their days and nights. They have fresh vegetables, there are deer in the forest, they have fresh water, and around the airfield, the choice of houses to live in. They are going to do the best they can until, presumably, they die. Until the day when Hig hears a voice from another airfield....

I found it very difficult to read the first two pages or so, mainly because of the style, but stayed with it and was certainly well rewarded and soon found the rythmn, and then I couldn't put it down. You are inside a man's head - a man who is damaged, but who desperately hopes that this is not all there is. There are no chapters, but the book is well divided into short bites, so that there are stopping places for you to take a breath. And it is that kind of read; I found myself stopping and gasping from time to time. I also found myself crying too, at a point where I defy all but the strongest to do the same. This is an intense novel, of a subject touched on many times before, but, I think, unique in the style of telling. For me, I lived his every day with him, knew how he felt, despaired when he did, and so wanted things to turn out right. This is Peter Heller's first novel and it's a cracker and a half. If he writes like this the first time round, I'll be looking for more from him.

I would certainly recommend this book for book groups, because it will definitely give people something to discuss - whether they love it like me, or not.
[copy of my review for Amazon Vine]