x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Love and hope after the end of the world

Peter Heller's debut novel takes on a post-apocalyptic world and the redemptive power of love.

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller.
The Dog Stars by Peter Heller.

Yes, this is another post-apocalyptic survival novel. But before you roll your eyes, know that there are no zombies or vampires; the antagonists consist of other, more savage humans, but the main character, Hig, battles much more than that on a personal level.

Hig is a former contractor and poet, a survivor of a viral epidemic that wiped out most of the world's population nine years before, with global warming making conditions on Earth even more dire for those few remaining. He is joined by his dog Jasper and the survivalist-minded Bangley, living at a small airport in Colorado, which they occasionally have to defend against marauders.

Hig lost his wife to the virus and is wallowing in despair, but finds solace in flying his Cessna airplane. He picks up a lone radio signal on one of these flights which prompts a search for further survivors.

Heller's debut novel does a good job of making the reader empathise with Hig by having him narrate in a vernacular stream-of-thought style. Very similar to Cormac McCarthy's The Road, it's a story of tremendous loss but also of hope in humanity and in love.