by John Atcheson
The Dog Stars, a debut novel by Peter Heller, succeeds on so many levels it’s almost frightening.
It is a piece of literary fiction that is likely to be a best seller.
It is a dystopic future tale that is nevertheless full of beauty.
It is a moving novel that illustrates the horror of climate change, without ever mentioning climate change.
Heller paints a grim picture of the world we are even now sculpting, populates it with people who are desperately violent or violently desperate, but leavens it with a triumph of the human spirit in the form of Hig, one of the most endearing and unlikely heroes to show up in fiction in a long time.
Hig, a pilot, lives in an abandoned airport in what appears to be an armed truce with his companion of nine years, a tough survivalist who refers to himself only as Bangley. Their relationship seems, at first, strictly one of convenience. Each contributes to the survivability of the other. Bangley tackles the job of killing marauders with verve; Hig does so with reluctance. He wants to believe in people, but it is a world which punishes people who do.