The Dog Stars by Peter Heller, narrated by Mark Deakins
Published in audio by Random House Audio, published in print by Knopf, both imprint of Random House
In a world where nearly everyone he has ever known is dead from a terrible flu or the blood disease that followed it, Hig survives with his dog Jasper, his plane he has christened The Beast, and Bangley, his possibly crazy survivalist neighbor. Despite the fact that almost everyone he comes across wants to kill him for one reason or another – to take what he has, to eliminate him as a threat – Hig still retains much of who he was Before; he refuses to kill anyone unless absolutely necessary, and even takes supplies to a Mennonite family infected with the blood disease. In short, Hig still believes in humanity and has hope – however small – for the future. It is this hope that drives many of Hig’s actions, that force him to seek out what he believes might be another band of survivors, people that might even know something about the world beyond their small camp.
Thoughts on the story:
As ever with post-apocalyptic novels I really, really wanted more details on exactly what happened. A fever and a blood sickness, yes, but why? How? The Dog Stars, though, made me forget for large chunks of time that I didn’t know all the details, lost as I became in Hig’s bitterly sad story. The Dog Stars has the best of all post-apocalyptic worlds, introducing elements both of survivalism and of the breakdown of human decency – and the places it can still be found, even in the most dire of circumstances. Heller’s prose brilliantly evokes life after Before, setting the scene not only with his words, but with the tone they carry.
Thoughts on the audio production:
Deakins is a new-to-me narrator and he did a wonderful job with The Dog Stars. The fever left Hig’s brain slightly compromised, and he certainly has psychological damage from the way he has had to live after Before. All of this leads to some unconventional thought processes. Heller represents these well in the text, but I was worried they wouldn’t entirely come through in audio, but Deakins interprets them very well. There are times where you almost wonder if there has been an editing error because a pause is so long or seemingly oddly placed, but as soon as Deakins begins speaking again you realize that this narration must, at times, be uncomfortable because our protagonist is himself deeply uncomfortable. All in all the narration works wonderfully to convey the tone of the book.
Fans of post-apocalyptic fiction shouldn’t miss The Dog Stars. Recommended.
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