Wednesday, August 21, 2013

THE DOG STARS by Peter Heller

Bangley is a survivor; he has an arsenal and knows how to use it.  Hig has something that Bangley needs, though—the ability to pilot a plane.  In post-apocalyptic Colorado, these two men have an uneasy symbiotic relationship, as they fiercely guard their perimeter surrounding a small airfield against ruthless intruders.  After tragedy strikes Hig, the narrator, he flies off toward Grand Junction, where he picked up a radio transmission from the airport tower three years ago.  He's not exactly sure what his purpose is, but he has only enough fuel to get there; he'll have to fill up somewhere in order to make the return trip.  If you've read Cormac McCarthy's The Road, and Hig obviously has, which I found sort of bizarre, then you know how gut-wrenching this type of novel can be.  I found this one, however, to be refreshingly triumphant and almost upbeat, except for the aforementioned tragedy, and I would classify it as more of an adventure novel.  Each near-calamity brings our two heroes to a fuller understanding and appreciation for one another's skills and viewpoints.  Even when Hig is off on his mission to find other survivors, he imagines what Bangley would advise him to do in each dicey situation.  Much of the text is devoted to Hig's love of flying, which I know nothing about, but the feeling of soaring above the treetops felt uplifting, if you'll pardon the pun.  One of Hig's favorite things about flying is the ability to see the world below in miniature, with all the neat perpendicular roads and rows of houses.  The absence of human life is less obvious from his Cessna, and he can cling to the hope that there are human connections to be made out there somewhere.  Bottom line:  This is the best book I've read in ages.

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