“The Dog Stars” – A Poetic Apocalypse

dogstars3blogSome books have the ability to sit and stew  in your mind for weeks after you’ve finished.

I have a feeling that this will be one of those books. It’s only been about 16 hours since I finished it but, it haunted my dreams last night and I keep coming back to it when my thoughts wander.

I’m personally biased against anything to do with the end of the world. I have a dark fascination with the outcome of human morality if absolutely everything were to collapse.

This book does an excellent job at exploring what happens to humans after there is no systems, no rules, no government. As far as any of the characters know (according to the last news reports) over 90% of the population has been killed by a mutated flu virus. Most of the people who  survived the mutation have contracted an autoimmune blood disease similar to AIDS – they are left to slowly die along with the wildlife that is disappearing because of warming weather.

What makes it different from most apocalyptic books is the perspective and poetic-prose format.  The protagonist is a deep-thinking (sometimes against his own will) pilot that defends a municipal airport against the ruthless and wild survivors that roam the dying land. He has a weapons-expert partner who seems to have been ruthless even in the ‘before times.’ It has been almost a decade since the world went quiet and the two men have simply learned to survive side-by-side.

*Warning: There may be a few spoilers in the next part*

But the protagonist (Hig) is constantly conflicted by where he finds the drive to live. What does he have to live for? The fiber of his being left when his wife died from the flu with most of the population.

So he flies a perimeter around their fort with the only other companion who brings him any kind of solace – his dog Jasper.

This book is full of beautiful sentences and simple but thought-provoking situations. I’m also a sucker for those sentences that stand out on a page. The ones that you write down and tack on your wall (hopefully I’m not the only one who does that). And this book is full of them.

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There were a few places in the book that made the feminist and English major inside me cringe. For example, using flower metaphors for women. Not only is it a little over-used and corny, it doesn’t help the fact that even apocalyptic books can’t seem to stray away from ‘classic’ ways of portraying women – delicate and not directly active within the story.

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However, this is just my biases and overall the book is fantastic. It produces unease and nightmares at one end, while inspiring thoughts on relationships and their effects on people in a baser world at the other.

I highly recommend this book for other End-of-the-World enthusiasts as well as anyone looking for a heavy summer read.

Slainte!

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