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Peter Heller: The Dog Stars

Obsessed though the popular culture may be with the End of the World As We Know It, there’s always somewhere new and compelling to go with any premise. In his debut novel, journalist Peter Heller crafts a richly emotional perspective on how humans choose to respond when confronted with calamity.

His protagonist in The Dog Stars is Hig, one of the few human survivors of an influenza pandemic, holed up in the Colorado mountains with only one neighbor he can trust. Nine years out from the plague, life has become a routine of finding the necessities to survive and fending off occasional intrusions from outside threats. But when one of Hig’s few remaining points of stability is removed, he takes the ultimate risk: Getting in his plane and seeking out the possibility of other people in the world with whom he can connect.

The Dog Stars seems doomed to have people comparing it to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and indeed Heller himself seems to acknowledge McCarthy’s book in one sly reference. Yet there’s a singular voice at work here in Hig’s halting first-person narration that turns his mind into a battleground between two choices of handling apocalypse: self-preserving fear, or risky humanity. At times funny, at times thrilling, at times simply heartbreaking and always rich with a love of nature, The Dog Stars finds a peculiar poetry in deciding that there’s really no such thing as the end of the world—just a series of decisions about how we live in whatever world we’ve got. (Scott Renshaw)

Date: Aug 15, 2012
Time: 7 pm
Phone: 801-484-9100
Address: 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City, 84105
Where: King's English