Tuesday, December 4, 2012
The Dog Stars by Peter Heller
Actually, it was definitely one of the best books of my year but it wasn’t because I learned “what it means to be human,” but because Heller told an old-fashioned story in a new way. I could have read on, far past the last pages. The writing was stellar. Tension and restraint braid the narrative and propel the story. Heller took us on a flight in a plane packed with only essentials: he jettisoned anything that didn’t add to the narrative…pronouns, prepositions, even nouns and verbs were flung aside. If less is more, we get just enough to set our imaginations free. I loved it.
The setting is post-apocalyptic times. Let me state that this is not my favorite venue. But readers who find might someone else’s vision less than fully imagined, put your reservations aside in this case. This vision is fascinating, but it is the writing that makes the experience. There is a clipped, muscular quality to this narrative that kept me rapt. Heller managed to make even his hard-bitten characters completely absorbing, flawed but generous in unexpected ways. These are characters we care about. And I suppose it is about what humans want and need to thrive. While it’s frightening at times, it is not dreary, not really. It’s a love story.
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