Peter Heller

The Dog Stars

  • 36-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features 13 chapter summaries and 5 sections of expert analysis
  • Written by a professional writer with an MFA in Creative Writing
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The Dog Stars Summary and Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 36-page guide for “The Dog Stars” by Peter Heller includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 13 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Displacement and The Beauty of Nature.

Plot Summary

The Dog Stars is a post-apocalyptic novel, published in 2012, by Peter Heller. It was selected as the Apple iBooks Novel of the Year, and an Atlantic Monthly and San Francisco Examiner Best Book of the Year. It follows the experience of Hig, the narrator, and his partner, Bruce Bangley, as the two patrol and protect their eight-mile perimeter around an abandoned airport in Erie, Colorado, outside of Denver, where fuel and survival supplies are plentiful.

The novel picks up nine years after a flu epidemic and then blood disease devastates the human population. Survivors are the only remaining humans, and life becomes almost militaristic. As the novel progresses, Hig patrols the perimeter in his Cessna plane, nicknamed the Beast, with his dog, Jasper, as co-pilot. Hig lost his wife, Melissa, to the flu and so Jasper is Hig’s best friend, and who Hig loves more than anything in the world. Book 1 explores Hig and Bangley’s experiences at the abandoned airport, as they protect their space from intruders at all costs, which means killing anyone who comes too close. Tension rises when nine marauders stalk Hig on his way home from a fishing and hunting trip, and it’s Bangley’s shoot-first-ask-questions-later survivalist tactics that save Hig’s life. In addition to the perimeter, Hig patrols the land around Erie in the Beast, which adds moments oflyricism to the narrative. Hig finds great beauty and freedom in flying. Hig also uses these opportunities to bring supplies to a group of Mennonite families, whose blood infection keeps them quarantined, and also keeps intruders away from them.

After the death of Jasper, Book 2 covers Hig’s flight towards Grand Junction, where three years ago Hig heard a voice respond from the air traffic control tower radio. Hig knows he’s flown too far and he must find fuel. From the air, Hig spots a stone house and a man and woman, and he decides to land to scope out the situation. This leads to the old man, Pops, a former Navy SEAL, surprising Hig by shoving a rifle in Hig’s back, then binding Hig’s shoulders. At the stone house, Pop’s daughter, Cima, tells her father to untie Hig. Pops and Cima have cattle and sheep, and the encounter leads to Hig’s best meal in nine years. Hig spends weeks with Pops and Cima, as the three prepare to fly to Grand Junction for fuel, then to Erie, since the creek in the canyon where they live will dry up in summer.

Book 3 covers complications regarding the flight to Grand Junction, where the voice on the tower radio instructs Hig to descend into a trap meant to kill Hig, Cima, and Pops. Hig notices in time, and once they safely land, shots are fired from the tower. Pops shoots back, killing the person in the tower, which they later discover is an old man and his wife. But when Hig, Pops, and Cima return to Erie, they find the airport hangar half destroyed and Bangley missing. They soon find Bangley covered in dried blood. Cima, a doctor, nurses Bangley and the four get on with life in Erie, as Hig and Cima develop an intimate, loving relationship. The book explores themes of displacement, haunted dreams, the simplicity of nature, and the smallness of humankind in the face of nature.

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