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Literature / The Dog Stars

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The Dog Stars is a post-apocalyptic novel by Peter Heller. It chronicles the struggles of a man trying find human connection after a super-flu has wiped out almost the entire human population.

This novel has examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Bangley's backstory.
  • After the End: Most of the population has died from a super flu. Many of the survivors of that are suffering from a blood disease.
  • Badass Back: Bangley kills a bandit with a burst of sub-machine gun fire while looking directly at Hig, apparently to make a point.
  • Big Friendly Dog: Jasper, Hig's hunting dog and only real companion for most of nine years.
  • Blessed with Suck: The "Families" are only still alive because they all have the blood disease, meaning any passing bandit bands don't go anywhere near them.
  • Blood Knight: Bangley was basically waiting for the end of the world so that he could do nothing but kill people.
  • Cats Are Mean: In contrast the Jasper's loyalty, the cats of the airport couple drink the man's blood while he's still alive.
  • Cold Sniper: Bangley, Pops and the airport man.
  • Crazy Cat Lady: The living quarters of the murderous airport couple is littered with cats.
  • Creepy Souvenir: The airport couple collect them off their victims and display them in their room.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: Bangley knows almost nothing about anything except building and using weapons. He relies on Higs for everything else. Subverted, as Higs eventually discovers that Bangley was raised a farmer and has a whole wealth of useful skills that he's refused to acknowledge.
  • Evil Old Folks: The couple living in the airport, who lure pilots to their doom.
  • For the Evulz: This appears to be the motive of the airport couple, Higs notes that they certainly weren't getting anything useful off their victims.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Bangley was no one of consequence or training before the end of civilization. Now he's a bloodthirsty one-man-army with countless notches on his belt.
  • Good Cannot Comprehend Evil: Higs has a hard time understanding the old couple in the airport.
  • Hidden Depths: Bangley is even more competent than he first appears.
  • Last-Name Basis: Bangley, who never tells Higs his first name even after nine years of living together. Higs has to find out from someone else.
  • Last Stand: Bangley has one while Higs is away when their home is attacked by a large group of raiders. He manages to kill all of the intruders and survives long enough for Higs to return with medical aid.
  • Meaningful Name: Bangley is a gun and explosives enthusiast.
  • Mercy Kill: Higs did this to his wife, at her agonized request, as she suffered a lingering death thanks to the super-flu.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Bangley's last stand while Higs was away. Higs and company return to survey the carnage and eventually find Bangley still clinging to life.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Pops.
  • Papa Wolf: Pops. Don't mess with his daughter. Though once she makes it clear that she's attracted to Higs, he if anything encourages their relationship.
  • Post-Apocalyptic Dog: Jasper, a Big Friendly Dog who is Higs' only stable companion through most of the apocalypse.
  • Properly Paranoid: Bangley. The attitude saves his and Higs' lives more than once.
  • Pull the Thread: Lots of little details lead Higs to realize just in time that something is very wrong as he is landing the Beast at the airport near the end of the novel.
  • Retired Badass: Pops, who is an ex-Navy SEAL
  • Riddle for the Ages: Where did the flu come from? Where did the blood virus come from? Why is the environment changing? What's the deal with the Arabs? Are they really the ones flying the 747s overhead at the end of the novel?
  • Serial Killer: Again, that's essentially what the couple at the airport are.
  • Sherlock Scan: Pops does this with Higs at their first meeting, before they even talk.
  • Slept Through the Apocalypse: Cima and Pops, metaphorically. They fled to their remote ranch before things got really bad, and stayed there. When they finally fly over the wreckage of the nearest city in the Beast, Cima throws up.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Bangley and Pops take the game up after finally meeting.
  • Sociopathic Hero: Bangley cares only about survival and seems to get a kick out of killing people. Luckily he's on Higs's side.
  • Vorpal Pillow: How Higs put his wife out of her terminal misery.
  • Wanton Cruelty to the Common Comma: Higs's narration uses extremely idiosyncratic punctuation, apparently to represent his erratic mind. He's an educated man, and an aspiring writer, so we know that he could punctuate properly if he were actually writing it down. Spoken dialogue is always formatted according to standard English.
  • Warrior Poet: Higs is a gentle soul, but can kick ass when he really needs to. He was also an aspiring poet at one point and still thinks about poetry.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Bangley kills a child in a raiding party without hesitation.