Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Book Review Club - The Dog Stars

The Dog Stars
Peter Heller
Adult ("Guy" Book)

I don't know about you but picking out holiday presents for the men in my life is like going fishing. I never know if I'm going to land a keeper, or... a guppie. The Dog Stars is THE guy book of the year, and by guy, I mean, actual manly men who do manly things. Not only that, once your giftee finishes, you can mine the book for all kinds of thought-provoking writer tricks.

So, without further ado, basic premise: Man vs. Nature, Man, and Himself. Use this as your lead line when said present is unpacked. It will hook 'em. When asked for further details by other (likely female) interested parties - Hig, a survivor of a pandemic flu that wipes out the known human race, retreats to the community, now deserted, around the air strip where he keeps his plane, with his dog, Jasper (warning, Jasper is old), and fights to survive. He makes an ally, who is a weapons master. They are attacked by unfriendlies. Hig eventually leaves to find more survivors, cue - Eve. 

This book has got everything a guy reader could want - guns, planes, dogs, fishing, hunting, fighting for survival, Adam and Eve (note: this is NOT a kids' book), even poetry. Didn't see that coming, right? Neither did I, but Heller uses it boldly and uses it well.

What can the writer can take away from this piece? Heller is a poet, so the very style of word on page is as unique as a fingerprint. Rules of grammar aren't just bent or broken, they've been reinvented. For instance, Heller uses no italics to set off dialogue. Often, he doesn't even set it off at all. That made reading, at times, a little harder. It also, for me, distanced the story from the here and now. On the other hand, his overall style came across as journaling, so for some, it could make the telling more intimate. At the very least, not using "quotation marks" is a very nifty tool, if you can figure out how to use it. I'm still working on that part.

For more great stocking stuffers, bob over to Barrie Summy's site, and stock up for a very Happy New Year!

5 comments:

Sarah Laurence said...

It's interesting to see a review outside your normal fare. Personally, I prefer quotation marks because punctuation makes reading easier and allows me to focus on the story, not the technique.

Lucy said...

The premise sounds interesting but when you give a warning that the dog is old I worry that he doesn't make it to the end of the book. Thinking that, I would probably start crying every time he was mentioned. :(

But it is good to know it's good for a guy's gift. :)

Thanks for the review.

Jennifer A. Jilks said...

I love that, 'a guppy!'
I've found I must avoid most male mystery writers as I cannot stand the gore & sex!
I'm with Sarah.
I like something easy to read visually.

Ellen Booraem said...

Hmm. This has definite possibilities. My man and I have a rule that we ONLY give books for Christmas, and his birthday was at Thanksgiving so I'm desperate for ideas. Thanks for this one!

Barrie said...

What a brilliant review! I can just see the sign by the end cap: "This is the manly book of the year!" Thanks for reviewing, Stacy. And Happy Holidays!