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How does the world end?

Under the Dog Star: A Rachel Goddard Mystery #4

According to nonfiction veteran Peter Heller in his dystopian and elegiac debut novel, "The Dog Stars,'' it ends with a cough and a fever. We learn of this from Heller's narrator, a small-craft pilot known as Hig, who has lost his wife to a global flu epidemic that has wiped out most of the US population.

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Hig has set up shop at a rural Colorado airport, alone except for his beloved dog, Jasper, and Bangley, an irascible former Navy SEAL who lives on the other side of the tarmac from him. With Jasper in the copilot's chair, Hig flies over the countryside and forages for fuel and large stashes of supplies.

With Jasper running point, he also hunts and fishes for food. While Jasper offers help and companionship, Bangley also proves an irreplaceable and trusted ally.

Under the Dog Star by Sandra Parshall | | THE BIG THRILL

There is, for instance, the time Bangley covers his back as the two dispatch a half-dozen marauders who attempt to overrun their airfield at night. And when Hig finds himself tracked by a band of attackers upon returning from a deer hunt in the nearby foothills of the Rockies, Bangley comes to the rescue with a sniper rifle and a grenade launcher.

Hig narrates these violent events in short distinctive bursts of paragraphs reminiscent of a journal but filled with the urgency of present events.

Sandra Parshall

But lest you think this book is only about physical survival let me assure you that Hig finds himself nearly overrun by memories of life before the epidemic, mainly his love for his late wife, whom he, at her pleading behest, dispatched in her hospital bed with a pillow — memories no weapon can defend against. Clearly, Hig finds that keeping his soul alive after the lamentable past takes a major effort on his part.

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