The Dog Stars by Peter Heller is a heavenly book, a stellar achievement by a debut novelist that manages to combine sparkling prose with truly memorable, shining, characters. It contains all of the lyricism of Cormac McCarthy at his best.
Utter joy... A suspenseful tale told with glorious drama and lyrical flair... The real delight is the nature writing. The River is a fiction addition to the New Landscape writing of Robert Macfarlane and Rebecca Solnit, prose so vivid and engaging that a city-dwelling reviewer can feel the clammy cold of a fog over a river or the heat of subterranean tree roots burning underfoot in the aftermath of a fire... We can feel the sharpness of the rocks and the trilling excitement of the river as it approaches rapids.
Heller once again chronicles life-or-death adventure with empathy for the natural world and the characters who people it. He writes most mightily of the boys' friendship and their beloved, uncompromising wilderness, depicting those layers of life that lie far beyond what is more commonly seen.
"Unless we are very lucky, someone is going to die," one of the adventurers in Peter Heller's new novel says. Like his last book, The Dog Stars, The River is a beauty-of-nature/cruelty-of-humanity hybrid, but this time he leans into the thriller aspect of the tale, with gripping results... Heller has created indelible characters in Wynn and Jake.
Using an artist's eye to describe Jack and Wynn's wilderness world, Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist Heller has transformed his own outdoor experiences into a heart-pounding adventure that's hard to put down.
Two college friends' leisurely river trek becomes an ordeal of fire and human malice... Heller confidently manages a host of tensions... and his pacing is masterful as well, briskly but calmly capturing the scenery in slower moments, then running full-throttle and shifting to barrelling prose when danger is imminent... Fresh and affecting... An exhilarating tale delivered with the pace of a thriller and the wisdom of a grizzled nature guide
Suspenseful... With its evocative descriptions of nature's splendour and brutality, Heller's novel beautifully depicts the powers that can drive humans apart - and those that compel them to return repeatedly to one another
In The Dog Stars, Peter Heller serves up an insightful account of physical, mental, and spiritual survival unfolded in dramatic and often lyrical.
Ravishing. . . The supreme pleasure of this book is the lovely writing. . . The pages of The Dog Stars are damp with grief for what is lost and can never be recovered. But there are moments of unexpected happiness, of real human interaction, infused with love and hope, like the twinkling of a star we might wish upon, which makes this end-of-the-world novel more like a rapturous beginning. . . . Remarkable.
Heller writes with deep respect and empathy for not only nature and its inhabitants but also of human frailty, friendship, loyalty, and love. This exquisite book made me feel so many things-terror, sorrow, excitement-and isn't that what it's all about? Heller packs a ton of adventure and emotion in this short novel, and I dare you to put it down once you've picked it up. Stunning, beautiful, life-affirming, and heartbreaking. What else can I say?
Masterly paced and artfully told, The River is a page-turner that demands the reader slow down and relish the sheer poetry of the language... Through stories of man versus nature date back to the Odyssey, The River thrills as Heller invites his characters to confront their own mortality without losing sight of the deep connections between humans and their environment.
Poetic and unnerving... The River is a slim book - just over 250 pages - but it is full of rushing life and profound consequences. Every move Jack and Wynn make along the river has the chance to kill them or those they're trying to save, and the result is a novel that sweeps you away, each page filled with wonder and awe for a natural world we can quantify with science but can rarely predict with emotion.
[The Dog Stars] gripped me-it's the real deal. One of those books that makes you happy for literature.
A dreamy, post-apocalyptic love letter to things of beauty, big and small.
Magical and life-affirming.
Urgent, visceral writing - I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. A beautiful, heartrending exploration of male friendship'
A fiery tour de force... [The River] recalls his debut, The Dog Stars, with its poetic, staccato sentences and masterfully crafted prose... The story itself resembles a trip down a river-some parts are peaceful and allow for quiet introspection and big, deep breaths. But then you hit the rapids and the danger and risk jump off the page, forcing a sense of urgency. In those thrilling parts, reading required self-discipline. I wanted to know what happened so badly that I'd read too fast and had to retrace my steps to savor Heller's storytelling. And what a story he tells... I could not put this book down. It truly was terrifying and unutterably beautiful.
From start to finish, Heller carries the reader aloft on graceful prose, intense action, and deeply felt emotion.
Surprising and irresistible.