Nine years after an illness kills off much of the human race, Hig and his dog Jasper have etched out a pretty nice little existence – with the help of their misanthropic neighbor Bangley. Hig and Bangley have developed a reliable method of defending their Colorado homestead, which includes a small airport hanger and Hig’s trusty plane, from scavengers and other survivors who might be interested in the comforts they have created.
To survive Bangley handles the dirty work of armament. Hig regularly takes to the air to warn approaching bodies that they are unwelcome, and Bangley takes to his watchtower whenever survivors manage to breach the perimeter of their area.
But most of Hig’s life is quiet…tending a garden, fishing and hunting, cooking and taking care of his plane. But a radio message he gets while flying – one that happened years before – still sticks in his head.
Heller’s novel is a wonderful twist on the recent explosion of post-apocalyptic fiction. He is fully unconcerned with the particulars of how exactly it happened, or what percentage of people are left. And the characters aren’t concerned with rebuilding society or joining forces to recreate civilization. Instead, they are trying to simply live out their lives comfortably and without regrets. The subtle poetry of Heller’s narration is enhanced by the chopped expression of dialogue and Hig’s inner monologue that make up most of the novel.
What emerges is a novel that, like Hig himself, refuses to dwell on the horror of the situation, and instead focuses on the very human and very timeless act of trying to make existence meaningful, regardless of circumstance.
This is one of my new favorite novels. Although the scenario sounds very science-fiction-y, it’s really a pretty straightforward story that defies categorization – and is certainly not another dystopia. I would particularly recommend it to those interested in the outdoors and flying, but I think many people would enjoy this book. Consider checking it out at Griffin Free!