The best dystopian books with heart, soul, and dogs

The Books I Picked & Why

The Dog Stars

By Peter Heller

The Dog Stars

Why this book?

If you want a book that creates a post-apocalyptic world where people still care about one another, this is for you. And there is a fully-realized dog, which I love.

Hig is rare among survivors. He’s a good man who wants to do good. When he hears static on the airwaves, he takes the chance of saving somebody. Hig’s willingness to face danger and probable death helps this story pledge a future that’s not just about power and expedience. Ordinary decent humans can survive the end of the world.

Heller’s language is poetic, at times devastating – there’s heartbreak and hope all mixed, like life scrunched down to its most important aspects. And Jasper is a treasure: a dog who demonstrates the highest of values just by being himself.


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The Road to Winter

By Mark Smith

The Road to Winter

Why this book?

Such a pleasure to find the Winter series, because Australian apocalyptic stories are few and far between. Set on the surf coast of Victoria, this book revels in the pristine scenery and the majesty of the ocean. You can almost smell the salt in the air.

Courageous and determined, teenager Finn lives alone with his patient dog Rowdy. Finn appreciates the harsh beauty of what’s left after the disaster, but he’s not blind to the awful injustices that flood in after the rule of law disappears. Finn shows an extraordinary capacity for love and care for the people around him, as well as the few who escape the clutches of new slavery. Rowdy – despite his name – is the quiet rock that gives Finn heart, and he’s never more or less than a dog. Which is wonderful.


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A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World

By C. A. Fletcher

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World

Why this book?

How can someone steal a beloved dog? Leaving the island where he and his family have been safe from the ravaged world, young Griz takes Jip, his remaining dog, to hunt for the thief and rescue Jess. Through perilous and dark adventures, Griz and Jip can’t give up the search. The story is like a stream of consciousness with Griz recounting his reflections and impressions of the desolate country. Some of the descriptions of nature regaining its power are awe-inspiring. At heart, though, this is a book about the destructiveness of lies and betrayal, compared with the life-affirming values of loyalty and love.

This is the most harrowing of the books I’m recommending, so it’s not for every dog lover. (TIP: you can always check out ‘doesthedogdie.com’ if you’re worried that something may be too much for you.) If you can withstand the scenes of heartbreak, though, the wisdom in this book will amply reward you.


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Voyage of the Dogs

By Greg Van Eekhout

Voyage of the Dogs

Why this book?

Lopside the Barkonaut is sure to make you smile. Humanity needs to find a new planet to live on, and the Barkonauts go along to ensure the best qualities of both humans and dogs survive.

Voyage of the Dogs is a middle-grade book (ages 10+) but completely enjoyable for dog lovers of all ages. Disaster strikes when the human astronauts disappear – are they dead? – and the Barkonauts have to figure out stuff for themselves. 

I love that all of these space-faring dogs have flaws and a past history that they have to carry around. Lopside discovers that some of his fellow Barkonauts are nothing like what they seem. Despite all the obstacles, eventually, there is a wonderful outcome that will bring you joy for a long time after you finish reading. Read it for yourself – or even better, read it to a kid who needs strength and cheer.


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Worldshifter

By Paul Di Filippo

Worldshifter

Why this book?

Worldshifter is a fabulous science fiction story full of wonderful characters. You will laugh out loud at times, and your heart will race as the action careers across the galaxy.

On a very degraded and hostile planet, the lowest remnants of humanity slave away for the powerful alien races. I loved every page of this adventure with sweet, simple, giant-hearted Klom who hasn’t got a nasty bone in his oversized body. His compassion for the strange, doglike alien – who he calls Tugger -- contrasts brilliantly with the harshness of the world where Klom lives. Klom and his companions chase across planets and star systems to rescue Tugger, and on the way, they find the answer to life's greatest mystery.
Long live Tugger, who’s not strictly a dog (because he’s an alien), but certainly embodies all that canine perfection of character. I do hope there are more stories from this world, though part of me recognises that this short novella is perfect as it is.


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