“I was hooked on The Dog Stars from page one,” recalls Jenny Jackson, the Knopf senior editor who acquired the debut novel from David Halpern at the Robbins Office. “I guiltily closed my office door, ignored my e-mails, and prayed the phone wouldn’t ring. From the eerie opening pages to the jaw-dropping ending, I was utterly transported by this novel.” The title concerns a pilot who believes he is the only survivor of a flu, but then receives a radio transmission and realizes he is not alone. Knopf will print 60,000 copies.

It’s no surprise that author Peter Heller is able to transport readers—depicting extreme travel is his day job. The 53-year-old Denver resident is a contributing editor to Outside magazine and Men’s Journal. He says, “I have spent much of the last 20 years writing about expeditions, from the traverse of the remote Tsangpo Gorge in eastern Tibet to accompanying eco-pirates in Antarctica as they tried to sink the Japanese whaling fleet. More directly, I did a story for Men’s Journal a few years ago about how to be a bush pilot in three weeks. I went up to northern Montana and got a pilot’s license in 20 days with crazy mountain pilots. I was not a natural—my instructor told me on day three that my landings looked like a sick goose.”