Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven:

“An audacious, darkly glittering novel about art, fame, and ambition set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, from the author of three highly-acclaimed previous novels.

One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time—from the actor’s early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as The Travelling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains—this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet.

Sometimes terrifying, sometimes tender, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.”

So this book isn’t really something I would normally read. For one thing, I’ve heard the word “literary” thrown around when describing it, and literary fiction tends to give me a headache (lots of words, little action…heck, I can do that, but then people would call me boring). Also the synopsis sounds insane (not so much the description I pasted above, but the actual jacket copy – it’s all over the place).

But this took me by surprise.

I described Station Eleven as “scary” – not in the things-that-go-bump-in-the-night sort of way, but more in the the-details-are-so-realistic-it’s-kinda-freaking-me-out-because-this-could-really-maybe-happen. There’s a new strain of swine flu that kills off approximately 99% of the Earth’s population and, little by little, civilization falls apart. The lights go off, the water stops running, the planes are grounded because there are no non-contaminated cities for them to fly in (plus the airports are basically shut down with the lack of lights and whatnot). There’s a whole page describing what humanity lost between the day the flu was discovered to the moment, twenty years in the future, when the story really starts; the worst, for me, was reading that music had disappeared – no more mp3 players, no more bands, no more amplified instruments…horrifying.

It was also interesting because part of the book took place in Toronto, so I could very clearly imagine where people were. Of course, this made it slightly more terrifying to imagine the collapse of the world because I could picture exactly where one of the characters was standing when he got the news.

I found it moved along quite quickly and I LOVE when seemingly random characters end up being deeply interconnected. Even though I guessed who the prophet was, it still gave me a certain kind of thrill the first time one of the other characters figured it out.

Overall, despite my initial misgivings, it actually ended up being really good.

One thought on “Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel

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