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.