TITLE: Station Eleven
AUTHOR: Emily St. John Mandel
GENRE: Adult, Literary Fiction, Dystopian
RATING: 5/5 Stars
One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur's chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.
Fifteen years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten's arm is a line from Star Trek: "Because survival is insufficient." But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave.
What I Liked:
- The writing style of this book is completely captivating! Mandel writes beautifully, interweaving plot elements with a very professional and poetic flourish. I couldn't believe how easily each story connected together, how well it flowed off the page and how simple this literary masterpiece was to understand. I can't think of a single Dystopian that I've read being at all like this one. Despite jumping back and forth in time, I never found myself getting lost or confused at all. Mandel's writing captured the essence of each time period beautifully: the pre-flu past filled with a blissful ignorance mixed with a sense of foreboding, the moment of outbreak fraught with tension, chaos and panic, and then post-flu being much slower in pace as humanity accepts their situation and tinge an overwhelming sadness with hope and the will to survive.
- When jumping from character to character, I didn't expect to love them all so much! There were, I would say, five key POVs to read from in this book but I found them each as well-written and deeply thought out as the others. The book is short in length but as well as the gorgeously rendered plot, Mandel draws up some fantastic characters and puts a lot of effort into their personalities, habits, likes & dislikes. This book is as much about individuals as it is about society as a whole and that's what made it all the more interesting.
- The world-building in this book is phenomenal. Mandel talks of our present day as if it was part of a long-dead history, which in itself is a very bizarre concept to read and in the process, she highlights exactly the kind of things that are taken for granted in our electrical age. The post-apocalyptic future that she describes feels bleak and yet it brings to light the importance of holding on, as well as the need to sometimes let go.
What I Disliked:
- Uhh...nothing? Seriously I'm really struggling to think of a single thing that I disliked about this book because it was so good! I don't like the fact that it took me so long to get round to reading it, but I suppose that doesn't really count. I guess the idea of a Flu being that strong that I would completely eradicate 99.9% of the population seems a little far-fetched to me, but then that might be my modern age human arrogance showing too. No one is certain of the future!
This book deserves every bit of praise that it can get. It's my first read by Mandel, but it certainly won't be my last! The writing style was captivating, the world-building beautiful and intriguing, the characterisation failed to let me down and the many sub-plots tied together so wonderfully that I couldn't help but fall in love with this book. If you haven't already, you simply must read this novel!