Author: Emily St. John Mandel
Release Date: September 10th, 2014
Pages: 384 (Hardcover)
Genre: Adult | Dystopia | Science-Fiction
Read: on June 2 to 6, 2015
Source & Shelf: Giveaway | Own
ISBN: 9781447268963 (Hardcover)
The Georgia Flu explodes over the surface of the earth like a neutron bomb.
News reports put the mortality rate at over 99%.
Civilization has crumbled.
A band of actors and musicians called the Travelling Symphony move through their territories performing concerts and Shakespeare to the settlements that have grown up there. Twenty years after the pandemic, life feels relatively safe.
But now a new danger looms, and he threatens the hopeful world every survivor has tried to rebuild.
Moving backwards and forwards in time, from the glittering years just before the collapse to the strange and altered world that exists twenty years after, Station Eleven charts the unexpected twists of fate that connect six people: famous actor Arthur Leander; Jeevan – warned about the flu just in time; Arthur’s first wife Miranda; Arthur’s oldest friend Clark; Kirsten, a young actress with the Travelling Symphony; and the mysterious and self-proclaimed ‘prophet’.
Thrilling, unique and deeply moving, this is a beautiful novel that asks questions about art and fame and about the relationships that sustain us through anything – even the end of the world.
Disclaimer: Thank you Ula (@Blog of Erised) and Picador for providing me with a copy of this book.
I launched into Station Eleven with some high expectations, wondering what’s so magnificent about this book that had everyone loving it very much. I can honestly admit that it was indeed different than what I had expected but it did exceed those same expectations: it was better.
Station Eleven is a straightforward book about the strength of human kind while facing the end of the world and how that same world is small. How a group of people are connected by something so simple yet so complicated such as Shakespeare.
The book isn’t set mainly in the post-apocalyptic disaster that killed most of mankind. It’s a shuffle of what happened days, hours before the epidemic spread, the main setting of this new world and the characters’ background story. At first I found that quite unsettling, making me loose myself in the story but as soon as I found the connection between everyone and everything in the book, it became a satisfying read.
One of the things I found it quite remarkable was how the title, Station Eleven, isn’t an actual real station. This is mainly the name of a comic book that one of the characters – Arthur’s first wife – creates and which is rather important to other character – Kirsten who is connected to Arthur by having played King Lear with him when she was a child. Though Arthur is definitely one of the solid links between the pre-apocalyptic world and the post-apocalyptic one, the comic is perhaps the strongest.
The characters were diverse and pretty much contained to themselves. There wasn’t that much of a dialogue between them but I didn’t mind that. The whole setting was enough and it spoke tons of what went through their minds, their feelings, their ideas and remembrances. Also, since this book is told from different perspectives each during a particular time in space, it’s a little difficult for you to have a character you appreciate the most. I guess I would like to have read a little bit more about Jeevan after the epidemic since the little we got was exactly that – little.
Other thing I found fascinating was how Emily St. John Mandel managed to add the density of Shakespeare’s work and wrap it in her book. Shakespeare is also another link between the characters with two of his plays – King Lear and A Midsummer’s Night Dream – being the main focus when connecting the post-apocalyptic world with the old world (both our world and the Shakespearean one). The few references to the plays were so well explained, so well explored that those who’ve never read or studied Shakespeare in their lives will not miss a thing. It was simply part of the book, the characters, the Travelling Symphony and the setting..
There were only a couple of things that had me slightly disappointed with the book – hence the 4 cups and not the initial 5 cups I was inched to rate the book – the “Prophet” and the ending itself. I found the image of the Prophet ambiguous and somewhat infuriating. He is a religious fanatic who thinks he was saved from the end of the world by God and whose job is to preach that they are the Light. Though his background story is not immediately told – and what is told is very brief and doesn’t tell much – the identity of his character was, in my humble opinion, quite obvious despite the fact that we only get a proper reveal almost in the end. Though what we know about his past might explain his twisted mind, I found him mostly irritating.
As for the ending, though it was the perfect end for a story like this and I did, however, enjoyed it, I also wanted more. I cannot explain it properly but when I read the very last sentence, I felt empty and wishing for two more chapters that would tell me more about that bit of discovery in the end.
Overall, Station Eleven was an astonishing story about the strength of human kind when facing the severity of life. Reading this book felt as if I was reading a piece of timeless classic of pure literature (as I commented once when someone asked me how I was enjoying the book :P).