Author: Emily St. John Mandel
Genre: Science Fiction/ Post-Apocalyptic fiction
Published: September 2014
Description: Kirsten Raymonde will never forget the night Arthur Leander, the famous Hollywood actor, had a heart attack on stage during a production of King Lear. That was the night when a devastating flu pandemic arrived in the city, and within weeks, civilization as we know it came to an end.
Twenty years later, Kirsten moves between the settlements of the altered world with a small troupe of actors and musicians. They call themselves The Traveling Symphony, and they have dedicated themselves to keeping the remnants of art and humanity alive. But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who will threaten the tiny band’s existence. And as the story takes off, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, the strange twist of fate that connects them all will be revealed.
Overall thoughts: I went into Station Eleven knowing nothing about it. I had never heard of the book or the author before and I received the book as a birthday gift. I read the back synopsis and was anticipating a typical “dystopian” book. What I found was so much more.
The novel is post-apocalyptic so in that sense it fits the “dystopian” genre. A flu pandemic has ravaged the world as we know it and life looks much, much different for Kirsten and The Traveling Symphony (and everyone else.) However, it’s the way that the author describes this post-apocalyptic life that felt refreshing and eerie at the same time. There were sections in the novel that force the reader to introspectively look at their lives. Imagine a world where children are born into a life and have never known electricity, running water, airplanes, e-mail, or refrigerators. A world were there are no doctors, firemen, policemen. No government. No books, newspapers, authors, painters, musicals, movies. (You get the point.) While this is scary, Mandel takes it a step further. Now imagine you’ve known all of it and it gets ripped away from you. You constantly yearn for normalcy, to “go home” yet home no longer exists and never will.
This isn’t your normal dystopian novel. There isn’t an uprising against a corrupt government. There is no “cure” for the Georgia flu. No one sweeps in to save the day.
What you do have though is an amazingly well-written science fiction/dystopian fiction novel. The characters are complex and flawed. Their stories are sad and heavy, while also being light and hopeful. There is a connection between almost everyone and the interwoven relationships are an amazing tether as the book is written in both past and present and focus on different characters.
My favorite aspect of this book is the actual “Station Eleven” within the novel and how it plays out for so many characters and connects them together. Can’t say much more without spoiling it, just trust me on this one.
This book definitely doesn’t spell everything out to the reader, which I praise it for. There are aspects of the novel’s plot and the characters that the reader must interpret and figure out for themselves. Mandel does it in a beautiful way that puts the building blocks in place, but doesn’t over-explain anything. It’s just great.
Overall, if you’re looking for a great post-apocalyptic novel, check out Station Eleven.
*(The only reason it isn’t a full 5/5 is because I just wanted more about the Georgia flu. I felt like it was never really explained what it was or what happened. I fully understand this explanation was not necessary for the plot and it wasn’t what the novel was about. However, you know what they say, curiosity killed the cat. I just felt like I was so intrigued, I wanted more. I understand the characters didn’t really have the answers, but I just felt like this piece was just missing a little for me. Still can’t recommend this book enough though!!)