- Non Fiction
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
List Price: £8.99
Paperback: 384 Pages.
Published: 01 January 2015 by Picador
Edition: Main Market Ed.
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.
Thought provoking and cleverly woven
It is almost impossible to describe this novel. It is dystopian science fiction but it is a lot more as well. The message of the book is simple -to survive is not enough. Humanity is about more than just existence.To prove this the author concentrates on the arts both before and after a dreadful illness wipes out most of humanity. This is not a "highbrow" book though, it is easy to read, very accessible and full of ideas that will have you thinking a long time after you have finished reading.
The book starts on the night that the illness/plague starts and it begins at a theatre where the main actor dies of natural causes. All of the characters that the book follows will in some way be related to that production or to the dead actor - his young co-star, his ex-wife, his agent and others who are connected with them. The author takes a number of threads and skips around time but the book is easy to follow and she then slowly links the people together via the long-ago play and also by a series of graphic novels featuring the titular Station Eleven. It sounds complicated but it isn't - you just have to go along with the story and watch the author weave people, ideas and characters together.
In the new world, when most technology is now gone and people are living in isolated communities the story centres on a travelling theatre/music company who link disparate communities together with their productions. Using the band and its members as a focus the author shows us many of the ways in which groups of people have adapted to the new existence - some good and others less so. Another thread of the story set after the illness focusses on one small community based in an abandoned airport. Some of this is very touching - the aeroplane which lands and which never discharges its passengers and the museum of things from before, for example.
The questions which this book raises are many. How would we survive ? How important to us are the arts ? What makes us human ? and how would we respond to the challenges and threats. The author finishes the book with hope and despite all that the characters have faced during the various stories that is the message to take away -the triumph of the human spirit.
An overwhelming book, full of ideas and one that will stay with you for a long time. Highly recommended.
by Debra Found
An Excellent Apocalypse
You would think from the initial blurb that this is another
apocalyptic science fiction book. I have nothing against apocalyptic
science fiction & have read & enjoyed a great many. This book is
written in a way that takes it beyond the run of the mill and turns it
into an excellent book.
The story centres around Arthur Leander,
or rather it centres around people who have a connection to him. Arthur
is an actor who begins this book playing King Lear on the evening before
the world implodes. The book meanders back and forth through Arthur's
timeline and on to the future where he continues to affect the lives of
the people who knew him. There are a great many threads in this book but
strangely I didn't find it at all difficult to keep track of them all.
The threads are very individual and so easy to keep compartmentalised
whilst at the same time it was easy to see how they intertwined. I very
much liked this writing style.
There are many significant
characters in this book. Kirsten the young Shakespearian actor who is
travelling the USA 20 years after the world changed forever is feisty
yet vulnerable. She hangs on to her "comfort blanket" of two comics she
was given just before the deadly flu strain struck. Kirsten and the
Travelling Symphony are quite wonderful and I loved the way that the
lesser characters in the troop were known by their instruments - the 6th
guitar, the 3rd clarinet etc. The little bickerings that the troop has
on the road whilst at the same time being a solid group is so typical of
a closeknit group of people. Miranda is Arthur's first wife. She loves
him but doesn't fit into the world that he inhabits whilst Elizabeth is
waiting in the wings to be wife number two and bear him his ony son. In
the future we have The Prophet - doesn't every new world have a prophet
with followers? I had a fair idea as to his identity long before the
author started to give the clues but this didn't stop me seeing how his
character unfolded and how he became the person he was.
writing in this book is good and carried me along steadily. The
narrative flows along punctuated by a good smattering of events to keep
the reader on their toes. As this is a book of many threads we don't end
up with too much basic narrative as to the whys and wherefores of what
has happened and how the world is now coping. Too much explanation in
this type of book can cause the reader to get bored. I liked being given
what I needed without excessive blow by blow accounts of governments
falling, why some people survived whilst others didn't, what the ferals
were like......my own imagination was perfectly capable of filling in
the blanks. This is a complex book and I did wonder at varying points
how this was all going to come together. If you get to the point when
you feel like this please persevere as it does all slot together in the
This book gently slid into an ending without a great deal of
fanfare. I have seen other people complaining that this was a bit lame
but I felt that all that was needed to be said had been said. I had no
problem with the ending at all. It is possible that this was designed to
lead into another book in a trilogy or series. I am not entirely sure
how the author would manage to create another book in the same style but
I would like to find out.