Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (2014)
Fiction | Sci-Fi | Post-Apocalyptic
“An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.
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 Traveling 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.”
pooled ink Review:
Station Eleven presents a uniquely crafted story about humanity following the collapse of the world as we know it. After a shockingly aggressive flu wipes out much of the human population the story lurches forwards twenty years following Kirsten, a member of a traveling group of musicians and actors. Through a series of flashbacks, other character POVs, and Kirsten’s main plot line we get to see how the end of the world affected different people, how they coped (if they coped), and how humanity slowly but surely managed to piece itself back together again into something new.
Mandel spins together the different threads of characters, events, and details with energy and grace. As the story forges onwards we slowly start to see pieces fitting together and lives revealing connections even they never expected and some they may never discover theirselves. The whole effect is fascinating.
This book doesn’t focus on one person’s survival but instead it uses its focal characters to reflect the effect the devastation has had on humanity as a whole. Those old enough to remember what they’ve lost contrasted against those too young to know any different, and how holding onto the past can control one’s future. There is an interesting mix of mystery, surprise, love, struggle, action, fear, and hope. We see the harshness of nature, the comfort of connection, and the universal need for levity. Not often in apocalyptic books is there featured music and theatre, but entertainment is something humans have gathered around since the dawn of time.
Station Eleven displays a poetic tale of terror, helplessness, strength, and survival. An entire array of human emotion is spun creatively to a steady heartbeat that is life and unyielding time. I think if you enjoy books that explore the depths and complexities of humanity edged with an apocalyptic backdrop then you’ll enjoy this one.
Purchase here: Station Eleven
Meet Emily St. John Mandel!
Emily St. John Mandel was born and raised on the west coast of British Columbia, Canada. She studied contemporary dance at the School of Toronto Dance Theatre and lived briefly in Montreal before relocating to New York.
Her fourth novel, Station Eleven, is forthcoming in September 2014. All three of her previous novels—Last Night in Montreal, The Singer’s Gun, and The Lola Quartet—were Indie Next Picks, and The Singer’s Gun was the 2014 winner of the Prix Mystere de la Critique in France. Her short fiction and essays have been anthologized in numerous collections, including Best American Mystery Stories 2013. She is a staff writer for The Millions. She lives in New York City with her husband.