⇒A review of the book that will make you look at your entire life – and the flu – a lot differently. I will never take electricity (or Acetaminophen) for granted again.⇐
(4.03 stars – Goodreads rating)
Published: September 9, 2014, by Knopf
Genre: Fiction / Apocalyptic Thriller / Science Fiction
Pages: 336 pages (Hardcover)
Because Survival is Insufficient
The day before yesterday, I caught a cold. Yes, in the middle of a very hot summer, I caught a cold. Leave it to me. Normally, it wouldn’t be a big deal: Some hot tea, a box of tissue, and some soup and crackers = a time-tested remedy (and a great excuse for some extra reading time).
The only problem is that I had just read Station Eleven. So my minor sniffles ballooned into an anxiety-riddled plague of epic proportions that would, no doubt, have me wallowing on a gurney in some Godforsaken corner of a quarantined hospital ward within the next 24 hours. Thank you, anxiety. You’re such a friend.
Thankfully, I am not hospitalized, and my cold is just that – a minor inconvenience. But if anybody or any book could put the fear of a pandemic into you, it would be Emily St. John Mandel and Station Eleven.
Hell is the absence of the people you long for.
So, no, this isn’t a new book by any means; it has been around since September of 2014, but I had never heard of it. I know, I know. Shame on me. Yada, yada, I get it. Moving on.
I found out about Station Eleven through Anne Bogel’s podcast, What Should I Read Next. If you haven’t ever heard this podcast, you should definitely check it out. She matches readers with book suggestions based on their preferred genres and lists of faves and not-so faves. Anne mentioned that Station Eleven was one of her favorite books and she gave a short synopsis of it. I immediately knew that this book was in my wheelhouse. I was not wrong, and I have Anne to thank for pointing me towards an intense and captivating read.
The beauty of this world where almost everyone was gone. If hell is other people, what is a world with almost no people in it?
So here’s a blurb from Goodreads about the plot:
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.
The more we know about the former world, the better we’ll understand what happened when it fell.
I found this to be a thrilling apocalyptic novel that tells the story of the dismantling of society through the POVs of several main characters who are all connected in random ways after having survived the pandemic of the Georgia Flu (Georgia as in former republic of the Soviet Union, not Georgia the Peach State). Through their “I survived the Apocalypse” stories in the pre-collapse and post-collapse world, we realize what was lost and what was gained when most of the planet’s people died.
I love a well done apocalyptic novel and this one checked all of my boxes. I was totally invested and very disappointed when it ended, mostly because this wasn’t just a fight-or-flight, kill to survive, beat back the zombies sort of story. This book had heart and it made me really appreciate a lot of the things – and people – I casually take for granted every day.
Plus, this might be a great book to pull out when you think that everything is going to hell in a hand basket because it will make you realize that as long as we don’t have to poop in the woods or steal sheets from long-dead people we’re doing pretty well.
4 strong, bright stars and why isn’t this a movie yet?
Read an excerpt of Station Eleven (courtesy of NPR) here: EXCERPT
About the Author
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. She is a staff writer for The Millions. She lives in New York City with her husband.