Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Apocalyptic and dystopic fiction has been extremely popular for the past decade or more. I enjoy the books and over the years I have read obscure, great ones (In the After), popular, good ones (The Handmaid’s Tale), okay ones (The Family Tree), and classic ones (On the Beach). Station Eleven is a lyrical apocalyptic novel.
Station Eleven is three stories – the story of a famous actor and his friends before the apocalypse, the story of a young actress twenty years after the plague that kills of 99.99% of the world’s population, and the story of a paramedic before and after the event. The book jumps back and forth between the years and the tales.
Arthur Leander was from a small island to the west of the Vancouver coast. He went to Toronto to go to college. Instead he gets into acting. After the lean first years he eventually becomes and stage and film star. He marries and divorces three times and has a young son. While playing King Lear in Toronto, he collapses on stage and dies. Within a few weeks after that, most of the world has died. Some of his friends and family survive, keeping his memory alive when most of
Jeevan Chaudary spent years as a wedding photographer, a paparazzi, and finally found his calling as a paramedic. When Leander collapses on stage, Chaudary jumps on stage to administer CPR to no avail. He then receives a warning from a friend and isolates himself and his brother from the contagious plague. After, he walks south along the Great Lakes as he tries to survive in the new environment
Kirsten Raymonde was seven when she watched Leander die across the stage from her. Now, twenty years later, she travels around the Great Lakes with a troupe of actors and musicians called the Symphony. The small troupe entertains then travels on to the next town. Their motto is “Survival Is Insufficient”. They protect each other in their traveling community and have the same internal problems any community has. They also have to protect themselves from the dangers on the road – rogues, marauders, injuries, infections, etc. Now they are on their way south to a rumored airport city.
Emily St. John Mandel’s imagination combines unexpected new worlds into an intriguing story. In the early part of the book the reader tends to get lost as the narrative jumps around. Eventually, the reader sees the threads unspool and tie together from the beginning. Even so, the final tug of the story’s knot doesn’t arrive until the end scenes. Station Eleven was a finalist for the 2014 National Book Award.
What if the modern world were to end practically overnight? Check out a compelling possibility in Mandel’s Station Eleven.
Notice: Non-graphic violence