On the Cover: 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 Travelling 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.
In Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel presents us with a question: if a virus wiped out 98% of the human population, what would happen to us? The answer she provides is both fascinating and eerily realistic. Unlike other dystopians, Station Eleven settles into that unknown time period, after the fall but before humans rise again, in a setting that is utterly recognizable, and examines not only how humans survive, but how we push beyond surviving into truly living.
The format of the book is not linear, but I really enjoyed how St John Mandel crafted this story. We meet several characters in different places, living in different times both before and after the dissolution of society. As we circle back and forth to the different characters the connections between them become apparent. I grew to love this style and I enjoyed discovering how each story was connected to the next.
I found that this book just sucks you in. The settings are absolutely alive, and the way the characters interact with the settings really makes you take notice, and it makes you notice things about the characters too. But it’s also the way the characters are able to find beauty in their surroundings, no matter where they are, that spoke to how beautiful this book really is. I fell in love with Station Eleven slowly, but completely.
The words that continuously come to mind when thinking about this novel are a quiet elegance. This book is not flashy. It does not grab at you with a speeding plot or sinister twists. But it does introduce beautiful characters to connect with, a rich landscape, and a journey across space and time that speaks to what it means to be human. I cannot say how much I loved this novel and I sincerely recommend it.
Rating: 5 / 5
“Two days out of St. Deborah by the Water, the Symphony came upon a burnt-out resort town. A fire had swept through some years ago and now the town was a meadow with black ruins standing. A sea of pink flowers had risen between the shards of buildings. The charred shells of hotels stood along the lakeshore and a brick clock tower was still standing a few blocks inland, the clock stopped forever at eight fifteen.” p 207
“The night sky was brighter than it had been. On the clearest night the stars were a cloud of light across the breadth of the sky, extravagant in their multitudes. […] One of the greatest scientific questions of Galileo’s time was whether the Milky Way was made up of individual stars. Impossible to imagine this ever having been in question in the age of electricity, but the night sky was a wash of light in Galileo’s age, and it was a wash of light now. The era of light pollution had come to an end. The increasing brilliance meant the grid was failing, darkness pooling over the earth. I was here for the end of electricity. The thought sent shivers up Clark’s spine.” p 251
“The signs for the airport led them away from the lake, out of downtown, up into residential streets of wood-frame houses. A few of the roofs had collapsed up here, most under the weight of fallen trees. In the morning light there was beauty in the decrepitude, sunlight catching the flowers that had sprung up through the gravel of long-overgrown driveways, mossy front porches turned brilliant green, a white blossoming bush alive with butterflies. This dazzling world.” p 297