Author: Emily St. John Mandel
Hardcover: 352 pages (my version eBook)
Published date: 2014
FTC: Library eBook
I had heard a lot of buzz about Emily St. John Mandel's apocalyptic novel Station Eleven and to be honest, I adore dsytopian or apocalyptic novels. I know I know. I just can't get enough. That and it won or was a finalist for a ton of awards and let's be honest...I love the cover. (Hands clapping for the designer.) Anyway, I am still pondering exactly what I think of it. It's definitely a story that will stick with you so not easily forgettable and the writing is definitely superb. But the story. Hmm. Let's just say I find that it really doesn't matter what the story is, if you write it in a non-linear format you have a higher chance for getting accolades. Just saying.
Back of the book:
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 Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur's chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.
Fifteen years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten's arm is a line from Star Trek: "Because survival is insufficient." But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave.
Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful, elegiac novel is rife with beauty. As Arthur falls in and out of love, as Jeevan watches the newscasters say their final good-byes, and as Kirsten finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the prophet, we see the strange twists of fate that connect them all. A novel of art, memory, and ambition, 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 the story the world as we know it ends through a very contagious, fast spreading virus with a high mortality rate. Most people in the world die. Without people running things, it all just winds down. For instance, people who are in an airport when the "world ends" are kind of just left living in the airport for the next 20 years. Crazy but the book makes insanely believable sense.
I love how the story follows the Traveling Symphony who are like old school troubadours, traveling and performing "Because survival is insufficient." I love that view of humanity. Kirsten, the main character in the book in the Traveling Symphony is a great character and I love how she has hung on to this comic book from her childhood, Station Eleven, and how the name of the novel gets its name from that comic book.
I think the only thing I wasn't too thrilled about was Arthur's whole story which is a flashback to before the "end of the world." I mean, I get that it was sort of necessary to understand how Kirsten got the comic book but really, it was kind of a cliched Hollywood story that I didn't really care too much about in the midst of this apocalyptic story that was pretty fascinating with it's whole, ok pretty cliched too, prophet who is wrecking havoc.
So I guess that's where I'm left. She is a great writer. The characters are well developed and I love the traveling symphony part of the story. I like the comic book as part of the story. And again, if you write a non-linear story it is pretty fun to read and I've noticed award winning books are often non-linear. But. The story had a lot of cliched aspects. And I really didn't care for the main Arthur story which is a lot of the book. So....
Have you read Station Eleven? Great? Meh? Thoughts?