I feel like this might be one of those "shut up about it already" books. You've seen eleventy gazillion reviews and you've already decided if you want to read it or not. You may already own it, and you're waiting for the right moment.
So while you're waiting, I'm going to gush!
Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel is a bunch of things that generally turn me off: multiple perspectives, it involves actors/fame, it's post-apocalyptic, there are time shifts and general jump-aroundedness. All those things annoy me, but perhaps the reason they annoy me is that most authors don't employ these tactics particularly well. But Mandel has it going on, and she put these tricks to good use.
I'll spare you a plot synopsis in favor of clearing something up right now:
This is post apocalyptic but not dystopian. There's no new world order making rules and sending kids into a death game. Instead, 99% of the world's population is killed by the Georgia flu pandemic, and the 1% are doing their best in the aftermath.
I loved that this novel concerned itself with letting us become really intimately involved with a handful of characters: Arthur Leander, an aging actor who looks back on his life and evaluates his decisions before dying of a heart attack on stage. Jeevan Chaudhary a former paparazzo and entertainment journalist who decides to change his life by training to be a paramedic...and he tries to save Arthur's life. Miranda, Arthur's ex wife who immerses herself in creating a very important comic book. Kirsten Raymonde...Arthur's friend, child actor, Traveling Symphony member.
We get to know all of these characters before and after the Georgia flu. Before and after the end of life as everyone knew it. While the world is a dangerous place where lawlessness and violence are reality, the focus of this novel wasn't squarely on the violence. This was almost nothing like Cormac McCarthy's The Road, a post-apocalyptic novel that seems to spring to mind whenever the subject comes up.
There was a good deal of information about the logistics of a dying society...how the television stations begin to dwindle, electricity ceases, the Internet is no more. Mandel also allows us to get acquainted with the characters and the ways in which the world has changed in glimpses. With each time shift or varying character perspective, we get another little sliver of how society died out, or how specific characters dealt with the loss of their loved ones, of how society has adapted to this new life.
I read this novel in three sittings, a miracle for me in light of my reading difficulties as of late, and every time I think back on it, I love it even more. It's wonderful the way Mandel develops themes of connectedness, the importance of beauty and art, the fleeting nature of things, the fragility of our infrastructure and the resilience of humankind.
It's just a beautiful book. I hope you decide to give it a try.
Pub. Date: September 2014
Source: Bought it with my own, hard-earned scratch.