Book Review: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Title: Station Eleven
Author: Emily St. John Mandel
Published: 2014
Genre: Adult Science Fiction

Synopsis: 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.


My Rating: Red-StarRed-StarRed-StarRed-Star 1/2

To me, this book was utterly wonderful. It’s become really hard to describe or even to pin-point what sort of reader would enjoy this novel. I think we can start, first off, by setting some realistic expectations. This novel is labeled as an Adult Sci-Fi Dystopian. This is an adult book but it is neither science fiction nor is it dystopian. Essentially this book posses the reader a question: what would happen if modern civilization simply collapsed and only about 1% of the population remained. There are no zombies, no crazy lunatic dystopian governments, no electricity, no cars, we simply reverted to a regressed way of life lacking in centralized government or any government of any kind. Just scattered people living in the skeleton of a once great civilization.

What makes this book different is that is jumps between years before the collapse and then 20 years after so that you have generations in limbo who carry memory and articles of our life now mixed in with people that were children when the collapse happened and only have vague recollections of that life but live with the oral history of those who were older.

The characters and POVs are various but they are all connected to one person – Arthur who dies on Day One of the collapse, it’s the beginning. Arthur is an aging Hollywood actor who dies on stage while performing a play in Toronto. The story then branches out to all of these people who came in contact with Arthur one way or another and how everything intertwines together. It’s a story of survival, of humanity, of human ingenuity but most important it’s a story of reflection of our modern era. It has a wonderful message of hope and rebuilding and how humans need each other to live and survive.

This is not a fast-paced action book, it took me 4 days to complete which is longer than normal but I enjoyed taking my time with it because I felt that it was meant as a book to reflect on. Now, I can see how many people did not enjoy this because like many reflective books you have to be in the mood for it but I was and therefore it garnered a 4.5 rating out of me. Not high enough to be a favorite but who knows, if it sticks with me I might up it. I will definitely be rereading this in the future to catch all the bits in the beginning that I didn’t realize were connected until the end.


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