If there’s one thing I definitely do not go nuts over, it is post-apocalyptic/dystopian novels. I typically feel like its been done (again and again and again) and I rarely feel like there is anything new brought to the table. Station Eleven, however, did it for me. I can’t remember the last time I felt this way about a book!
I stormed through Station Eleven. I suppose, to be fair, I’ve been storming through a lot of books so far this year. I made a goal to read 50 books this year and I’ve promised myself I’ll read at least 20 pages per day, even on my busiest days. Station Eleven though…that was more like “not leave my bed for two days while I do nothing else but read this.”
I don’t like to spoil myself too much when it comes to starting a new book. I’ll scan the description but mostly focus my attention on its ratings on Goodreads. Over a 4 star average? Check. Constantly on the top of “Best of 2014” lists? Check. As a result of all of this, top of my “To-Read” list? Check.
All I knew about this book going into it was the overall premise: civilization as we know it has all but been eradicated. There are pockets of survivors but they are few and far between. I was under the impression that this book would solely follow around this “group of traveling actors,” and it does, mostly.
The book opens to a production of Shakespeare’s King Lear. The play, starring the world-famous Arthur Leander in the titular role, is met with a packed audience in downtown Toronto. But tonight will not go smoothly – before the play has even ended, our star is dead.
But, if you were to ask those in the crowd, Arthur was one of the lucky ones. He was gone, dead from a heart attack, before the outbreak took over. The “Georgia Flu,” as everyone had vaguely heard about on the news, has made its way to North America and was relentlessly killing everything in its path…and fast.
Fast forward fifteen years. We are introduced to the Traveling Symphony, a group of actors and musicians who are traveling from town to town in this post-electricity/post-internet/post-civilization-as-we-know-it world. We see the world through Kirsten, a woman who was only 8 years old at the time of the outbreak, but is now a member of the Symphony.
From here, Station Eleven jumps between the moments in Arthur’s life as well as particular moments in the lives of those close to him, specifically his first wife Miranda, his best friend Clark and Jeevan, the paramedic who tried to save Arthur following his heart attack. We also continue to follow the Symphony and Kirsten in the post-flu world. We soon learn that all of these characters are connected and their fates strangely intertwined.
Although there were many points in the beginning when I wondered how the heck the lives of all of these people were connected, it did become fairly apparent at a point. Usually, once I’m aware of exactly what is going to happen, I become very bored and don’t even want to spend my time finishing the book. Somehow, though, I was still entranced. I thought that every single character was interesting – I didn’t find myself once thinking “oh great, more information about so-and-so” as I so often do while reading novels with a lot of characters. I definitely see why this book was lauded as one of the best pieces of fiction of 2014. Station Eleven has certainly brought something new to the world of dystopian fiction.
I am definitely planning on reading more from Mandel. I so rarely find myself engaged in modern fiction but I feel like a whole new door has been opened for me! I actually want to give so many books a chance!!
If you do read the book, let me know what you think! Or, if you have read it (or even if you haven’t), let me know if you can recommend any books for me! I’m constantly on the look out and would love to read more like Station Eleven.
If you’re interested in Station Eleven, you can read more and purchase it on Amazon.