ebookclassics

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

station

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is so HUGE right now. The book seems to have a place on every 2014 Top Ten list coming out and is being hailed as a future classic. Did critics get it right? Is all the hype true? Here’s what I think:

* CONTAINS SPOILERS

THE STORY
When the Georgia Flu engulfs the world and kills millions of people within days, civilization as we know it comes to an abrupt end. Moving between the past and the post-apocalypse present, we get to know a number of interconnected characters: a famous actor and his very different wives, a young man who has tried various professions, a young actress travelling with a Shakespeare troupe and a lawyer who creates a “Museum of Civilization” in an airport. But no matter whether you live in the Hollywood Hills or sleep on the side of the road in a tent, whether society stands or falls, people find themselves lost, disconnected and wanting.

THE GOOD
Station Eleven explores some really interesting ideas about the place of technology and, more specifically, art in our lives. The complete absence of technology in the post-apocalypse emphasizes the hypnotic hold gadgets have had over people and without the entertainment, convenience or connection they provide, technology becomes part of the mythology of the old world. Art in the form of theatre, music, writing or drawing may seem irrelevant to survival, but if anything creativity proves to be a large part of the identity of many characters and helps them find their place in either world. As quoted in the book from Star Trek: Voyager, “Because survival is insufficient”, it’s not enough to meet basic physical needs; there will always be something more people need to nourish the soul.

THE BAD
Station Eleven spends a great deal of time following the lives of people who I didn’t really care about, such as Arthur, the famous actor/serial monogamist, and Jeevan, a guy trying to find a job that suits him. I think I understand the purpose of their individual stories, but I found female characters like Kirsten, the Shakespeare actress, and Arthur’s ex-wife, Miranda, a corporate big shot/closet comic book writer much more interesting; two women in two different worlds coming to terms with love and the inner drive to express themselves through art.

CONCLUSION
Station Eleven is a dystopian with all of the elegance and depth of a literary novel, and for this reason the book will most likely become a classic. Although parts of the plot didn’t make sense to me and some of the connections didn’t really go anywhere, the emotional struggle of the characters is where I think readers are meant to be engaged. Overall, the story made me feel sad and melancholic for this funny world we live in, but I loved Station Eleven‘s complexity and quiet finish. As silly as it may sound, it also gave me great comfort to imagine a travelling Shakespeare troupe at the end of the world. Because survival is insufficient.

4.5/5 Stars

Advertisements

11 comments on “Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

  1. The Paperback Princess
    December 11, 2014

    I can’t decide if I’m going to read this! There’s so much hype which scares me off some books. And I don’t really like dystopian/apocalyptic fiction…your review is extremely intriguing (although I skimmed because of the spoiler warning) but I still can’t decide. Do you normally like this kind of fiction?

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      December 11, 2014

      I have to admit the virus thing freaked me out at the beginning of the story because I live in the Toronto area and it felt a little too close to home. The book is very different from other dystopians I’ve read because it’s so focused on the lives and feelings of the characters. If anything, the apocalyptic setting seems more a means of exploring “what if”. What if there was no technology? What if there was no art? How would people feel? What would they do about it?

      Like

      • The Paperback Princess
        December 11, 2014

        I think that’s the other side of the coin for me: the idea that this could ever happen scares the sh*t out of me. I don’t know if I could handle reading about it.

        Like

  2. janceewright
    December 11, 2014

    Literally everyone seems to be reading this right now! And loving it! I really am intrigued now!

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      December 11, 2014

      It’s a little slow-paced, but once I got hooked into the story I really enjoyed learning about all of the characters and how society looked after the virus.

      Like

  3. lauratfrey
    December 11, 2014

    Too much hype for me! I’ll wait till it dies down a bit. I love a good ending though…

    Like

  4. ebookclassics
    December 11, 2014

    It’s everywhere, you can’t get away from it! Not a bad plan to hold off. I wanted more from the ending, but I’m okay with it too.

    Like

  5. Naomi
    December 11, 2014

    This is the third review I’ve seen in 3 days! I think I’m glad I read it before the hype, but it’s a good book to read any time! I’m glad you mentioned the ending- I forgot how much I liked it. I really liked Jeevan’s part. It took us somewhere different from the other storyline. His situation with his brother was so sad, but also seemed like it could totally happen. I loved that he raided the grocery store- I have to remember to do that if there is ever a deadly flu epidemic… 🙂

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      December 11, 2014

      Yeah, Station Eleven is everywhere! I was a little disappointed that Jeevan’s story drops off and doesn’t really go anywhere until the very end, but I’m guessing the point is it takes the apocalypse for him to find a purpose and to feel helpful to other people. I liked how he raided the grocery store too, so I guess that should be at the top of our survivor checklist.

      Like

  6. Brian Joseph
    December 12, 2014

    I tend to really like books that involve the end of civilization as well as plagues.

    What makes this one sound different is the emphasis upon art and what its loss would mean to people. In my opinion it is not just on an individual level, but for humanity as a whole, art is one of the things that give existence meaning.

    I do remember that quote from Voyager! It is a great one!

    Like

Thoughts? Comments?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Information

This entry was posted on December 11, 2014 by in Reviews and tagged , .

Now reading

and …

and …

%d bloggers like this: