Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time—from the actor’s early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as The Travelling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains—this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet. Sometimes terrifying, sometimes tender, 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.

I initially saw this book blow up when it was first released in 2014 (probably because of its nomination in the Goodreads Choice Awards). It looked interesting, but I was never really motivated to pick it up. I have never been much of an adult fiction reader, but over the last couple years I’ve started to read more and more. In one of the challenges I’m participating in this year, I needed to read a book recommended by a favorite author. I wouldn’t really say I have a favorite, but I’ve really enjoyed George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series so I looked at some of his recommendations. Luckily, this was one of them and it was available at my library so I picked it up!

This book is billed as dystopian/science-fiction/apocalyptic novel. I feel like it was so much more than that. Yes, there were end of the world elements, but the focus seemed to be more on the people and their journey. This novel covered the flu pandemic that ended the world as we know it, the lives of Arthur and some other characters prior to the pandemic, and little bits and pieces in between. If you were to simply look at the timeline, it would seem very disjointed, but everyone’s story ties together in the end. Everything comes full circle. I loved seeing everything come together by the end.

With the jumps in the timeline and switching between all the characters it did feel slow moving at times. Once I got used to flow and pacing, it was easy to fall into and it did seem very intentional by the end. Another complaint I had was the ending itself. I understand leaving things open to interpretation and such, but the way it ended was SO open and unresolved and definitely left me wanting more. I know there won’t be more and that made it harder to swallow.

I enjoyed pretty much all of the characters as well. There were a few that were given just little snippets, but they were still important to the story. They still added value. There was one or two characters that I didn’t like, but they weren’t characters we were supposed to like, so my feelings toward them made sense. It was also interesting to see how the younger generations handled things. It was really like following them grow and the world change and how they adapted.

I really enjoyed this novel. While it was hard to get into at times, the story really stuck with me. I would strongly recommend this to pretty much everyone. Even if you aren’t a fan of dystopian fiction and what not, I think you should give it a try. There is so much more to the story than the genres refer to.

 

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