Monday, January 11, 2016

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Title: Station Eleven
Author: Emily St. John Mandel 
Rating: 4 Stars
Kirsten Raymonde will never forget the night Arthur Leander, the famous Hollywood actor, had a heart attack on stage during a production of King Lear. That was the night when a devastating flu pandemic arrived in the city, and within weeks, civilization as we know it came to an end.

Twenty years later, Kirsten moves between the settlements of the altered world with a small troupe of actors and musicians. They call themselves The Traveling Symphony, and they have dedicated themselves to keeping the remnants of art and humanity alive. But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who will threaten the tiny band’s existence. And as the story takes off, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, the strange twist of fate that connects them all will be revealed.
- Summary from Goodreads

Station Eleven is a dystopian novel set fifteen years after a plague outbreak which killed a large percentage of the population. Kristen is part of a traveling drama group that performs Shakespeare in the towns they come across. Unlike most post-apocalyptic stories, Station Eleven is not just a story about survival, it’s about what it means to be human. Kristen’s favorite quote is one from Star Trek: "Because survival is insufficient." This quote works as a theme for the novel.

The story is told from multiple POVs and is non-linear. While this was an interesting way to do it, I felt like Kristen and the other characters from the present seemed very distant and static. I cared more about the characters in the past than the ones post plague. Likewise, I didn't really care about the main conflict in the present. I found that the majority of the tension in the story comes from the backstory’s rate of reveal rather than the progression of the front story. All of the characters are connected in at least a small way and (eventually) all of the connections are revealed. The revelation is what kept me reading.

In the end, all the puzzle pieces come together to form one picture. I was impressed by the writing and the way the story came together, it truly is a masterpiece. That being said, the disconnect with Kristen and the dystopian world makes me think that I probably won't read it again.


1 comment:

  1. Ohh, I love it when that plot device is used! (The one where the characters seem unrelated until a certain time in the book when the connection is made clear.) Although it's too bad you weren't able to connect with the main character. I'm thinking this would be best as a library borrow for that reason.