Station Eleven

by Emily St. John Mandel
First sentence: “The king stood in a pool of blue light, unmoored.”
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Content: There are a half-dozen f-bombs, spread throughout the second half of the book. It’s a bit meandering, but otherwise, it’s a good crossover story, and I’d give it to a teen interested in the post-apocalyptic genre. It’s in the Fiction section of the bookstore.

It’s difficult, I think, to write a linear plot for Station Eleven. There’s a pandemic, obviously: the world has to end somehow. An aside: I think it’s interesting that the way the world ends in fiction these days is through sickness or climate change rather than some horrific nuclear event. Times have changed since Canticle for Leibowitz.

Anyway, a pandemic — Georgia Flu — sweeps through the world, with a 99% fatality rate. It kills you within 48 hours of catching it, so it doesn’t take long. That simple thing, changes the world. Station Eleven follows an actor, Arthur, and everyone his life touches — ex-wives, son, paparazzi, best friend, the child actors he was in King Lear with — before and through the pandemic, exploring the connections between them and the way everyone handles the New World.

The book was less about the pandemic or the world collapsing as it was about the connections between people. The action flipped between before the pandemic to 20 years after, only vaguely hitting upon time in-between. There was enough movement to keep me interested; the huge cast of characters were always doing something, and the non-linear plot helped with that as well. I think it was an intriguing reflection on the way our lives touch one another, how seemingly random occurrences to one person have great significance to another. Admittedly, there were times when I didn’t get the connections: the paparazzi’s story, for example, was so disconnected from the rest, I wondered why his was included. But for the most part, I found the book to be an intriguing examination of connection and humanity in a time of crisis.