Tuesday, September 30, 2014

'Station Eleven'

Among all the recent novels with post-apocalyptic themes (something strangely popular right now), there shines a few gems;  'The Passage' by Justin Cronin, and 'Wool' by Hugh Howey come to mind.  And don't forget the little Young Adult gems that crowd our bookshelves.

We can now add another:  'Station Eleven', written by the talented Emily St. John Mandel.

Like 'The Passage' and 'Wool', I found it hard to stay away from Mandel's book. I brought it to work so I could read it during my little coffee breaks.  I read it before I fell asleep.  I finished it while soaking in the bath tub.

It is phenomenal.  And brilliantly presented.

There are no zombies or vampires in this one; I think 'monsters' such as those would just weigh down the story.  The fact that a flu pandemic has destroyed almost the entire population of the earth is scary enough for me.

Film star Arthur Leander is performing King Lear on stage when he suffers from a heart attack.  Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, rushes to the stage in order to save his life.  Standing nearby is child actress Kirsten Raymonde, who is watching in horror as Jeevan performs CPR on Arthur.  While Jeevan is walking home after failing to save Arthur's life, snow begins to fall and a terrible flu begins to spread.

Fifteen years later, Kirsten is an actress with a group of performers called the Traveling Symphony. They move their way across an altered landscape, playing music and performing Shakespeare plays for people who thirst for news and entertainment.  Along the way, they enter a settlement run by the Prophet, a man who claims to be 'the light', but is darkness personified.

The story seamlessly weaves in-and-out of time, telling Arthur's story, and Miranda's (his ex-wife), and Clark's, one of Arthur's oldest friends.  But the story really belongs to Kirsten, a strong, vital young woman who doesn't remember much of the world before the fall of their civilization. She and her group are trying to outrun the Prophet, hoping to reach the Museum of Civilization before they are caught.  

Coincidence abounds in this well-told story, events you see unfolding without surprise until they reach their natural conclusion.  Each character is so true, regretting their choices as they remember their pasts.  They long for electricity and running water and cell phones. They miss the internet and television.  But the day-to-day struggles soon become a way of life and technology becomes part of the dust of history.

As for the title, it represents a graphic novel that Miranda had spent years creating.  It is the tie that binds, it is the fantasy that captures their imaginations in many different ways.  

Author Emily St. John Mandel

Mandel has a gift for great prose and character development. She made me care, she made me feel quite scared, but most of all, she made me want to read her previous novels.

This copy of 'Station Eleven' will be going back to the library, but you can be sure I'll be buying a copy of my very own.

Because this Book Hog has a feeling she'll be reading it again.

'Station Eleven' is currently available at your local library and favorite independent bookstore.  ISBN 978-0-385-35330-4.  If Book Hog had thumbs, she'd give this book five.

1 comment:

Rebecca Glenn said...

Just finished Station Eleven. Deep sigh of contentment, as I wipe the tears from my eyes. I think I need to go back and read St.John Mandel's other books; if they're even the littlest bit as good as this one, they'll rock.