ABOUT THE BOOK
Published: Sept 9th, 2014
Genre: Literary Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic
Edition: Kindle eBook
Length: 333 pgs.
An audacious, darkly glittering novel about art, fame, and ambition set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, from the author of three highly acclaimed previous novels.
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 Traveling 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.
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This is one of these rare times when I actually bought a newly released book (on sale!) and started reading it in a day. Because this is such a rare event, I knew I had to review this book. Station Eleven is a literary fiction novel that takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting.
The dystopia isn’t a major part of this book, but this book does take a very different approach to the usual dystopians that have come out in recent years. I am, of course, thinking along the lines The Hunger Games or Divergent, but even in terms of other dystopians, this novel stands separate from the usual tropes of dystopias. The setting of this novel feels more melancholic and nostalgic than the general expectation of terror and chaos. Once civilization has collapsed, governments have dismantled and lawlessness reigns. Everyone is on their own and though there are some obvious concerns to be addressed in this sort of situation, it’s not as bad as one would think. Once all the luxuries that we in the twenty-first century enjoy have been taken away, people simply began to adapt. The basic survival instinct that we have as a species takes over and people began to gather, hunt, guard, and organize. The only dangerous situation one can find themselves in in this world is to be alone and make yourself vulnerable as an easy target for theft, assault, or rape. Perhaps this is simply my take on this setting or maybe I am understanding this due to the fact that we follow only one major group of artists as they are traveling but they all seem pretty normal and no one is running around screaming for war or any kind of revolution.
The writing, similarly, is very straightforward and sincere, which merely enhances the tranquility of the setting. It almost felt like the fact that this a lot of story that takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting is simply a coincidence and doesn’t have much to add to the story other than helping us see how people would adapt in such a situation.
There were a few too many characters in this story for me to follow at first but that might be due to the fact that this was a rare occasion in which I never bothered to read the synopsis before jumping into the book. The synopsis actually does an excellent job of setting up the story, in my opinion, as it tells us of the five major perspectives we follow and once we categorize the perspectives while reading, it becomes easier to follow the separate stories. Additionally, these people and their life do eventually connect back together by the end of the story. “Station Eleven” is a title that refers to a comic series written and illustrated by Arthur’s first wife, Miranda, and though that is one object that connects these people, the stories are entwined in one manner or another and eventually we make these connections through Arthur’s life—which played a bigger role than I initially imagined.
The characters themselves don’t seem to have much to say particularly; I think their actions and life experiences speak louder and more clearly at times—this would a book where it would be redundant to try and pick a favorite character because it’s kind of like picking a favorite person in your real life. Arthur, himself, I couldn’t understand completely until I realized he isn’t as important as the role he played in other’s lives. But these characters are as realistic as they can get and because of this I believe they were harder to categorize.
There is some ambiguity about the “big picture” in such a setting which I was slightly curious about and disappointed wasn’t discussed but because that wasn’t the focus, it wasn’t a big deal. I was most definitely annoyed by the existence of the “Prophet” in the novel. It was both agitating and comical that everything in the world has been wiped out but we still have some ignorant form of religion in existence that continues to terrify the population. The lack of background story on the Prophet was the only major suspense in the story and, unfortunately, just about a couple chapters before the Prophet’s identity is revealed, I had already guessed who he was which made me both sad (knowing the person he was) and—obviously—satisfied that I could figured it out for myself.
Overall, this is a very relaxing, serene novel that is not only easy to read but speeds by once you really start connecting with the characters. It’s not overly done or pretentious; Mandel writes a story that almost makes us wishful for such a tranquil existence in which we can finally begin to enjoy life as it was given without squandering our time obsessed with artificial and materialistic things.
This review is also available on BookLikes.