Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Image result for station eleven
Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Post-apocalyptic/Speculative fiction
Features: Plague, survival, humanity

“Because survival is insufficient.”

“This is my soul and the world unwinding, this is my heart in the still winter air. Finally whispering the same two words over and over: ‘Keep walking. Keep walking. Keep walking.’”

 “What was lost in the collapse: almost everything, almost everyone, but there is still such beauty.”

I'm always drawn to books like this, books about humanity after a cataclysmic event, after an "apocalypse." You might think this is terribly morbid, but actually, I love books like this because they strip aside everything but the core of what humanity is, the beautiful and horrific. Station Eleven is different than other post-apocalyptic books I've read in that it's not really sci-fi. It's in the future, but it's not about technology or aliens or space travel. It's an utterly fascinating look at a very terrible "what-if": What if a strand of a flu virus wiped out nearly all of the human population? And beyond that, it's a look at the strength, determination, character, and ingenuity of man in the face of unspeakable tribulation. 

What really sets this book apart is the writing style. It's poetic, full of imagery, yet flows effortlessly from the very first page. The author also rotates the narrative from the perspective of a couple of main characters, and moves back and forth along the timeline (pre- and post-apocalypse). The effect is a feeling of transcendent timelessness, as if the reader has stepped outside of the chronological order of things and can see the ephemeral lives of people from above, from outside earthly constraints. And from that perspective, the reader has a unique view into each character's struggles and victories.

I also love that this book puts on original twist on the post-apocalyptic genre. One of the main characters is part of a traveling group of musicians and actors that migrates from town to town, performing for the people in an effort to preserve beauty and entertainment. Additionally, this book (unlike other post-apocalyptics) looks at the world two decades after the collapse, not just a few weeks or months. Pockets of people have survived and the human spirit, though trodden upon, is not crushed. They have redefined what is important and shed all useless possessions because they have no choice, but in doing so, they have tapped into something far greater.

I enjoyed the questions that this book brought to mind: What would life be like without the internet? What would we do, if all our gadgets and technology failed us?

If you enjoy an artistically written end-of-the-world novel with a glimmer of hope, this book is right up your alley.

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