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Station Eleven

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An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization's collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity. One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage dur An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization's collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity. 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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An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization's collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity. One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage dur An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization's collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity. 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.

30 review for Station Eleven

  1. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    "Survival is insufficient". Star Trek: Voyager Novels whose premise strips away the world as we know it can be tricky territory. They can be innately dramatic, overwrought, didactic and riddled with Big Questions about Life and Death that leave no room for contemplation. Think Ayn Rand on her best day. Or they can be like "Station Eleven". Quiet. Dark. Elegiac. Lit from within like a mysterious firefly. Unhurried. Steeped in small acts and evocative landscapes. Lonely. Elegant. Radiant. Heartbroken "Survival is insufficient". Star Trek: Voyager Novels whose premise strips away the world as we know it can be tricky territory. They can be innately dramatic, overwrought, didactic and riddled with Big Questions about Life and Death that leave no room for contemplation. Think Ayn Rand on her best day. Or they can be like "Station Eleven". Quiet. Dark. Elegiac. Lit from within like a mysterious firefly. Unhurried. Steeped in small acts and evocative landscapes. Lonely. Elegant. Radiant. Heartbroken. Emily St. John Mandel has written something very much akin to a perfect book. I didn't want to tell anyone about it because I felt as if it had been written for me. I wanted to tell everyone about it because it still radiates softly in the background of my days and haunts me with its delicate characters and existentialist essence. If you have watched "The Walking Dead", you will know what I mean when I say that this extraordinary novel is another striking version of a post-apocalyptic universe where ordinary people have to decide for themselves what it means to be "human". Survival is insufficient because to be fully alive, one needs to make choices that define one's character and belonging in the world. The apocalypse is but a tabula rasa for the reinvention of freedom. From the darkness, you will see incredible things arise. A Travelling Symphony. Shakespearian actors sleeping in tents. The first two volumes of a mysterious comic book. A jaded actor. A handful of airplanes glowing in the dusk. Fake snow falling on a theater stage. An incandescent book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rick Riordan

    Adult speculative fiction Even since reading The Stand by Stephen King when I was a kid, I’ve had a soft spot for apocalyptic plagues that wipe out humanity. Er . . . I mean in fiction, of course. Station Eleven is in that vein. The Georgia Flu sweeps across the world, killing most of humanity. St. John-Mandel, using beautiful prose and poignant characterization, follows the lives of various survivors, tracing how their lives intersect in a group of entertainers called the Traveling Symphony. The Adult speculative fiction Even since reading The Stand by Stephen King when I was a kid, I’ve had a soft spot for apocalyptic plagues that wipe out humanity. Er . . . I mean in fiction, of course. Station Eleven is in that vein. The Georgia Flu sweeps across the world, killing most of humanity. St. John-Mandel, using beautiful prose and poignant characterization, follows the lives of various survivors, tracing how their lives intersect in a group of entertainers called the Traveling Symphony. The thread that connects their stories is Arthur Leander, an aging Hollywood star who – on the same night that the plague began destroying civilization – was trying to reboot his career when he died on stage in Toronto during King Lear. We jump back and forth in time, watching how his life influenced what will happen to our band of survivors. If you’re a fan of the TV series The Last Ship or books like The Stand, you may enjoy the premise and the way St. John-Mandel evokes a world without the trappings of modern civilization. The end of the novel hints at mysteries yet to solve for our heroes. I hope this means a sequel is in the works . . .

  3. 4 out of 5

    Maggie Stiefvater

    I don't know if you will like this book. It's a very particular kind of book done very well, which is not remotely a promise that you will like it. The jacket copy is not untrue, but it also isn't helpful. Yes, this is book about the end of the world as we know it, yes, this is a book about a post-apocalyptic Shakespearean troupe, yes, this is a book about a Hollywood actor's dispiriting love life. But that doesn't tell you how the book feels — what the experience is like reading it. This is les I don't know if you will like this book. It's a very particular kind of book done very well, which is not remotely a promise that you will like it. The jacket copy is not untrue, but it also isn't helpful. Yes, this is book about the end of the world as we know it, yes, this is a book about a post-apocalyptic Shakespearean troupe, yes, this is a book about a Hollywood actor's dispiriting love life. But that doesn't tell you how the book feels — what the experience is like reading it. This is less a novel of plot and more a novel of theme, a precisely painted mural of people living in extreme circumstances. Some of the chapters take place after the apocalypse, and some take place before, but it doesn't change the tone — the characters' personal worlds are under duress in both timelines. I take back what I said about the jacket copy being true, by the way. It says this book is "suspenseful." I think that's an unfair and incorrect descriptor for a book that shines for other reasons. I couldn't put this book down, but that is not the same as being suspenseful. My attention was held by the sharp insights on every page, not by a headlong plunge toward the end. Like I said, it's a book of theme, not story. Station Eleven follows a few central characters faithfully enough to satisfy my need for a human thread, but it might not be enough for those who strongly prefer plot-driven novels. Verdict: unsentimental and clear-eyed portrait of what humanity considers civilization.

  4. 4 out of 5

    karen

    Of all of them there at the bar that night, the bartender was the one who survived the longest. He died three weeks later on the road out of the city. on the night the world begins to end, a man has a heart attack and dies onstage while performing the lead role in king lear. considering that shortly after this, the georgia flu will have killed off 99% of the population and changed the world as we know it forever, it seems unlikely that he would be remembered among so many millions dead. but that' Of all of them there at the bar that night, the bartender was the one who survived the longest. He died three weeks later on the road out of the city. on the night the world begins to end, a man has a heart attack and dies onstage while performing the lead role in king lear. considering that shortly after this, the georgia flu will have killed off 99% of the population and changed the world as we know it forever, it seems unlikely that he would be remembered among so many millions dead. but that's the kind of book this is. the story of the people who have touched our lives in unexpected ways, an echoing world in which Hell is the absence of the people you long for, where the little things - or the memories of them - matter the most. arthur leander is a famous hollywood actor with three ex-wives, a son he never sees, a lover, a friend who knew him when, and various people to whom he has been kind, careless, or otherwise meaningful, including a little girl who watches him die beside her onstage, and the paparazzo turned paramedic who tried to save his life. twenty years later, pieces of arthur still remain in the wasteland - in the memories of survivors, in his blood, in the provenance of talismanic objects, and in the ripple effect of events he set in motion when he was still alive. this is a multiple POV novel that jumps back and forth in time, from arthur's rise to fame and the stories of those he loved and lost along the way, to the stories of the survivors, finding and creating meaning in the ashes. Kirsten and August walked mostly in silence. A deer crossed the road ahead and paused to look at them before it vanished into the trees. The beauty of this world where almost everyone was gone. If hell is other people, what is a world with almost no people in it? kirsten is the little girl who was onstage with arthur when he died, and is now a grown woman touring the wasteland with a group of musicians and actors known as "the traveling symphony", bringing entertainment to the scattered settlements. she has a tattoo on her arm with a quote from a remembered star trek episode: Because survival is insufficient, and this is one of the major preoccupations of the novel - the importance of art and a shared cultural history to those who remain. whether it is the objects collected in the "museum of civilization," the persistence of shakespeare, the significance of portions of a tattered comic book (from which this novel draws its name) in the hands of two different characters who will take from it wildly different meanings, or even the memory of star trek, these are the things that connect those who are left. it is the tenacity of what remains, what endures, and what can still be done with it - the clinging to what makes us human - to what matters in the aftermath, and to what binds us together. that's not to say this is a gentle apocalypse solely concerned with maintaining cultural heritage. there are dangers everywhere in a world without pharmaceuticals or technology, a world in which a lack of codified behavior can make a man believe he is a prophet, and to give his dark vision free reign. it's a stunner, straight up. and between this and california, it's a great time to be a woman writing lit-dystopias. i have read oh-so-many post-apocalyptic novels, but mandel managed to show me something new. she writes a complicated, multivoiced story in the fragments we are allowed to see - the slices of experience from both before and after the cataclysm, where a dinner party scene is just as interesting and fraught with tension as anything from the early days of the disease, and there are so many unforgettable jewels of moments: jeevan and his wheelchair-bound brother trying to wait out the plague, a quarantined plane on the edge of the tarmac, the memory of oranges. she has such a strong, wonderful voice and has created tender and sympathetic characters who may be deeply flawed, but are the very personification(s) of the stubbornness of humanity. one of the things that surprised me is that more wasn't made of the king lear parallels. i mean arthur had three wives, lear had three daughters - and since there are so many references to shakespeare throughout, both overt and oblique (one of arthur's wives is named miranda, another is elizabeth(ian), one of the section titles is a midsummer night's dream, the georgia flu is somewhat analogous to the black plague of shakespeare's time) i feel like it would have given the novel another layer of ka-pow to have developed the theme even further. but no - one of arthur's wives doesn't even appear in the book except a brief mention that she existed. and - jeez - would it have killed mandel to have given v. a chapter??? you know we want to know more about that situation!! but these are just minor quibbles over an incredibly intelligent and gripping novel. and we can still have a little fun with names here, exclusive of shakespeare - if we play a little free-association game with most-notably-named, "arthur leander" roughly translates into "king of tragic lovers." which is apt. two quick notes: if you don't want a very popular four-year-old book that - yes, i know, i probably should have read already - spoiled for you, don't read the acknowledgments. because- yeah. oops. that was me. and if the graphic novel that plays such an important role in this book is NOT picked up by someone and published as a companion book, it will be a huge missed opportunity. because we want it. bad. come to my blog!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey Keeten

    ”Hell is the absence of the people you long for.” When the Georgia Flu sweeps around the world killing 99.6% of the population there were suddenly... a lot of people... to long for. The people missing from our lives is the hardest part. We mourn their loss, but we also have to mourn for the part of ourselves that is lost with each of their passings. To survive is painful. ”Civilization in Year Twenty was an archipelago of small towns. These towns had fought off ferals, buried their neighbors, live ”Hell is the absence of the people you long for.” When the Georgia Flu sweeps around the world killing 99.6% of the population there were suddenly... a lot of people... to long for. The people missing from our lives is the hardest part. We mourn their loss, but we also have to mourn for the part of ourselves that is lost with each of their passings. To survive is painful. ”Civilization in Year Twenty was an archipelago of small towns. These towns had fought off ferals, buried their neighbors, lived and died and suffered together in the blood-drenched years just after the collapse, survived against unspeakable odds and then only by holding together into the calm…” I’ve met a few survivalists over the years. People who are obsessed with surviving the next great catastrophe. They have food, water, and weapons stockpiled. Some have even went so far as to build bunkers. Everyone of them has looked on me with pity when I admit that I might have a weeks worth of canned food in my house at any one time. They have all kinds of scenarios mapped out that will help insure their survival. They are more than willing to kill people to protect what is theirs. They are living for the end of the world. While they are buying bullets, bottled water, and MRGs I’m spending my money on fine wine, collectible books, and wonderful meals. I want civilization to continue to keep me in a bubble of protection so that I can continue to spend my money on culture for the rest of my days. It so happens that the day before the world ends Arthur Leander, the famous movie actor, is playing a part in King Lear on the stage in Toronto. Dying is never a good thing, but when he drops from a heart attack on stage he has no idea how lucky he is. Kirsten is a child actress in the play and for a very short period of time she will think this is the worst day of her life. In the audience is Jeevan Chaudhary a paramedic trainee who leaps onto the stage and tries to the best of his abilities to save Arthur Leander’s life. Jeevan leaves the theater thinking he has finally discovered what he wants to do with his life. His revelry is interrupted by a phone call from a friend who works in the hospital. The Georgian Flu is in the states and the medical staff have no treatment options. It is killing people faster than they can initiate medical countermeasures. Now most people who get a phone call like this would dither, would maybe even go into denial for a period of time hoping for a miraculous change in the world’s prognosis, but not Jeevan. He goes to the nearest supermarket and buys seven grocery carts filled with food. The image of a man pushing seven carts through the streets of Toronto to his brother Frank’s apartment will stick in my mind forever. Believing the worst... soon enough... saved his life. Kirsten also survives, by luck, by the dint of her adaptability. We find her in the future as part of a travelling theater group. They protect each other and continue to perform the plays of the greatest playwright in the history of the world to what remains of human race. Shakespeare survives. And so do the first and second issues of a comic book series called Dr. Eleven because Arthur Leander’s ex-wife gave him copies of her artistic endeavor and he promptly pressed them into the hands of Kirsten mere hours before he breathed his last. Arthur thought it would entertain his young friend for an hour or so. Little did he know these two comic books would crucially entertain her for decades. The motto of the travelling dramatists is Survival is Insufficient. The blending of Shakespeare and a line now immortalized from Star Trek is exactly how I see the future. In fact, in my household it frequently happens now, the best of the past, blending with the best of the present, everyone must keep up. My kids, now young adults, roll their eyes every time I say “you probably need to google that”. Of course when the world has disappeared and you can entertain children with stories of cool air or warm air just coming out of the vents and they look at you like your telling science-fiction stories; it is overwhelming to think about what has been lost. So what would I miss? One scoop of ice cream, not a bowl full, one scoop because when you only have one scoop you shave off these small bites and savor every one of them. Movies, I can’t even imagine not having movies. For a while I could play the entire movies in my head, but we all know the images will begin to corrode over time and I’ll be left with highlights. Cary Grant running across a field chased by an airplane in North by Northwest. The death scene of Rutger Hauer in Blade Runner. The scene when the king stumbles out wounded but intent on fighting the final battle in The Thirteenth Warrior. Fred Astaire dancing with Ginger Rogers… in that dress... in Top Hat. Marisa Mell frolicking naked in a pile of money in Danger:Diabolik. Marlon Brando saying I coulda been a contender in On the Waterfront. Marilyn Monroe’s skirt blowing up on the subway grate in The Seven Year Itch. John Wayne staring off into the distance over the back of his lathered horse thinking about what he will find in The Searchers. I could go on and on. Hopefully everyone would remember different scenes so we could all remember more. Taking a hot shower. A ritual of thinking that allows me to map out my day while luxuriating in a warm continuous spray. For those who have their entire library on their Kindles, well you are out of luck, but for me the Luddite, I’d be contending with keeping bugs and moisture as far away from my books as possible. Still, books need a controlled environment to continue to be useful so it would be a world with fewer books everyday. Like the movies it may not be that long before many books would only exist in my head. Trains, planes and automobiles. When the world collapses the world would become flat. Global trekking would be more along the lines of seeing what is going on in the next county. I would miss being able to head to Santa Fe, Chicago, or Savannah on a whim. Until I’m there, sitting in all my odoriferous splendor under a tree reading the tattered remains of a copy of War and Peace, it is really hard to say what I would miss the most. Of course the end of the world is never complete without a PROPHET. The troop of dramatists make a swing back through an area where a year earlier they had left two of their members. They had hoped to reconnect with them, but soon discover that they had to move on. A religious element has taken over the region led by a man who is selling the concept of “we are the light”, but really he is saying he is the sun, the moon, and the stars. As a friendly gesture he offers the troop of actors his protection if they donate one of the lovely young ladies from their company to become one of his wives. Why does it always take so long for someone to put a bullet, an arrow, or a knife through a guy like this? The troop politely declines his offer, but soon discover after leaving that they have a twelve year old stowaway who is frantic to escape because she is destined to become The PROPHET’s next wife. Of course THE PROPHET is dissed and it soon becomes a chase as Kristen and her friends try to outrun the ire of a madman. Emily St. John Mandel blends the future and the past together seamlessly around the life of Arthur Leander and how he continues to live in the mind of his young friend Kirsten. Mandel takes this moment in time, the death of Leander on stage, and spreads her tentacles of information backwards and forwards until the reader is captivated by the memories of the past and the people living in this theatrical future. This is an impressive performance from a young writer and now we have to wait to see what form her next novel will assume. ***4.50 out of 5 stars*** If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kelly (and the Book Boar)

    Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/ “The thing with the new world is it’s just horrifically short on elegance.” Everyone loved this book. I’m talking EVERYONE. I have 1 – yep ONE – friend or person I follow on Goodreads who gave it less than 3 Stars. In order to prove how much of an idiot I am and that no one should take my opinion seriously, I will super giffify this review. Station Eleven begins with the story of Arthur, who passes away on stage while performing King Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/ “The thing with the new world is it’s just horrifically short on elegance.” Everyone loved this book. I’m talking EVERYONE. I have 1 – yep ONE – friend or person I follow on Goodreads who gave it less than 3 Stars. In order to prove how much of an idiot I am and that no one should take my opinion seriously, I will super giffify this review. Station Eleven begins with the story of Arthur, who passes away on stage while performing King Lear, and of Jeevan, the man who tried to resuscitate Arthur, and of Kirsten, a child actress who was also in the play and witnesses Arthur’s death. We then do the wibbly-wobbly timey wimey thing that takes us to a dystopian future where 99.99999% of the population was eradicated by the “Georgian Flu” and where Kirsten is still an actress, only this time it is with the “Traveling Symphony” – an acting/musical troupe who travels the wastelands of the Canadian side of the Great Lakes performing Shakespeare. Then we flippy floppy back in time to hear Arthur and Jeevan’s respective life stories. The author also throws in a “second coming of the Lord” for good measure. Everyone else talks about the crisp, beautiful writing and how they couldn’t put this book down and here I sit and have to confess that it took me three days to get through it (and I generally read a book a day). I can agree that the story and characters were intricately woven, but my reaction to those characters and their stories???? Especially when it came to the story of the flu and the prophet. No one can ever do the end of the world/second coming better than King did with The Stand. I like my end of the world stories to grab me by the balls and not let go until I’ve become a complete germaphobe who is terrified to leave the house for a few days after reading ; ) Station Eleven left me with a reaction kind of like this . . . And for the “flowery writing”?????? The notes I made to myself look like this: “No more diving into pools of chlorinated water lit green from below. No more ball games played out under floodlights. No more porch lights with moths fluttering on summer nights. No more trains running under the surface of cities on the dazzling power of the electric third rail. No more cities. No more films . . . No more screens shining in the half-light as people raise their phones above the crowd to take photographs of concert stages. No more concert stages lit by candy-colored halogens, no more electronica, punk, electric guitars. No more pharmaceuticals. No more certainty of surviving a scratch on one’s hand, a cut on a finger while chopping vegetables for dinner, a dog bite. No more flight. No more towns glimpsed from the sky through airplane windows . . . No more airplanes, no more requests to put your tray table in its upright and locked position . . .” Followed by a brilliant comment by me: “SNOOZE!!!!”. Then once in a blue moon I have something like this: “I stood looking over my damaged home and tried to forget the sweetness of life on Earth.” With my genius observation: “Oooooh, I like that.” I also have a bunch of highlights with notes to myself like: “Explain?” . . . “Will she explain??” . . . “Are they EVER going to explain this????” Guess what? The answer is NOPE. Then there’s more of this: “Consider the snow globe. Consider the mind that invented those miniature storms, the factory worker who turned sheets of plastic into white flakes of snow . . . consider the white gloves on the hands of the woman who inserted the snow globes into boxes to be packed into larger boxes, crates, shipping containers. Consider the card games played belowdecks in the evenings on the ship carrying the containers across the ocean . . . Consider the signature on the shipping manifest when the ship reached port . . .” And my reaction of: “SOOOOOOOOO BORING!” I didn’t like it . . . but everyone else did, so I say give it a shot. And if you end up disagreeing with my opinion???? Ha! Just kidding. If you want an actual review that gives a well-stated counterpoint to this one (and uses words instead of pictures to do so), check out Kaora’s.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Regan

    A wonderful story about the resilience of people.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    I don't know why it bothers me so that I thought this book was just ok. So many of my GR friends have embraced this Station Eleven and have shouted its praises from the rooftop. I struggled through the first 80 pages, didn't want to throw it under the couch, but wasn't finding myself engaged. Perhaps I should have quit while I was ahead but stubborn that I am, I carried on. It never really got better for me but I did finish. At least I won't feel left out. Shakespeare is dead and I prefer him to I don't know why it bothers me so that I thought this book was just ok. So many of my GR friends have embraced this Station Eleven and have shouted its praises from the rooftop. I struggled through the first 80 pages, didn't want to throw it under the couch, but wasn't finding myself engaged. Perhaps I should have quit while I was ahead but stubborn that I am, I carried on. It never really got better for me but I did finish. At least I won't feel left out. Shakespeare is dead and I prefer him to remain so. That could have been part of my problem. The only character I really liked was Miranda. I love stories about pandemics but was surprised that I wasn't cheering for these characters to survive. The Traveling Symphony was a unique tool but never captured my fancy. I certainly can't fault the writing. Creative? Perhaps. I have been as positive as I can be in regards to my feelings about Station Eleven. Would I try another of Mandel's books? Maybe.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Cece (ProblemsOfaBookNerd)

    Until I someday write a longer review (you never know, it could happen), I’ll just say this: I sat down intending to read about 50 pages tonight and wound up reading 200. I also completely forgot the world around me existed for a few hours, and that is the highest praise I can personally give any book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Violet wells

    I wanted and expected to enjoy this novel more than I did. There’s much that’s gripping and clever but it was spoiled for me by a sloppiness in its construction, most notably an excess of half-baked and obfuscating characters. Was this novel rushed to cash in on the Hunger Games pandemic? At times it comes across as a novel written with heart but equally it can seem sketchy and only half imagined. Also should be said that it karaokes most other successful dystopian novels of recent times, most o I wanted and expected to enjoy this novel more than I did. There’s much that’s gripping and clever but it was spoiled for me by a sloppiness in its construction, most notably an excess of half-baked and obfuscating characters. Was this novel rushed to cash in on the Hunger Games pandemic? At times it comes across as a novel written with heart but equally it can seem sketchy and only half imagined. Also should be said that it karaokes most other successful dystopian novels of recent times, most obviously, and by turns, Cloud Atlas, The Road, The Hunger Games and Dog Star. Primary weakness of this novel is its characters. Too many and sometimes not only incidental to the story but clumsily obtrusive. The novel has as its fulcrum two events – a performance of King Lear immediately before the pandemic arrives, when Arthur Leander has a fatal heart attack on stage and a dinner party when Miranda, Arthur’s first wife and the creator of the Station Eleven comic, first realises her husband is betraying her. The most unwanted character in the book, Jeevan is present at both of these events, first as a paparazzo, then as a training paramedic. A preposterous coincidence (preparing us, in some way, for the tapestry of preposterous coincidences that follow and have to be accepted if the novel is going to work) that might have been a brilliant stroke of mischievous humour if Jeevan had any other role to play in the novel. But he doesn’t. Mandel simply uses him to dramatise the immediate aftermath of the epidemic. But she has half a dozen other characters who could easily have performed this function. In fact it would have given the Travelling Symphony more body had she used Kirsten here, the orchestra’s principle character. As it is the Symphony remains a sketched idea that flits in and out of the book with little more body than reflected light. Kirsten is another character who for me didn’t work at all. She seems like a photocopy of the heroine of The Hunger Games – never even remotely convincing as a warrior child with her knife throwing expertise. Conveniently we’re not told what happened to her to justify her transition from innocent child to stalker/warrior. Everyone in the novel is a custodian – another example of characters with cloned purposes. Kirsten is the custodian of the Station Eleven comic but so too is Arthur’s son; Arthur’s son is also the custodian of religious fervour, Arthur’s best friend is the custodian of the novel’s museum, the Travelling Symphony is the custodian of culture and another pointless character called Francois starts a newspaper and so becomes the custodian of the written word (the interviews with Kirsten don’t work at all except to make the Cloud Atlas shoplifting more apparent) So everyone’s representing something and as a result, with the exception of Miranda, the creator and, to a lesser extent, Arthur, the actor, don’t ever come alive in their own right. Triumphs: Mandel, in essence, is an admirable storyteller. And the fluid shape of the novel is great. Its flashbacking roving archaeological momentum almost like the act of nostalgia itself – the novel is obsessively nostalgic, most successfully through the imagery of the comics, least successfully when nostalgia is constantly the subject of conversation. Best character by a country mile is the Station Eleven comic and its creator Miranda. The comic book is cleverly used as a kind of portal between the before and after – and here the nostalgia theme is at its most poignant. Whenever the comic was the novel’s focal point it really held my interest. Shame that it was cluttered with so many other cloned and conflicting narratives. I couldn’t help feeling, if only someone had prompted Mandel to do one final draft. Hew the thing into a more polished form and think out some of the elements that weren’t thoroughly thought out. As commercial storytelling it’s a good novel, as literature it doesn’t cut it for me. More a collection of catchy pop songs than a moving cello sonata.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Virginia Ronan ♥ Herondale ♥

    ”What’s going on?” “I don’t know, Jeevan. That’s the short answer. I don’t know what’s going on. It’s a flu, that much is obvious, but I’ve never seen anything like it. It is so fast. It just seems to spread so quickly –“ This is one of the rare times I’m actually searching for the right words and if you know me, you know that this doesn’t happen all too often. *lol* To describe this book is kind of hard though so bear with me when I don’t always manage to convey my thoughts and feelings. It’s not ”What’s going on?” “I don’t know, Jeevan. That’s the short answer. I don’t know what’s going on. It’s a flu, that much is obvious, but I’ve never seen anything like it. It is so fast. It just seems to spread so quickly –“ This is one of the rare times I’m actually searching for the right words and if you know me, you know that this doesn’t happen all too often. *lol* To describe this book is kind of hard though so bear with me when I don’t always manage to convey my thoughts and feelings. It’s not easy with a book like “Station Eleven” because it’s so unlike any other post-apocalyptic book I ever read. Sure, it begins with the Georgia Flu that wipes out about 90% of humankind, but unlike other books it doesn’t focus on the illness, but rather on the lives of the few people who survived it. AND it centres on the life of Arthur Leander, an actor who died on stage shortly before the flu broke out. ”This is my soul and the world unwinding, this is my heart in the still winter air.” The narration of this book is kind of complicated because it doesn’t only jump between different POVs but also alternates between different timelines. There’s the one after the Georgia flu and there’s the one before the flu. The one that tells the story of a man who lives in our modern world. A world with electricity, running water, i-phones, divorces and tv screens, a world with medicine and airplanes. A world in which everything is still possible and in which everyone takes everything for granted. ”What I mean to say is, the more you remember, the more you’ve lost.” This sentence stuck with me, because it explains the book and the characters that live in it so well. If you lived in our world, if you were a child and got a taste of it, you remember what it used to be and how easy everything was. Can you imagine a world without the internet? Without flushing toilets and electricity? Without supermarkets that provide you with food? Well, once you know this comfort it’s kind of hard to live without it. Believe me and take the word of a person who’s been at plenty of music festivals that went on for four days and nights. *lol* I know what I’m talking about. ;-P ”Beneath the fury was something literally unspeakable, the television news carrying an implication that no one could yet bring themselves to consider. It was possible to comprehend the scope of the outbreak, but it wasn’t possible to comprehend what it meant.” This book is not about the Georgia flu and it’s outbreak, no, it’s about people and their lives before and after “the unspeakable” happened. There are items that connect those people throughout the course of those years and I really loved that aspect of the book. It gave me comfort, it gave me hope. Just to know that the past wasn’t forgotten, that a simple paperweight and the “Station Eleven” comic books survived and were passed on. That some of those characters actually remembered! ”First we only want to be seen, but once we’re seen, that’s not enough anymore. After that, we want to be remembered.” Kirsten Raymond, Jeevan, Arthur Leander, Miranda, Elizabeth, Clarke and Tyler. They are all connected with each other, they just don’t know it. Their lives are interwoven, in the past, the present and the future and no matter if they are unaware of it or not, a little part of them continues to live on. The experiences they made, the past they shared, the effects of it on their future, it’s one big cycle and it’s their story to tell… “Station Eleven” is an intricate and interwoven piece of literature that makes you not only think about the things you lost and left behind but also inevitably forces you to gaze at everything that lies in the future ahead of you. It gives you hope and when everything is said and done, when your world turns dark and lonely, it’s exactly this kind of hope that helps you to carry on. "Survival is insufficient."

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    It’s no accident that Emily St. John Mandel opens her haunting new novel with a scene from King Lear, who ends up mad and blind but clear as a bell. One of that play’s memorable lines is: “The oldest hath borne most; we that are young/Shall never see so much nor live so long.” Indeed, there is a divide between those who have borne much and those who will never see so much. In the opening pages, renowned actor Arthur Leander dies while performing King Lear. Before the week is out, the vast majorit It’s no accident that Emily St. John Mandel opens her haunting new novel with a scene from King Lear, who ends up mad and blind but clear as a bell. One of that play’s memorable lines is: “The oldest hath borne most; we that are young/Shall never see so much nor live so long.” Indeed, there is a divide between those who have borne much and those who will never see so much. In the opening pages, renowned actor Arthur Leander dies while performing King Lear. Before the week is out, the vast majority of the audience – indeed, the world – will be dead from the pandemic Georgia flu. There are two key story lines – one before the end of civilization and one after it. The first focuses on Arthur, along with his three ex-wives, best friend Clark, and Jeevan, a one-time paparazzo and good Samaritan, who tries to save him. The other line centers on Kirstin, a young girl who witnessed Arthur’s death, who is now part of a Traveling Symphony, a musical theatre troupe that roams the wasted land to bring music and Shakespeare to the limited number of people who remain…not unlike original Shakespeare actors during plague-filled days of the past. Woven into these tales is the inspiration for the book’s title. Arthur’s first wife, Miranda (likely based on the character from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, who utters, “O brave new world, That has such people in’t!”) She is the writer and designer of a sci-fi graphic comic, with threads of what eventually happens on earth: “There are people who, after fifteen years of perpetual twilight, long only to go home, to return to Earth and beg for amnesty; to take their chances under alien rule. They live in the Undersea, an interlined network of vast fallout shelters under Station Eleven’s oceans.” Station Eleven is a terrifying, haunting, and stunning book that speaks eloquently on many key themes: survival during devastating times, our ephemeral existence and the fleeting nature of fame compared to the endurance of art. Indeed, it is only our shared stories – from Shakespeare to graphic books – that ties us all together, connects us and makes us human. After turning the last page, I sat completely still for a minute, stunned, before taking my dogs out. While outside, I was driven to tears by the beauty of the fireflies lighting up against a dark Chicago night. Station Eleven – in many ways, a psalm of appreciation for the simple things in our current existence – wields THAT sort of power. It’s an amazing book and is highly recommended.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Felicia

    This was a lovely, elevated apocalypse story that was very touching. The integration of acting and Hollywood world was really interesting, I'm sure even moreso to someone who isn't in "the biz." If you want a dose of great storytelling with your post-disaster wasteland fiction, this is a book for you!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Petrik

    Milestone achieved = Review #200 within one year six months of joining Goodreads! Thought-provoking, haunting, and atmospheric. Station Eleven is an adult post apocalyptic/dystopian novel written by Emily St. John Mandel and I’m actually quite surprised by how enjoyable it was, especially considering that I bought this book on a whim two days ago without knowing anything about it whatsoever. Those who followed my reviews should know by now that SFF is my number one favorite genre to read, that’s w Milestone achieved = Review #200 within one year six months of joining Goodreads! Thought-provoking, haunting, and atmospheric. Station Eleven is an adult post apocalyptic/dystopian novel written by Emily St. John Mandel and I’m actually quite surprised by how enjoyable it was, especially considering that I bought this book on a whim two days ago without knowing anything about it whatsoever. Those who followed my reviews should know by now that SFF is my number one favorite genre to read, that’s why I always find it strange how the great standalone always came from genres I don't usually read, like this book. Picture: Station Eleven by Vincent Chong I won’t be talking about the plot at all, if you want to know what’s the premise of the book is about, the blurb of the book did a great job of explaining without spoiling anything, a rare case I know. Before you start reading this book, I need to remind you that this book is slow paced and highly characters driven. These characters will matter a lot in deciding your enjoyment of this book and this is in my opinion, the most important factors in this book; pretty much any book I read really, well-written characters will always be the priority. Luckily for me, although it didn’t happen immediately, I did end up enjoying all the characters’ POV by the halfway point of this book. Not only were the characters written realistically, reading how they cope with the new world and how all these characters story-line converged were compelling. This is a slow paced book and even though it’s a post-apocalyptic book, the majority of the story-line centered pretty much on the characters’ lives before and after the collapse of civilization. However, do know that it is really rewarding to read it to the last quarter of the book. At first, it may seem like the character’s story were disjointed, but believe me, every character's POV were important. Mandel took me by surprise with her talent in seamlessly connecting all the plot and characters, bringing a great style of storytelling in this atmospheric piece of work. “Hell is the absence of the people you long for.” Parts of what made this book unique and different from other post-apocalyptic story is the positive messages that the author conveyed. Don’t get me wrong, the setting is bleak but I can’t help but feel peaceful reading it. In the video game, The Last of Us, there is a lot of walking around, scavenging stuff, and there was this moment where the characters found a herd of giraffes; that simple moment was one of the most beautiful moments of the game. This book has that sense of atmosphere, both the bleak and the beautiful part. The literal meaning of darkness can’t exist without light, same as how despair can’t exist without hope, and even in the darkest of times, hope will always find a way to prevail one way or another. This book gave a feeling of melancholy and at the same time, grateful. It’s poignant at times but evocatively joyful. Focusing on humanities, perseverance of art, I love how the author tells a story that centered on finding hope in the hardest of times; even after the collapse of civilization, humanity will somehow find a way to survive, for better or worse. This book also serves as a reminder that we MUST do something for this world other than merely surviving. There was one passage about ‘sleepwalking’ through life in particular that in my opinion will resonate with a lot of readers who still have no idea what they’re doing with their life, especially in jobs; at least that’s how it felt for me. “Survival is insufficient.” Mandel’s prose was seductively simple and beautiful, making this book something that’s worth a read when you’re in need of a wake up call or some positivity in harsh times. The only minor issues I had with the book is there were a few moments in the beginning after the outbreak that were a bit boring and I thought the ending could've been much more satisfying; it ended in a way that made this book doesn't feel like a standalone. This is pretty much all I can say about the book without spoiling anything. It’s a short read—only a bit more than 300 pages long, and it's really worth your time. Station Eleven have won an incredible amount of awards and I’ll concur that they are quite well deserved. I would like to say thank you to everyone who always like, comment, and read my review! You guys make reviewing book even more fun! :) You can find this and the rest of my Adult Epic/High Fantasy & Sci-Fi reviews at BookNest

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lyn

    An exceptionally well rendered portrait of Elvis on a magnificent black velvet background. Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel’s 2014 novel is the "Velvet Elvis" of post-apocalyptic books, a surprisingly different form than usual with a style all its own. “Post-apocalyptic literary science fiction” was one way I have heard it described, and also “pastoral science fiction” and I here adopt both descriptions. Mandel has certainly softened the Mad Max edges off her story and provided a ponderous, m An exceptionally well rendered portrait of Elvis on a magnificent black velvet background. Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel’s 2014 novel is the "Velvet Elvis" of post-apocalyptic books, a surprisingly different form than usual with a style all its own. “Post-apocalyptic literary science fiction” was one way I have heard it described, and also “pastoral science fiction” and I here adopt both descriptions. Mandel has certainly softened the Mad Max edges off her story and provided a ponderous, meandering and thoughtful account of a world with a lot less people. Telling the story before and after a global pandemic, many readers will liken this to Stephen King’s 1978 classic The Stand, as here the culprit is the Georgian flu which kills in hours not days. Mandel’s prose is in tone and structure like Jennifer Egan’s award winning 2010 novel A Visit from the Goon Squad. We visit 20 years after the collapse and then relive moments years before and then contemporaneous with the global spread of the disease. I was also reminded of Bradbury’s “There will come soft rains” with it’s quiet, somber reflections and recollections of the time before. Philip K. Dick’s Dr. Bloodmoney is another book that I would categorize Station Eleven with – a softer, gentler and kinder vision of a world after catastrophe. “Because survival is insufficient” – an old Star Trek slogan sums up this work. Mandel portrays her survivors as yearning to keep the flame of civilization lit. We follow Miranda, the Station Eleven graphic novel artist and the graphic novel that survives the apocalypse. Also, Arthur Leander, an actor who plays King Lear just before the pandemic. Finally, Mandel introduces a troupe of actors and musicians traveling from town to town after the “collapse” performing symphonies and Shakespeare. This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper. Mandel poses existential questions about living where only weeks before the pandemic people were worried about meaningless, inconsequential things and only minimally connected to the world around them. Station Eleven, named after the graphic novel which had a very limited production and was drawn not for commercial success but for the sake of the art, is an examination of our culture in eulogy. One of the central characters, Clark, forms a museum of civilization in an abandoned airport and preserves relics of what the people of the new world should try to remember of the past, only recently departed. A very good book that I highly recommend.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~

    Actual Rating: 4.5 Stars "We traveled so far and your friendship meant everything. It was difficult, but there were moments of beauty. Everything ends. I am not afraid." Station Eleven is a book that sat hovering in my peripheral vision for a couple of years. I promised myself I would read it in 2017, and I'm really glad I finally did. The book begins with the end. The end of actor, Arthur Leander, and the end of the world in the form of a fast-acting flu-like virus. From that point on, the story Actual Rating: 4.5 Stars "We traveled so far and your friendship meant everything. It was difficult, but there were moments of beauty. Everything ends. I am not afraid." Station Eleven is a book that sat hovering in my peripheral vision for a couple of years. I promised myself I would read it in 2017, and I'm really glad I finally did. The book begins with the end. The end of actor, Arthur Leander, and the end of the world in the form of a fast-acting flu-like virus. From that point on, the story criss-crosses between the past & future following two main story lines. The first details a small web of people, all of whom are connected via their relationship to Arthur before the global collapse. The second follows a nomad group of Shakespearean performers after the virus has wiped out 99% of Earth's population. When I first started this book, I was held back by my own expectations. I thought the story would focus more on bloody virus victims or perilous survival tales. For a moment, I thought the book wasn't going to live up to the genre, but then suddenly it was transcending it. I should've known when I saw so many 5-star reviews that I wasn't about to be treated to a stereotypical, post-apocalyptic story. More than anything, this is a story about the nature of humanity. Resilient but fragile, beautiful but terrifying; the brightest & the darkest parts of being human are what we are left with when crisis strips away everything in between. One of my favorite aspects of the book is the exploration of different types of destruction. In the past sequences, we read about a group of people who are suffering in a variety of different ways; their situations have a thread of commonality in that they all could be labeled as "self-destructive." In the present, characters deal with the aftermath of a much larger & unstoppable form of destruction by way of the virus. Infidelity. Abuse. Smoking. Dishonesty. Cults. Regardless of time frame, Mandel's characters partake in a what feels like an unavoidable cycle of destruction. The relevance of this cycle is intensified as you become familiar with each character & slowly realize how they are connected, even across the span of decades. But alongside this theme of breaking down is also the theme of rising from the ashes. The power of intention & how the action of one can ripple outward to touch an unseen number of people. One of the main characters, Miranda Carroll, authors a comic from which Station Eleven takes its name. The comic has an enduring presence in both the past & present story lines, and is used as a subtle tool of foreshadowing, which I found rather creative. Another notable quality is the writing style. It's both elegant & succinct. Mandel manages to convey a wide range of emotion & meaning in a relatively short amount of space. The book itself is only 336 pages long, but on every page is a beautifully written sentiment. This book will suit people who enjoyed The Last of Us or The Girl with All the Gifts. Stories that contain superbly written characters & eloquent conclusions about what it means to survive when it feels like fate has other plans for you. This review and other reviews of mine can be found on Book Nest!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Fabian

    An eclectic, always wondrous literary feast, with a generous dispersal of savory anecdotes, attitudes & (grand) themes. It has all the BEST features of previous apocalyterature & road stories (the pale terror of McCarthy's "The Road", the joie de vivre/bonhomie of the band of outsiders in "The Wizard of Oz," the irresistible speed and power of "Mad Max")--it all adds up to something as interesting & bizarre as "Cloud Atlas." "Station Eleven" is a novel that's so full of life. It desis An eclectic, always wondrous literary feast, with a generous dispersal of savory anecdotes, attitudes & (grand) themes. It has all the BEST features of previous apocalyterature & road stories (the pale terror of McCarthy's "The Road", the joie de vivre/bonhomie of the band of outsiders in "The Wizard of Oz," the irresistible speed and power of "Mad Max")--it all adds up to something as interesting & bizarre as "Cloud Atlas." "Station Eleven" is a novel that's so full of life. It desists from stumbling upon any number of apocalyptic themes--it wants to not be what it is. It chooses humanity over annihilation is such a sickeningly awesome way. Think of an overturned smashed aquarium--giant goldfish gulping for oxygen, pebbly mountains powerfully toppled--& with a nifty microscope describe all the lives of those depleting but ever-persistent microbes that struggle for their chance at existence.

  18. 5 out of 5

    jessica

    ‘we travelled so far and your friendship meant everything. it was very difficult, but there were moments of beauty. everything ends. i am not afraid.’ wow wow wow. this book. this was quite unlike any other post-apocalyptic story i have ever read before. this didnt focus on the flu that eradicated 99% of earths population. this didnt go into detail about the origin of the disease or the worldwide attempt to contain it. the purpose of the book wasnt to explore the collapse of the world as we kn ‘we travelled so far and your friendship meant everything. it was very difficult, but there were moments of beauty. everything ends. i am not afraid.’ wow wow wow. this book. this was quite unlike any other post-apocalyptic story i have ever read before. this didnt focus on the flu that eradicated 99% of earths population. this didnt go into detail about the origin of the disease or the worldwide attempt to contain it. the purpose of the book wasnt to explore the collapse of the world as we know it. this was a very simple story about people and their resilience. this was, almost exclusively, a character driven story. but what makes this book so unique was how each character was connected. all strangers at one point, and at other times not, this story perfectly portrayed the interconnectivity of humanity and the lengths people will go to retain that connection. this story showed that mere ‘survival is insufficient’ - its finding the meaning in life that makes each day liveable. because without the choices we make to define ourselves in a time that seems like the end, without living with meaning, are we even human? its thoughts and ideas like these that this book so beautifully presents. so if you are looking for an unhurried, but captivating, story about the quiet strength of people, this is the only book you will ever need. ↠ 4 stars

  19. 5 out of 5

    Megan Johnson

    The world is ending, a deadly pandemic has left 99.99% of humanity dead, and for those left the task of surviving is proving to be more difficult than any of them could have imagined. A famous actor falls dead on stage from a heart attack mere hours before the outbreak affects nearly everyone around him. They would all almost be dead within a few weeks. Station Eleven is the story of those affected by this mass outbreak and how they are somehow all connected in ways that transcend this great tra The world is ending, a deadly pandemic has left 99.99% of humanity dead, and for those left the task of surviving is proving to be more difficult than any of them could have imagined. A famous actor falls dead on stage from a heart attack mere hours before the outbreak affects nearly everyone around him. They would all almost be dead within a few weeks. Station Eleven is the story of those affected by this mass outbreak and how they are somehow all connected in ways that transcend this great tragedy. If I hadn't been holding the book in my hand and knew from looking at it that I was at the end, I would have thought I had missed something. It wasn't that I didn't like the ending, in fact I thought it was so good that I wanted it to keep going! Put simply, it left off in a place that I found a bit strange. Not unsatisfying, but certainly unexpected. Overall though, I really enjoyed this read. I said at one point that it felt like something I would have read in a literature class back in school. It was dense, but packed a great message and story. I didn't fly through it like I do with many things I tend to read but this was almost preferred. It gave me a chance to really take in the weight of what these characters were going through and helped me to better see things through their eyes. It's not quite a dystopian kind of novel, but it reads similarly. As such, it takes some getting used to in terms of tone simply because they setting in which they are inhabiting is totally unlike the world that we are used to. My Rating: I give it FOUR STARS, which I would be tempted to bump up to the full five if it weren't for the occasionally confusing changes in perspective. Where some books written in this way denote the change in narrator at the beginning of a section or chapter, this one just picks up and you, as the reader, are left to figure out which story line we are looking at now. I ultimately got somewhat accustomed to it and it didn't bother me that much, but if I were the type of person who only read a chapter or so per day this might be confusing enough that it would affect my comprehension. Who should read it?: If you like dystopian stories or books in which the characters are inhabiting an alternate environment, then I really think you would like this one. I know that a lot of book clubs have enjoyed Station Eleven simply because there is SO MUCH that is able to be discussed. It's not terribly long and it's fun in a way that is different from most things. If you're looking for a good book that will leave you thinking (and feeling thankful!), this is an excellent choice. WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kemper

    This is one well written apocalypse. Arthur Leander is a famous actor who suffers a heart attack and dies on stage just before a deadly version of the swine flu kills most of humanity. Station Eleven then uses Arthur as the center of a web of connections that we learn from the people in his life before, during and after the disease wipes out the world as we know it. Kirsten sees Arthur die as a child actor, and years later she’s part of the Traveling Symphony that tours the small towns of the pos This is one well written apocalypse. Arthur Leander is a famous actor who suffers a heart attack and dies on stage just before a deadly version of the swine flu kills most of humanity. Station Eleven then uses Arthur as the center of a web of connections that we learn from the people in his life before, during and after the disease wipes out the world as we know it. Kirsten sees Arthur die as a child actor, and years later she’s part of the Traveling Symphony that tours the small towns of the post-apocalyptic landscape. Jeevan is an ex-paparazzo turned paramedic who once stalked Arthur, but he is in the audience when the actor keels over and tries to save his life. Miranda is Arthur’s first wife who could never adjust to the spotlight his fame brought and wrote a comic book about a space station as a hobby. Clark was one of Arthur’s best friends who gets stranded far from home when things really start to fall apart. The thing that astonishes me most about his is just how deftly Emily St. John Mandel portrays the end of the world. There’s no shortage of post-apocalyptic scenarios out there, but whether the culprits are zombies or nuclear weapons or killer viruses the aftermath is generally as brutal as an ax blow to the face. Mandel writes with such an understated elegance that there’s a dark beauty and grace to her fallen world even as she acknowledges all the hardship and horrors of it. She also does a masterful job of managing the structure with its shifting third party perspectives at various times. All the links and coincidences could have felt very forced and ultimately pointless, but again it’s her skill at making us interested in all of these people at their various stages of pre and post apocalypse that make it all work so that the connections feel organic and not simply plot points. While the post-apocalyptic world seems believable for the most part there are some quibbles I could make. Mandel writes this as if a flu with a near 100% mortality rate would essentially wipe out all the accumulated knowledge and technical ability of the survivors and takes everyone back to an almost medieval way of life. It’s weird that everything has been so ransacked just fifteen years later because the math doesn’t seem right there. If 99% of the US died within days so that there was no prolonged destructive cycle to use up resources, that'd be roughly 3 million people left in a country that had all the crap that 300 million people accumulated. Yet, Kristen is amazed to find a house in the woods that had not been searched where she finds a dress to replace hers that is worn out. Or guns and ammo are portrayed as being increasingly rare even though America has enough guns that each survivor could have about 1000 each. Books also seem to be in short supply as if the libraries were also killed by the flu. So those would be some serious flaws in the premise if you were judging this solely on criteria like world building (Or world destroying.) and plausibility, but it didn’t lower my opinion much because this just isn’t that kind of book. It’s more interested at exploring human connections as well as providing a reminder that we’re living in an age of unappreciated wonders that is a lot more fragile than we want to admit, and at that Mandel succeeds exceedingly well.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Blair

    Review originally published at Learn This Phrase. First, two points about my experience of reading so far in 2014. 1. I've read some great books this year, but in terms of highly anticipated new fiction, 2014 has frequently been disappointing. Elizabeth is Missing and The Miniaturist, two enormously hyped debuts I had been hearing about since around a year ago, were both perfectly readable and okay, but fell far short of what I expected from them; Sarah Waters' new novel The Paying Guests I found Review originally published at Learn This Phrase. First, two points about my experience of reading so far in 2014. 1. I've read some great books this year, but in terms of highly anticipated new fiction, 2014 has frequently been disappointing. Elizabeth is Missing and The Miniaturist, two enormously hyped debuts I had been hearing about since around a year ago, were both perfectly readable and okay, but fell far short of what I expected from them; Sarah Waters' new novel The Paying Guests I found boring beyond belief and didn't even finish. Therefore, when I started hearing about Station Eleven, I approached it with scepticism. It's Emily St. John Mandel's fourth novel, but whereas the first three were put out by an indie publisher, Unbridled Books, this one has been picked up by major publishers in both the UK and US. If you're're active in the book community on Twitter, it probably won't need any introduction - although it doesn't come out until September, in social media terms it is already one of the most talked-about books I have come across all year. The marketing campaign has been extensive and effective. I'm yet to start hearing about the book in the mainstream media but I have no doubt that I will. All of which inevitably left me wondering whether it could possibly be as good as people were saying, and actually put me off starting it immediately. 2. This has been the year I have discovered I really enjoy speculative fiction, or at least some sub-section of it that I'm not quite sure how to define. Three of the most enjoyable books I've read in 2014 - Louise Welsh's A Lovely Way To Burn, Sarah Lotz's The Three, and this - have been based around a version of the near future that might, to various degrees, be called dystopian. All of these books could be defined as fantasy, but they retain a significant sense of the 'real', recognisable world. They are not high fantasy or science fiction and, particularly in the case of Station Eleven, they are more literary in style than many would expect this genre to be. There's a whole other tangent here about how I've become jaded by the hackneyed themes of much popular literary fiction, and find myself drawn more and more towards books like this - well-written, intelligent and driven by character as much as plot, but including components and tropes traditionally belonging to genre fiction: a mystery, bits of fantasy or horror, gothic elements - than I am to more 'typical' literary fiction, but that is another discussion for another time. Station Eleven itself is a book I am keen to recommend, but I don't want to say that much about it. I think it is best approached with little existing knowledge of what happens. It is about a future version of North America, twenty years after most of the population was wiped out by a pandemic. But it starts in the present day, during a theatre performance of King Lear, and throughout the book there are flashbacks to these 'before' moments which gradually establish the backgrounds of several characters - characters who do not necessarily feature in the 'after' sections, but have some kind of link to those who do. Although you may have to wait for some time to find out what that link is. 'Station Eleven' is not, as you might expect (well, I did), some remote outpost in this ravaged landscape, but a reference to a kids' comic book which is... well, it's a part of one of those links. This is a very elegantly written novel, very restrained. It doesn't go too far with its world-building, and it isn't overdramatic; in fact, one of the many remarkable things about it is how quiet this fall of civilisation seems to be. It isn't, of course, and we know this from things some of the characters say, and fragments of their memories, but all of this happens off-screen, with the focus purely on the 'before' and 'after'. The story is more about human behaviour, relationships and the invisible connections between individuals then anything else. The fact that it is set in a post-apocalyptic future could almost be incidental, but I can't deny that the surreal surroundings add an intense intrigue and a sort of malevolent undertone to anything that happens. There is constant, low-level tension. For anyone who finds abandoned buildings interesting, there are parts of this narrative that will be endlessly fascinating. There are flecks, mere flecks, of magic. I'm not going to write about the characters in detail, either, except to say that I loved them. They are so real. Mandel is one of those authors who can do that magical thing of making a fictional person human and sympathetic within just a couple of pages, without much background detail being needed. She isn't afraid to kill characters off, but it's never gratuitous; she also isn't afraid of leaving loose ends untied and important things unsaid. The book Station Eleven most reminded me of was Jennifer Egan's A Visit From the Goon Squad - which I can't remember very clearly and would be hard pressed to recall anything specific about, and yet I repeatedly thought of it throughout my reading of this book. Looking back at my review of Goon Squad, I wrote: 'The chapters, then, are not always directly about the main characters, and sometimes don't even mention them at all; the story reaches out beyond the protagonists to explore the past and future of the people surrounding them. Each chapter works on its own as a self-contained short story but the connections between all of them form... not quite a whole, but more a sort of web, or network.' Most of this is true of Station Eleven, except that it isn't structured as short stories (the post-pandemic narrative runs through the book and is interspersed with flashbacks), but each character's story could, I think, be taken out and read as a short story on its own. Station Eleven as a whole circles one character in particular, but it also tells the stories of various others in order to achieve that. For me, this incredibly enjoyable novel is a perfect blend of literary and genre fiction, the sort of story I would love to read more of: intelligent, elegant, original, with both plot and character realised beautifully. It is a wonderful piece of real storytelling and yet it is tightly controlled; I could have read more and more and more about this world, but I'm glad the book isn't too sprawling. Its clear focus on who and what it is about is a great strength. With this one, you can believe the hype.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ami

    This is an incredible book. The sort of book you should attend a midnight party at your local bookstore to get your hands on a copy. The sort of book you should call in sick to work the day you buy, because you won't want to stop reading it. I put this book down only to email everyone I know with the sort of subject line "OMG best book ever please read immediately" that could potentially be sent to the spam folder. This novel, friends, is the real deal. Everything that follows deals only with in This is an incredible book. The sort of book you should attend a midnight party at your local bookstore to get your hands on a copy. The sort of book you should call in sick to work the day you buy, because you won't want to stop reading it. I put this book down only to email everyone I know with the sort of subject line "OMG best book ever please read immediately" that could potentially be sent to the spam folder. This novel, friends, is the real deal. Everything that follows deals only with information that you'd get reading the first few chapters of the book, or the flap copy, but in case you like to go in completely blind I've marked it as a spoiler: (view spoiler)[The story deals primarily with a group of actors and musicians who have banded together following a global flu pandemic that kills a significant portion of the population and stops technology in its tracks. Kristen, an actress with the troop, narrates the most moving sections of the book. She's carrying with her two mysterious graphic novels about the character Dr. Eleven. These graphic novels, beautifully illustrated and with the story of a distant failing space society, were the most evocative sections of the book. I actually LONG to see the illustrations described. (hide spoiler)] Emily St John Mandel's descriptions of the world around her resonated with me so deeply--I grew up in Michigan, in the areas she describes--that I would occasionally have to set the book down to let what I just read wash over me. This is a beautiful, gripping novel told by a masterful hand. I can't recommend it enough. EDIT: My dream has come true and someone has drawn a page of Station Eleven. See here: http://www.nathanburtondesign.com/nat...

  23. 4 out of 5

    Charlotte May

    “I stood looking over my damaged home and tried to forget the sweetness of life on Earth.” This was a wonderful book that really took me by surprise! A fantastic array of characters to follow - I was never bored. In a world where a mutated version of Swine Flu wipes out 99% of the worlds population, society as we know it collapses, and with it everything we have ever known. The internet, electricity, airplanes, mobile phones, everything. It starts with a performance of King Lear, the lead actor “I stood looking over my damaged home and tried to forget the sweetness of life on Earth.” This was a wonderful book that really took me by surprise! A fantastic array of characters to follow - I was never bored. In a world where a mutated version of Swine Flu wipes out 99% of the worlds population, society as we know it collapses, and with it everything we have ever known. The internet, electricity, airplanes, mobile phones, everything. It starts with a performance of King Lear, the lead actor, Arthur Leander dies onstage and from then begins the epidemic to end all epidemics. We then flick to a travelling symphony in the post-apocalyptic world who move around performing Shakespeare and orchestra pieces. Kirsten is one of the Symphony, who as a young girl actually witnessed Arthur’s death, but remembers very little of the world before the collapse. We also get to see Arthur’s first and second wives from before and after the collapse. It is amazing how this book uses so many characters and manages to interconnect them in such small ways; it’s incredible. We meet Jeevan, the paramedic who tried to save Arthur, and follow his journey, as well as Arthur’s best friend Clarke. All these characters face the same societal collapse and we see their struggles as they lose loved ones, and lose the world they once knew forever. But it isn’t a world without hope, as these characters constantly prove. Humanity is tough to break, and will withstand almost anything. Highly recommend. “It was very difficult, but there were moments of beauty. Everything ends. I am not afraid.” ******************************************* So good! Rtc

  24. 4 out of 5

    mark monday

    assorted thoughts a post-apocalyptic pastoral. I like post-apocalyptic pastorals, their difference from other post-apocalyptic novels that prefer to focus on violence and devolving to a barbaric state. something so relaxing about contemplating an emptied-out world not full of hustle and bustle. all that time to think. but how does one go about eating? or fighting off the occasional aggressor? it would be important to have skill with a knife. I appreciate the tender humanism at the novel's core. I a assorted thoughts a post-apocalyptic pastoral. I like post-apocalyptic pastorals, their difference from other post-apocalyptic novels that prefer to focus on violence and devolving to a barbaric state. something so relaxing about contemplating an emptied-out world not full of hustle and bustle. all that time to think. but how does one go about eating? or fighting off the occasional aggressor? it would be important to have skill with a knife. I appreciate the tender humanism at the novel's core. I appreciate the focus on the arts, on how art in all of its forms is central to expression and to civilization. despite the focus on art, the reader never sees much of The Traveling Symphony's actual performances. curious. an evil cult, of course. evil but also sad. the poor boy who wants to escape it! the little girl who does. how people survive in an airport and how people build a community out of scraps. fantastic sequence. a comic book that I really want to read. a comic book that brings out the best and worst in people, that is central to two women's lives, that is an allegory for the world in the book. connectivity between people, connections radiating out from one man, people linked to each other who are scattered across the globe, unaware of their connections. the key character is fascinating despite himself. there is so much in him that is symbolic of things I hate - the worship of celebrity, the inability to be a real person to the people who know him best, how he just lets things go. but there is so much that I understand about him too. a sympathetic character. it's interesting how this central character of the novel only appears in the past. well, he's not the protagonist. a child actress turned into a knife-throwing bad-ass that I love. time on the road traveling; an eerie, haunted journey. the chilling feeling of knowing you are being stalked. a literary genre novel: emphasis on character, on prose. I love that all of the parts set in the past - exploring a person's state of mind, their relationships, how they came to be the person they are and how that person is always subtlely changing - how all of that is just as absorbing as reading about life after the end of the world as we know it. something so sweet and so sad about everything going away. el·e·gi·ac adjective (especially of a work of art) having a mournful quality. "the movie score is a somber effort, elegiac in its approach" synonyms: mournful, melancholic, melancholy, plaintive, sorrowful, sad, lamenting

  25. 4 out of 5

    Maureen

    What a beautiful, beautiful book. I loved every moment and I was captivated the whole time. It was unlike anything I've ever read before! Reread March of 2017 Still a forever fave. It's so beautifully written and makes you *think* so much. Excited to discuss for book club tonight!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Joe Valdez

    I knew Emily St. John Mandel's 2014 apocalyptic bestseller Station Eleven well when I raced through it over three days in February 2015. My thoughts were ripe and I'm convinced my insights were brilliant. Then came judgment day, in October appropriately, when Goodreads tricked me into deleting my review because the book was still marked "to read" in my reading docket. Now I find myself struggling to pick up the pieces and recreate what was the best I can, without cannibals chasing me. The story b I knew Emily St. John Mandel's 2014 apocalyptic bestseller Station Eleven well when I raced through it over three days in February 2015. My thoughts were ripe and I'm convinced my insights were brilliant. Then came judgment day, in October appropriately, when Goodreads tricked me into deleting my review because the book was still marked "to read" in my reading docket. Now I find myself struggling to pick up the pieces and recreate what was the best I can, without cannibals chasing me. The story begins at the Elgin Theatre in Toronto, where a fading film star named Arthur Leander holds stage as the lead in King Lear. The actor collapses and in spite of efforts by a fast thinking paramedic trainee seated near the footlights named Jeevan Chaudhary, the actor dies. Shaken by the tragedy is one of Leander's co-stars, an adolescent named Kirsten Raymonde. Jeevan leaves the theater more elated than saddened, convinced that after years of unfulfilling work as a paparzzo, he's found his true calling. Jeevan receives a phone call from a friend, a doctor at Toronto General Hospital. He reports that what the news media has labelled the Georgia Flu looks like a real epidemic and has come to North America, courtesy a flight from Moscow and a sixteen year old girl now in critical condition with flu-like symptoms. 200 patients have since presented at the hospital with the same symptoms, fifteen dead. Jeevan's friend calls back to tell Jeevan to get out of the city. Jeevan instead heads to a supermarket and fills two shopping carts with provisions. He hunkers down in the high rise apartment of his wheelchair bound brother Frank. Meanwhile, Arthur Leander's attorney calls the actor's oldest friend, a corporate consultant named Clark Thompson, with news of the actor's death. It falls on Clark to phone each of Arthur's ex-wives, beginning with Miranda Carroll, a shipping company executive currently working in Malaysia. Mandel slips back from the edge of the apocalypse to introduce us to Arthur as a young man in New York. Notified by family that someone who grew up with him in the same British Columbia town has moved to the city, Arthur has dinner with her. Miranda is introduced working a clerical position and trapped in a bad relationship with a painter. Miranda holds artistic aspirations of her own, spending every moment of her time working on a graphic novel about a physicist named Dr. Eleven orbiting the earth in a space platform consisting of small islands. It's a world Miranda calls Station Eleven. Mranda's marriage to Arthur and their life in L.A. end badly, culminating in a night when Jeevan sneaks a photo of Miranda walking in the nocturne. Before the world can embrace Miranda's magnum opus, the Georgia Flu wipes out 99% of the world's population. One of the survivors is Kirsten, who falls in with a troupe of actors and musicians calling themselves the Traveling Symphony. Circling the Great Lakes region and singing for their supper one settlement at a time, Kirsten's skills with Shakespearean tragedy have been eclipsed only by her skill with a knife, and one of her most prized possessions are two issues of a comic book an old co-star gave her called Station Eleven. The novel Station Eleven is one of the best post-apocalyptic novels I've read. I'd place it shoulder to shoulder with The Dog Stars by Peter Heller; The Stand by Stephen King towers above them both like Mount Doom by virtue of its imagination and size alone. I'm always a prospective customer when it comes to apocalyptic novels or tales of survivors, but Station Eleven moved some fresh air through the corridors. Mandel puts the word "fiction" in the "science fiction" category. The "science" or action isn't skipped out on here. I have a two-step plan for surviving a zombie apocalypse, a call for action I've developed after reading a lot of apocalyptic novels, and step one of my plan is lifted directly from this novel. I learned more about how to survive the end of the world than I did reading I Am Legend or watching Will Smith hunt deer from a Ford Mustang for sure. Better still is Mandel's facility with language, which really elevates the book: AN INCOMPLETE LIST: No more diving into pools of chlorinated water lit green from below. No more ball games played out under floodlights. No more porch lights with moths fluttering on summer nights. No more trains running under the surface of cities on the dazzling power of the electric third rail. No more cities. No more films, except rarely, except with a generator drowning out half the dialogue, and only then for the first little while util the fuel for the generators ran out, because automobile gas goes stale after two or three years. Aviation gas lasts longer, but it was difficult to come by. No more screens shining in the half-light as people raise their phones above the crowd to take photographs of concert stages. No more concert stages lit by candy colored halogens, no more electronica, punk, electric guitars. More more pharmaceuticals. No more certainty of surviving a scratch on one’s hand, a cut on a finger while chopping vegetables for dinner, a dog bite. No more flight. No more towns glimpsed from the sky through airplane windows, points of glimmering light; no more looking down from thirty thousand feet and imagining the lives lit up by those lights at that moment. No more airplanes, no more requests to put your tray table in its upright and locked position—but not, this wasn’t true, there were still airplanes here and there. They stood dormant on runaways and in hangars. They collected snow on their wings. In the cold months, they were ideal for food storage. In summer the ones near orchards were fled with trays of fruit that dehydrated in the heat. Teenagers snuck into them to have sex. Rust blossomed and streaked. No more countries, all borders unmanned. No more fire departments, no more police. No more road maintenance or garbage pickup. No more spacecraft rising up from Cape Canaveral, from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, from Vandenburg, Plessetsk, Tanegashima, burning paths through the atmosphere into space. No more Internet. No more social media, no more scrolling through litanies of dreams and nervous hopes and photographs of lunches, cries for help and expressions of contentment and relationship-status updates with heart icons whole or broken, plans to meet up later, pleas, complaints, desires, pictures of babies dressed as bears or peppers for Halloween. No more reading and commenting on the lives of others, and in so doing, feeling slightly less alone in the room. No more avatars. Mandel's strength lies in "character" first and foremost, which Stephen King would probably endorse and I always value. It's a testament to her ability to create red blooded women and men, documenting their passions, their vulnerabilities and their will to live, that I didn't go to fidgeting during the chapters set before the Georgia Flu. I would've been fine with a novel about these characters without the end of the world at all. The decision to use an unpubished graphic novel, nothing more to the characters than paper and ink by an unknown artist, to tie both of Mandel's eras together and say something about the things worth living and dying for, was something I don't usually find in these sorts of books where survivors are being chased by mutants. Maybe it's a testament to my love of Spaceman Spiff and Bill Watterson, but I found myself agreeing with Mandel and a bittersweet when the novel ended.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Paquita Maria Sanchez

    Hello, HBO. My name is Station Eleven, and I would make an awesome miniseries. I'm missing one of my stars because I didn't spend quite enough time on Jeevan in the last third, and because there was so little explanation of the first, scariest (i.e. most thrilling) year, but I am otherwise damn near perfect and totally addictive and it's sad that I'm over and done. Sequel, sequel, seeequel, seeeeeequel! (Margaret Atwood totally end of the world spoiled me.)

  28. 4 out of 5

    Bil

    Station Eleven is a gem amongst the works of dystopian fiction. A novel that exudes hope amidst an apocalypse with a refreshing new concept. A nomadic group traveling around an expanse in a world wiped out by a pandemic and performing the works of poets and playwrights. I am impressed at how original this turned out to be. Mixing it with a character-driven plot is what won me over this award winner. It amazed me how seamlessly woven the different viewpoints were in the narrative. Jumping back and Station Eleven is a gem amongst the works of dystopian fiction. A novel that exudes hope amidst an apocalypse with a refreshing new concept. A nomadic group traveling around an expanse in a world wiped out by a pandemic and performing the works of poets and playwrights. I am impressed at how original this turned out to be. Mixing it with a character-driven plot is what won me over this award winner. It amazed me how seamlessly woven the different viewpoints were in the narrative. Jumping back and forth from different time frames can be unsettling but it worked perfectly well here. I also thought of how clever it was of St. John Mandel to use a small piece of art such as a graphic novel and embed it to the storyline. I loved how it endured through the years and how it acted as a nexus for the characters. I went into this book thinking it would have a heavy science fiction theme but boy was I wrong. It is lighter on the science and heftier on the philosophy. At its core lied the true nature of the book: the preservation of culture.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽

    4.5 stars. I stood looking over my damaged home and tried to forget the sweetness of life on Earth. Dr. Eleven stands on dark rocks overlooking an indigo sea at twilight. Small boats move between islands, wind turbines spinning on the horizon. He holds his fedora in his hand. A small white animal stands by his side. On Station Eleven's surface it is always sunset or twilight or night.Station Eleven is an elegy lamenting all that humanity has lost when over 99% of the world's population is killed i 4.5 stars. I stood looking over my damaged home and tried to forget the sweetness of life on Earth. Dr. Eleven stands on dark rocks overlooking an indigo sea at twilight. Small boats move between islands, wind turbines spinning on the horizon. He holds his fedora in his hand. A small white animal stands by his side. On Station Eleven's surface it is always sunset or twilight or night.Station Eleven is an elegy lamenting all that humanity has lost when over 99% of the world's population is killed in a flu pandemic, with quiet notes of hope added by the love and connections that people still create and the arts that they refuse to let die. Loss and hope both permeate this bittersweet tale of a post-apocalypic world. The story follows several different characters both before and after the disastrous epidemic: Miranda, the artist who creates the titular Station Eleven series of graphic art books, a symbol of the twilight world the survivors find themselves inhabiting. Kirsten, an 8-year old actress who survives the epidemic and in the aftermath ends up with a traveling company that combines music and Shakespeare performances for survivors. Jeevan, the former paparazzo and paramedic who survives by holing up with his disabled brother in an apartment with 17 shopping carts' worth of food and supplies. These and other characters' stories are tied together by Arthur Leander, a famous actor who dies at a relatively early age of a heart attack, on the night the plague begins to take root in North America. I'm not certain that I entirely agree with the choice to put so much focus on Arthur, whose adult life is filled with wealth, fame and self-indulgence. The most telling point about Arthur for me was when he tells another character that he "has to" leave his second wife for another woman, because he's fallen in love with someone else. That's the story of Arthur's self-absorbed life right there. Toward the end of his life it seems like he's starting to realize what he's given up and to take some steps to try to rectify that. But, of course, it's too late, for him and almost everyone else. But Arthur does pass on two copies of the Station Eleven comic books given to him by his first wife, to two children who will survive the epidemic. The Station Eleven comics become talismans for these children, in very different ways, one more thread that links characters to each other, and the past to the present. This was enthralling--I had a hard time putting it down. Mournful but also hopeful, there's tragedy and love and losing your way and connecting to others, all swirled together. I had a few quibbles, but this one will stick with me longer than most books.

  30. 4 out of 5

    emma

    i am Overwhelmed by Beauty and Meaning and Good Things and there is simply no way i can really rate this at this time, let alone review it. review (& final rating) to come, when i've redeveloped some semblance of personhood ---------------- honestly can't believe i've waited so long to read a book with a cover this pretty

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