Published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group on September 9th 2014
Genres: Action & Adventure, Apocalyptic & Post-Apocalyptic, Dystopian, Fiction, Literary, Science Fiction
Hardcover provided by Knopf Publishing Group
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 Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur’s chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.
Fifteen years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten’s arm is a line from Star Trek: “Because survival is insufficient.” But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave.
Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful, elegiac novel is rife with beauty. As Arthur falls in and out of love, as Jeevan watches the newscasters say their final good-byes, and as Kirsten finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the prophet, we see the strange twists of fate that connect them all. A novel of art, memory, and ambition, 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.From the Hardcover edition.
In this timeless story of intertwined lives of those lost and loved, Station Eleven stands apart from everything I have read to date. It is the kind of book that I want to reread again, and again. It takes richly draw characters that speak smartly, a comic book in the middle of the end of the earth, a traveling symphony, and the apocalypse- and spins them together in a brilliant tale that will haunt me far into the future.
Hell is the absence of the people you long for.
The book starts with an actor named Arthur having a heart attack on stage. Into the future, the symphony playing Shakespere town to town years after a flu has wiped out 99% of the population. Kristen, of the symphony, dreams of the comics and the person who wrote them. The comics were written by a woman named Miranda. She was inspired by an actor named Arthur. All of the people in this drama are tied together by the man or the comics. The world 15 years into the collapse of civilization is full of people trying to gain power, trying to maintain sanity, trying to move forward, or trying to forget the past. This story spans decades and connects the generation at the end to the one trying to make sense of it’s history.
To say I enjoyed this story, would be a gross understatement. It was extremely well written. Those of you that know me, know I love dystopia. Yet while I was reading this, I never once thought it was unbelievable or a stretch for me to envision myself in. This is not a “what would you do if you were living like this”, but more of a “yup, this is what it would be like, which character would I be most like.” The characters were brilliant, and very real. Each of them has an almost haunting humanity that is undeniable.
First we only want to be seen, but once we’re seen, that’s not enough anymore. After that, we want to be remembered.
I especially enjoyed the writing, which was not so much prose or flowery descriptions, as it was just completely consuming. This book spoke to my intelligence. The writing is just smart. This story flips back and forth and invites us to live with the characters in the world as they know it. It was easy for me to follow along and transition from one timeline to the next. The author just writes each segment that tells one part of the puzzle.
“Okay,” someone said, “but why are you crying?’
“I’d thought I was the only one,” he said.
This is one of the best books I have ever read. You don’t need to like dystopia or post-apocalyptica stories to enjoy this book. It is not just a book about the survivors, although the story would not be the same without them. This is a story about the loved and the lost. It is a book I will carry with me. I am so grateful I was able to find it.
About the Author
Emily St. John Mandel was born and raised on the west coast of British Columbia, Canada. She studied contemporary dance at the School of Toronto Dance Theatre and lived briefly in Montreal before relocating to New York.
Her fourth novel, Station Eleven, was a 2014 National Book Award Finalist. All four of her novels—previous books were Last Night in Montreal, The Singer’s Gun, and The Lola Quartet—were Indie Next Picks, and The Singer’s Gun was the 2014 winner of the Prix Mystere de la Critique in France. Her short fiction and essays have been anthologized in numerous collections, including Best American Mystery Stories 2013. She is a staff writer for The Millions. She lives in New York City with her husband.
Alfred A. Knopf