Book – Station Eleven
Author – Emily St. John Mandel
Year – 2014
Pages – 333
Genre – Post Apocolyptic
Recommended by Becky Sandy
During a production of King Lear, the leading actor drops dead on stage of a heart attack. A trainee paramedic leaps up on stage to try to resuscitate him. A child actor watches in confusion. Several characters who are watching show their sadness, disappointment or lack of empathy. Then, almost suddenly, nearly everyone in the world dies of flu.
If it sounds like a weird set up for a book then it is. Becky recommended this book to me months ago and I bought it straight away, but it sat with all of the other books that I am waiting until I am in a more reading mood to start on. Being pretty ill this week, I grabbed it the other day and started reading without even a clue as to what genre it might be, so I was a little surprised at the sudden change of tone.
But that is what is thoroughly fascinating about this book. It leaps forwards and backwards in time at a whim, changes point of view character so much that I am not sure you could describe it as having a main character, and links things together in ways that are sometimes surprising and sometimes so obvious you would be disappointed if they didn’t link.
Much of the story is focused twenty years into the future and on a caravan of travelling musicians and actors who perform Shakespeare around what is left of the towns and cities of the Great Lakes. The world is a more lawless place, but the book does a great job of showing realistically what such a place would be like. Tied in with this are leaps back to the lives of the people mentioned in the opening scene on stage. Following whether they died quickly in the pandemic, or their stories continued.
The writing takes several forms, with excerpts from books and newspapers slotted in to the narrative, and it works perfectly. The tone and feel of the book are wonderful and everything unravels at such a perfect pace that it keeps you thoroughly engrossed without any feel of a rush at all.
It is an ambitious book, but the most exciting thing is that it feels like the author is capable of even more. You can feel the potential for a twisting intricate plot that could be considerably more epic than the 333 pages allowed for this adventure, and I will be following closely to see when that arrives.