Emily St. John Mandel
Genre: Fiction, Science Fiction
Summary (from Goodreads): 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.
Review: I went into this book expecting it to be similar to Stephen King's The Stand, and it really wasn't. That may have affected my rating a little.
This book follows the popular trend of shifting narrators and jumping back and forth in time, but I found the way it was handled a little distracting. The summary indicates that it follows the story of Arthur Leander, moving through his past life and catching up with the present. However, it seemed to follow his first wife, Miranda, even more than it followed Arthur, so that added yet another narrator to the story. I think for me to enjoy a book written in this way, it has to be done perfectly, and this seemed a little disorganized.
Now, with that out of the way, I really enjoyed quite a lot about this book. While I wanted to know more about life during and immediately following the pandemic, I was fascinated by descriptions of life 20 year after the pandemic is over. The characters were vividly drawn, and the story was alternately beautifully moving and terrifyingly horrible.
Rating: 4 stars