The Georgia Flu explodes over the surface of the earth like a neutron bomb.
News reports put the mortality rate at over 99%.
Civilization has crumbled.
A band of actors and musicians called the Travelling Symphony move through their territories performing concerts and Shakespeare to the settlements that have grown up there. Twenty years after the pandemic, life feels relatively safe.
But now a new danger looms, and it threatens the hopeful world every survivor has tried to rebuild.
Moving backwards and forwards in time, from the glittering years just before the collapse to the strange and altered world that exists twenty years after, Station Eleven charts the unexpected twists of fate that connect six people: famous actor Arthur Leander; Jeevan, a bystander warned about the flu just in time; Arthur’s first wife, Miranda; Arthur’s oldest friend, Clark; Kirsten, an actress with the Travelling Symphony; and the mysterious and self-proclaimed ‘prophet’.
Thrilling, unique and deeply moving, this is a beautiful novel that asks questions about art and fame and about the relationships that sustain us through anything – even the end of the world.
I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I started this book but the promise of a wonderful story and rave recommendations on Twitter from fellow bloggers had me looking forward to jumping in! Not only did I love Station Eleven; it’s one of my favourite books of the year so far. So, what can you expect? Well, this book is like nothing else I’ve read this year (or ever actually!). It’s an engaging and interesting story of one man’s life as he rises to fame, it’s a tribute to Shakespeare and comic books and the story of a brilliantly imagined, yet believably realistic and beautiful, horrifying future.
The story opens with the death of actor Arthur Leander, followed swiftly by a pandemic (unrelated to Arthur’s death) that devastates the world. Mandel’s imagining of what would happen if a virus really did wipe out ninety-nine per cent of the Earth’s population is scarily believable and cleverly thought through. I loved how the story moved back and forth between past and present to show how much was lost but also what was gained when the world changed forever.
As the story went on it was heartbreaking to read of lost loved ones and new dangers but there was also a wonderful sense of adventure and bravery to the story and a world sent back to basics. In the present, we follow a troupe of travelling entertainers who bring their Shakespearean talents to the small towns and collectives that have sprung up as survivors find each other. There’s plenty of tension as rumours of the mysterious and dangerous ‘prophet’ circulate and one of the most enjoyable aspects of this book was the tension that Mandel creates and builds as the travellers move forward.
Populated with a captivating mix of characters who are tied together throughout the story in ways that I’d never imagined, I read Station Eleven in a couple of days (thankfully I was on holiday at the time!) My imagination was completely captured by the Museum of Civilisation; a collection of artifacts from ‘before’ and I found it fascinating how as time moved forward, technology and innovations that we take for granted seemed magical or just impossible for those who were very young or born after the collapse to imagine. This is an incredibly well thought out book and made me appreciate the world I live in but despite the bleak premise, Station Eleven is a book filled with hope and I cannot recommend it highly enough!
Station Eleven is out now in hardback and ebook formats.
I’d like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy of this book via Netgalley.
Find out more about Emily St. John Mandel and her writing at: http://www.emilymandel.com/