Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel
Published by Picador
12th September 2014
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 he 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 - warned about the flu just in time; Arthur's first wife Miranda; Arthur's oldest friend Clark; Kirsten, a young actress with the Travelling Symphony; and the mysterious and self-proclaimed 'prophet'.
Thrilling, unique and deeply moving, Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven 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.
Let's be honest here, I am not a lover of science fiction. However, I have to admit that it was purely word of mouth that persuaded me to pick up and read a copy of Station Eleven and actually, it's not a bad read. I managed to read the whole book on a train journey to London and back, and not once was I bored or tempted to stop reading. I think, for me, the reason why this book works is because it is set in the present day, and then moves forward in time, but not too far forward that things change, ie cars can fly etc, but that what people can do remains the same, it's just that America, as we know it now, is suddenly very different.
The story begins with a famous actor, Arthur Leadner, dying on stage. A trainee doctor in the audience helps him in his last moments, watched by a young girl also taking part in that final production of King Lear. What seems an awful, but relatively normal turn of events, leaves hospitals becoming full and people dying within days of something called Georgia Flu. There are relatively few survivors, and one such group of these, are called the Travelling Symphony who move around America performing plays by Shakespeare at the towns they encounter. Their lives are relatively simple, until they reach once such town, and the man who calls himself 'the prophet'.
The story moves back and forth, from before the pandemic, to the current day, but it is, of course, all intransically linked together. The question is how and why. Emily St John Mandel manages to tie all the threads together, building to a climax where you go 'of course' when you finally assemble the puzzle together.
I really did enjoy this book. I wouldn't necessarily bill this as a crime novel per se but I liked the way that it was written, and the different worlds that the main characters encompass. If you were gripped by Justin Cronin's books The Passage and The Twelve, then I think Station Eleven will be right up your street!
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