Monday, December 7, 2015

Book Review: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven

Author: Emily St. John Mandel
 Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Date of Publication: September 9, 2014
Pages: 352

"Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were.  But without it we go nowhere." 
- Carl Sagan

     Emily St. John has exercised her imagination to the max in this fascinating novel.    It is a truly remarkable book which transcends genre.  Station Eleven has been categorized as a science fiction novel which the author disputes.  She considers it a work of literary fiction.  The premise is that a rapidly evolving flu pandemic kills 99% of the world's population in fairly short order.  The beginning of the book is truly frightening as the fatal illness is spread world-wide from the Republic of Georgia by air travelers.  Panic and survival instincts take over.

     The story begins in Toronto as several of the main characters are introduced pre-pandemic.  The first section of the  book is as terrifying as any Stephen King novel as the author describes the chaos which occurs in response to the disaster.  Things which are ordinarily taken for granted, such as news broadcasts, disappear as the people responsible for them succumb to illness.  The story then follows several survivors as they establish small enclaves in deserted airports and other public buildings.

       It is interesting to view people's reactions as their smart phones and laptops run out of power and there is no way to recharge them.  As time goes by a society evolves.  A traveling acting troupe performs Shakespeare and live symphonic music; a primitive newspaper is produced; a museum to the "former life" is established.  The author delves into the question of how humanity, rather than humans, survives this natural holocaust.  A religious fanatic, resembling an Old Testament prophet, makes an appearance as well.

     This book was published in 2014 and won the Arthur C. Clarke Award in May, 2015 and was also a finalist for the National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award.  Station Eleven deserves all of these accolades.  It is pure artistry how Ms. Mandel has fabricated a devastated world with a newly ordered society.  It is intriguing to witness how her characters respond to their new reality and adapt and persevere.  She also has the genius to introduce a clever turn of events at the very conclusion which leaves the door wide open for a sequel.  I can't wait!

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