Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, was one that I had heard a lot about and the first book I actually listened to as an audio book, narrated by Kristin Potter, who did an excellent job.
It is a beautifully written book, both literary and speculative. One of the best books I’ve read in easily this year. Honestly, a crime I did not get to this sooner.
This novel does not have a linear plot and tends to jump around years, if not decades both into the future and back, although it primarily focuses on where civilization is twenty years after the collapse of it. A disease, similar to the swine flu, sweeps across the globe and kills 98% of the population. The illness only takes 48 hours if not sooner to kill it’s victims. We follow various individuals who all end up intersecting either years before the collapse or many years afterword, but they are all bound by a single man, who dies the night before the outbreak, Arthur Leander.
This book bridges a lot of various gaps, such as between literary and speculative fiction and it does so effortlessly. The mixed time narrative fits together beautifully and Mandel is able to posit such piercing reflections on not only human life, but commenting on our own contemporary lives, as relevant today as it was four years ago when it was first published. The sincerity of these reflections and thoughts, radiate out as if whispering to us to appreciate life today and to hold our loved ones close. There is this wistful nostalgia that all of her characters share of the world that is lost to them. Similar to how we feel as we grow up, leaving our childhoods and families behind us, lost to shadows and the dust of of the past.
The way that all of these lives are woven together to create such a complete story is amazing and a testament that Mandel is well aware of story structure and a writer operating at the highest level to parcel out a narrative that wants to share in our human experience, but also encourage us to hope despite the world falling on our heads.
I’ll keep this novel in my top ten for a long time, possibly forever, since I have not stopped thinking about it, since I finished the book back in October. Do yourself a favor and start your year with the collapse of civilization.