Book Review: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Published September 2014
We quickly drop in on the worst-case scenario in Station Eleven as the Georgia Flu wipes out most of the world’s population.
Here’s a fun game I sometimes play in my imagination: What would you do in the event of an apocalypse? I like to think I’d react like Station Eleven’s character, Jeevan, stockpiling plastic sheeting, canned goods, and enough water to last us through the initial chaos.
Then, I’d face the aftermath with the entire family intact, armed with weapons, bicycles, Krav Maga (which we will have miraculously learned while holed up), and various plant seeds, assuming the soil has not been nuked to radioactive waste and also assuming my heretofore black thumb spontaneously turns green.
Truthfully, I’d likely be among the first dead. But one can imagine.
Station Eleven poses such a scenario, and we follow several key characters in the lead-up and aftermath of the event.
One especially relevant moment: a survivor recalls his last interaction before everything fell. Instead of contacting his wife and children, he had a conference call with work, realizing later how absurd and falsely important it was (they make a legitimate point – why do we say we’ll “shoot” someone an email and talk with such self-importance? Strange.)
We spend a lot of time following Kirsten and a group of traveling Shakespearean performers. While the idea is novel, it didn’t capture my attention the way the rest of the story did, so I spent much of my time in those sections daydreaming about my own apocolife.
The storyline I liked most and wanted more of was Jeevan’s.
We meet Jeevan in the beginning and see him get ready for something big…then leave him for half of the book, only remeeting with him in small glances. I would have liked to see his struggles throughout the two decades, rather than glimpse at him and the life he’s made with no context or attachment.
Another frustrating storyline is Arthur’s. It feels like there should have been more to him, more to his story. But in the end, he is just…gone. Gone in life and in death, absent from everyone who had depended on his love.
Station Eleven is thoughtful and shows the breakdown of society in a non-sensationalistic way. But I just wish we could have followed certain characters more instead of others.