Review: Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel.

One evening, a Hollywood star dies mid-performance on a stage production of King Lear, hours later, the world’s population begins to dissolve. The Georgia Flu, more dangerous and wide-spread than any that have come before it, wipes out the majority of the planet.

Station Eleven is post-apocalyptic work at its finest, jumping back and forward through time, through stories in order to weave together a story so fluid and believable, it stands alongside the likes of World War Z and The Walking Dead comics, in terms of structure (minus the zombies, of course).

Some characters were mere children when civilisation ceased to exist, others had lived for 50 years. Mandel toys with the notion of adapting to a new life within these age ranges – can you really miss what you can’t really remember? How can you adapt when everything you’ve known is taken away? And then, there’s the Travelling Symphony, bringing culture and entertainment to the sparse towns, which is just a delightful idea.

Then comes the search for something new, something greater, from the Prophet, who succeeds in creating an almost cult-like existence and belief. The danger of the world falling apart is that people will always look for something to cling to, and murderous fanatics are often more than happy to step forward to front a new world.

From the theatre, to the excellence of the Station Eleven comic that ties so many people together in this post-apocalyptic world, there’s a real sense of reality. There’s the need to not only survive, but to live, the need for culture, relationships, the need to remember but try to move forward as well.

A lot of the fundamental notions of a post-apocalyptic world will ring bells with parts ofThe Walking Dead comic series, and a book I recently started (but have put on hold after a chapter so I can really dive into it when I have more time) features a similar travelling circus (and is so gorgeously written reminders kept flagging themselves here). So sometimes that could interfere with being drawn fully into the book.

Personal comparisons aside, absolutely excellent book. You can’t help but feel that if the world was struck down tomorrow, events would unfurl in an incredibly similar way.

Survival is insufficient.


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