June 13, 2017
PUBLISHER: PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE
AUTHOR: EMILY ST. JOHN MANDEL
“Hell is the absence of people you long for.”
Quite like the majority of characters in Emily Mandel’s Station Eleven, I can’t quite wrap my head around what I felt after walking through the “end of the world”. But I know what I felt was good, and beautiful and somewhat nostalgic for an uncertain future that will most likely never exist (or could it?).
And I can say that until now, I’ve never read a book that’s successfully held my attention while jumping back and forth in time and space so frequently. Mandel managed to weave between characters and time while maintaining a cohesive, seamless plot. Never once did I feel lost or confused. And as I flipped through the pages I felt that every word had purpose and meaning, and nothing was ever sprinkled in for frivolous decoration, although that’s easily the route that the author could’ve taken.
The narrative begins in present-day Toronto, at a theatre production of King Lear. And after a famous actor collapses to his death on stage, confusion and chaos ensue, but not for the reasons you think. His untimely death just happens to coincide with the arrival of a mutated flu strain that will soon wipe most of the world’s population from the face of the earth.
I can easily say without a doubt that Station Eleven is now in one of my top ten reads of all time. I cared about every single character. And I think it’s hard to maintain likability and importance while jumping through different narratives and time periods. But Emily managed to do this beautifully. As a huge fan of sci-fi and dystopian storytelling, I can’t recommend this book enough. Mandel does a fantastic job of investigating human thought and habit while giving us enough action and cliffhangers to keep us turning the pages. Station Eleven is also filled to the brim with poetic one-liners, a special gift for any thoughtful reader.
It looks like the rights to this book have already been purchased to be made into a film a few years back, and I’m hoping and praying that whoever directs this film does it justice. Because boy, what a beautiful story based on what seem to be life’s simple questions:
If the world ended tomorrow, what would you miss the most? What would you remember and what would you choose to forget? Would you start over, or choose to hang onto the past?
“Okay, say you go into the break room,” she said, “And a couple people you like are there, say someone’s telling a funny story, you laugh a little, you feel included, everyone’s so funny, you go back to your desk with a sort of, I don’t know, I guess an afterglow would be the word? You go back to your desk with an afterglow, but then by four or five o’clock the day’s just turned into yet another day, and you go on like that, looking forward to five o’clock and then the weekend and then your two or three annual weeks of paid vacation time, day in a day out, and that’s what happens to your life. That’s what passes for a life, I should say. That’s what passes for happiness, for most people-they’re like sleepwalkers,” she said, “And nothing ever jolts them awake.”