Station Eleven

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Overview

An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.
 
One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a ...

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Station Eleven

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Overview

An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.
 
One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur’s chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.
 
Fifteen years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten’s arm is a line from Star Trek: “Because survival is insufficient.” But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave.
 
Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful, elegiac novel is rife with beauty. As Arthur falls in and out of love, as Jeevan watches the newscasters say their final good-byes, and as Kirsten finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the prophet, we see the strange twists of fate that connect them all. A novel of art, memory, and ambition, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.

Finalist for the 2014 National Book Award for Fiction

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
A Barnes & Noble Best Book of 2014

Fifteen years after a pandemic marks the end of life as we know it, an itinerant Shakespearean troupe performs its way across the husk of a vastly depopulated America. In this stunning, layered narrative tying together the lives of people before, on the eve of, and after most of the world’s population is wiped out, St. John Mandel writes about what matters at the end of everything. Dystopian fiction is so often about mere survival, but St. John Mandel understands we need something to survive for. See all of the Best Fiction Books of 2014.

The New York Times Book Review - Sigrid Nunez
Mandel is an able and exuberant storyteller, and many readers will be won over by her nimble interweaving of her characters' lives and fates…Station Eleven is as much a mystery as it is a post-apocalyptic tale, and Mandel is especially good at planting clues and raising the kind of plot-thickening questions that keep the reader turning pages…If Station Eleven reveals little insight into the effects of extreme terror and misery on humanity, it offers comfort and hope to those who believe, or want to believe, that doomsday can be survived, that in spite of everything people will remain good at heart, and that when they start building a new world they will want what was best about the old.
Publishers Weekly
06/23/2014
Few themes are as played-out as that of post-apocalypse, but St. John Mandel (The Lola Quartet) finds a unique point of departure from which to examine civilization’s wreckage, beginning with a performance of King Lear cut short by the onstage death of its lead, Arthur Leander, from an apparent heart attack. On hand are an aspiring paramedic, Jeevan Chaudary, and a young actress, Kirsten Raymonde; Leander’s is only the first death they will witness, as a pandemic, the so-called Georgia Flu, quickly wipes out all but a few pockets of civilization. Twenty years later, Kirsten, now a member of a musical theater troupe, travels through a wasteland inhabited by a dangerous prophet and his followers. Guided only by the graphic novel called Station Eleven given to her by Leander before his death, she sets off on an arduous journey toward the Museum of Civilization, which is housed in a disused airport terminal. Kirsten is not the only survivor with a curious link to the actor: the story explores Jeevan’s past as an entertainment journalist and, in a series of flashbacks, his role in Leander’s decline. Also joining the cast are Leander’s first wife, Miranda, who is the artist behind Station Eleven, and his best friend, 70-year-old Clark Thompson, who tends to the terminal settlement Kirsten is seeking. With its wild fusion of celebrity gossip and grim future, this book shouldn’t work nearly so well, but St. John Mandel’s examination of the connections between individuals with disparate destinies makes a case for the worth of even a single life. (Sept.)
Library Journal
04/15/2014
A movie star who's decided to pound the boards as King Lear collapses and dies mid-performance, and shortly thereafter civilization collapses and starts dying as well. The narrative then moves between the actor's early career and a journey through the blasted landscape 15 years after the book's opening events. Indie Next darling Mandel breaks out with a major publisher.
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2014-06-17
Survivors and victims of a pandemic populate this quietly ambitious take on a post-apocalyptic world where some strive to preserve art, culture and kindness.In her fourth novel, Mandel (The Lola Quartet, 2012, etc.) moves away from the literary thriller form of her previous books but keeps much of the intrigue. The story concerns the before and after of a catastrophic virus called the Georgia Flu that wipes out most of the world’s population. On one side of the timeline are the survivors, mainly a traveling troupe of musicians and actors and a stationary group stuck for years in an airport. On the other is a professional actor, who dies in the opening pages while performing King Lear, his ex-wives and his oldest friend, glimpsed in flashbacks. There’s also the man—a paparazzo-turned-paramedic—who runs to the stage from the audience to try to revive him, a Samaritan role he will play again in later years. Mandel is effectively spare in her depiction of both the tough hand-to-mouth existence of a devastated world and the almost unchallenged life of the celebrity—think of Cormac McCarthy seesawing with Joan Didion. The intrigue arises when the troupe is threatened by a cult and breaks into disparate offshoots struggling toward a common haven. Woven through these little odysseys, and cunningly linking the cushy past and the perilous present, is a figure called the Prophet. Indeed, Mandel spins a satisfying web of coincidence and kismet while providing numerous strong moments, as when one of the last planes lands at the airport and seals its doors in self-imposed quarantine, standing for days on the tarmac as those outside try not to ponder the nightmare within. Another strand of that web is a well-traveled copy of a sci-fi graphic novel drawn by the actor’s first wife, depicting a space station seeking a new home after aliens take over Earth—a different sort of artist also pondering man’s fate and future.Mandel’s solid writing and magnetic narrative make for a strong combination in what should be a breakout novel.
From the Publisher
2014 National Book Award Finalist

One of the Best Books of the Year: The Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Tribune, Buzzfeed, and Entertainment Weekly, Time, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Minnesota Public Radio, The Huffington Post, BookPage, Time Out, Book Riot

Praise for Station Eleven:
 
Station Eleven is so compelling, so fearlessly imagined, that I wouldn’t have put it down for anything.”
— Ann Patchett

“Emily St. John Mandel’s fourth novel, Station Eleven, begins with a spectacular end. One night in a Toronto theater, onstage performing the role of King Lear, 51-year-old Arthur Leander has a fatal heart attack. There is barely time for people to absorb this shock when tragedy on a considerably vaster scale arrives in the form of a flu pandemic so lethal that, within weeks, most of the world’s population has been killed . . . Mandel is an exuberant storyteller . . .  Readers will be won over by her nimble interweaving of her characters’ lives and fates . . . Station Eleven is as much a mystery as it is a post-apocalyptic tale . . .  Mandel is especially good at planting clues and raising the kind of plot-thickening questions that keep the reader turning pages . . .  Station Eleven offers comfort and hope to those who believe, or want to believe, that doomsday can be survived, that in spite of everything people will remain good at heart, and when they start building a new world they will want what was best about the old.”
— Sigrid Nunez, New York Times Book Review

“Last month, when the fiction finalists for the National Book Awards were announced, one stood out from the rest: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel . . . Station Eleven is set in a familiar genre universe, in which a pandemic has destroyed civilization. The twist—the thing that makes Station Eleven National Book Award material—is that the survivors are artists . . . It’s hard to imagine a novel more perfectly suited, in both form and content, to this literary moment . . . Station Eleven, if we were to talk about it in our usual way, would seem like a book that combines high culture and low culture—“literary fiction” and “genre fiction.” But those categories aren’t really adequate to describe the book . . .  It brings together these different fictional genres and the values—observation, feeling, erudition—to which they’re linked. . . Instead of being compressed, it blossoms.”
— Joshua Rothman, The New Yorker

“Emily St. John Mandel’s tender and lovely new novel, Station Eleven . . . miraculously reads like equal parts page-turner and poem . . . One of her great feats is that the story feels spun rather than plotted, with seamless shifts in time and characters. . . “Because survival is insufficient,” reads a line taken from Star Trek spray painted on the Traveling Symphony’s lead wagon. The genius of Mandel’s fourth novel . . . is that she lives up to those words. This is not a story of crisis and survival. It’s one of art and family and memory and community and the awful courage it takes to look upon the world with fresh and hopeful eyes.”
— Karen Valby, Entertainment Weekly

“Spine-tingling . . . Ingenious . . . Ms. Mandel gives the book some extra drama by positioning some of her characters near the brink of self-discovery as disaster approaches. The plague hits so fast that it takes them all by surprise . . . Ms. Mandel is able to tap into the poignancy of lives cut short at a terrible time — or, in one case, of a life that goes on long after wrongs could be righted." 
— Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“In Station Eleven , by Emily St. John Mandel, the Georgia Flu becomes airborne the night Arthur Leander dies during his performance as King Lear. Within months, all airplanes are grounded, cars run out of gas and electricity flickers out as most of the world’s population dies. The details of Arthur’s life before the flu and what happens afterward to his friends, wives and lovers create a surprisingly beautiful story of human relationships amid such devastation. Among the survivors are Kirsten, a child actor at the time of Arthur’s death who lives with no memory of what happened to her the first year after the flu . . . A gorgeous retelling of Lear unfolds through Arthur’s flashbacks and Kirsten’s attempt to stay alive.”
— Nancy Hightower, The Washington Post

“My book of the year is Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. I chose this book, because it surprised me. I’ve read a number of post-apocalyptic novels over the years and most of them are decidedly ungenerous toward humans and their brutishness. Station Eleven has their same sense of danger and difficulty, but still reads as more of a love letter — acknowledging all those things we would most miss and all those things we would still have.”
— Karen Joy Fowler, author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
 
“Even if you think dystopian fiction is not your thing, I urge you to give this marvelous novel a try. The plot revolves around a pandemic that shatters the world as we know it into isolated settlements and the Traveling Symphony, a roving band of actors and musicians who remind those who survived the catastrophe about hope and humanity. The questions raised by this emotional and thoughtful story—why does my life matter? what distinguishes living from surviving?—will stay with you long after the satisfying conclusion.”
— Doborah Harkness, author of The Book of Life 

“Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven sensitively explores the dynamics of . . . a theater troupe called the Traveling Symphony whose musicians and actors perform Shakespeare for small communities around the Great Lakes. Ms. Mandel . . . writ[es] with cool intelligence and poised understatement. Her real interest is in examining friendships and love affairs and the durable consolations of art.”
— Sam Sacks,  The Wall Street Journal

“This book isn't exactly a feel-good romp, but for a post-apocalyptic novel, Station Eleven comes remarkably close . . . Emily St. John Mandel delivers a beautifully observed walk through her book's 21st century world, as seen by characters who are grappling with what they've lost and what remains. While I was reading it, I kept putting the book down, looking around me, and thinking, ‘Everything is a miracle.’”
— NPR.org

“[A] complete post-apocalyptic world is rendered in Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, in which a hyper-virulent flu wipes out the majority of the earth’s population and the surviving one percent band into self-governing pods. Think of a more hopeful and female-informed rendering of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road . . . Mandel’s novel feels taut and assured... By having a pre- and post-pandemic split screen, she is able to ask questions about artistic creation, fame, and faith against the backgrounds of plenty and scarcity. There is the page-turning plot and compelling characters, but more importantly in a novel that engages with social issues are the questions—not answered but asked.”
— Rob Spillman, Guernica

“So impressive . . . Station Eleven is terrifying, reminding us of how paper-thin the achievements of civilization are. But it’s also surprisingly — and quietly — beautiful . . . As Emily Dickinson knew and as Mandel reminds us, there’s a sumptuousness in destitution, a painful beauty in loss . . . A superb novel. Unlike most postapocalyptic works, it leaves us not fearful for the end of the world but appreciative of the grace of everyday existence.”
— Anthony Domestic, San Francisco Chronicle

"Darkly lyrical . . . An appreciation of art, love and the triumph of the human spirit . . . Mandel effortlessly moves between time periods . . . The book is full of beautiful set pieces and landscapes; big, bustling cities before and during the outbreak, an eerily peaceful Malaysian seashore, and an all-but-abandoned Midwest airport-turned museum that becomes an all important setting for the last third of the book . . . Mandel ties up all the loose ends in a smooth and moving way, giving humanity to all her characters — both in a world that you might recognize as the one we all live in today (and perhaps take for granted) and a post-apocalyptic world without electricity, smartphones and the Internet. Station Eleven is a truly haunting book, one that is hard to put down and a pleasure to read."
— Doug Knoop, The Seattle Times

"Mandel’s spectacular, unmissable new novel is set in a near-future dystopia, after most — seriously, 99.99 percent — of the world’s population is killed suddenly and swiftly by a flu pandemic. (Have fun riding the subway after this one!) The perspective shifts between a handful of survivors, all connected to a famous actor who died onstage just before the collapse. A literary page-turner, impeccably paced, which celebrates the world lost while posing questions about art, fame, and what endures after everything, and everyone, is gone."
— Amanda Bullock, Vulture

"Haunting and riveting . . . In several moving passages, Mandel's characters look back with similar longing toward the receding pre-plague world, remembering all the things they'd once taken for granted — from the Internet to eating an orange . . . It's not just the residents of Mandel's post-collapse world who need to forge stronger connections and live for more than mere survival. So do we all."
— Mike Fischer, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

"Emily St. John Mandel’s fourth novel is, flat-out, one of the best things I’ve read on the ability of art to endure in a good long while. It’s about the ways that civilization is kept alive in a world devastated by a plague, sure, but it’s also about the way artists live, about the way people live, about flawed relationships and creative pursuits and how the unlikeliest of connections can bring transcendence."
— Tobias Carroll, Electric Literature

“Though it centers on civilization’s collapse in the aftermath of a devastating flu, this mesmerizing novel isn’t just apocalyptic fantasy—it’s also an intricately layered character study of human life itself. Jumping back and forth between the decades before and after the pandemic, the narrative interlaces several individuals’ stories, encompassing a universe of emotions and ultimately delivering a view of life that’s both chilling and jubilant.”
People Magazine
 
“If you’re planning to write a post-apocalyptic novel, you’re going to have to breathe some new life into it. Emily St. John Mandel does that with her new book, Station Eleven . . . The story is told through several characters, including an A-list actor, his ex-wives, a religious prophet and the Traveling Symphony, a ragtag group of Shakespearean actors and musicians who travel to settlements performing for the survivors. Each bring a unique perspective to life, relationships and what it means to live in a world returned to the dark ages . . . Mandel doesn’t put the emphasis on the apocalypse itself (the chaos, the scavenging, the scientists trying to find a cure), but instead shows the effects it has on humanity. Despite the state of the world, people find reasons to continue . . . Station Eleven will change the post-apocalyptic genre. While most writers tend to be bleak and clichéd, Mandel chooses to be optimistic and imaginative. This isn’t a story about survival, it’s a story about living.”
— Andrew Blom, The Boston Herald

“A novel that carries a magnificent depth . . . We get to see something that is so difficult to show or feel – how small moments in time link together. And how these moments add up to a life . . . Her best yet. It feels as though she took the experience earned from her previous writing and braided it together to make one gleaming strand . . . An epic book.”
— Claire Cameron, The Globe and Mail
 
“I’ve been a fan of Emily St. John Mandel ever since her first novel . . . she’s a stunningly beautiful writer whose complex, flawed, and well-drawn characters linger with you long after you set her books down . . . With the release of Station Eleven—a big, brilliant, ambitious, genre-bending novel that follows a traveling troupe of Shakespearean actors roaming a postapocalyptic world­—she’s poised for blockbuster success. Effortlessly combining her flawless craftsmanship, rich insights, and compelling characters with big-budget visions of the end of the world, Station Eleven is hands-down one of my favorite books of the year.”
— Sarah McCarry, Tor.com
 
Station Eleven is a complex, eerie novel about the years before and after a pandemic that eliminates most of humanity, save for a troupe of actors and a few traumatized witnesses. Mandel’s novel weaves together a post-apocalyptic reckoning, the life of an actor, and the thoughts of the man who tries to save him. It’s an ambitious premise, but what glues the parts together is Mandel’s vivid, addictive language. It’s easy to see why she’d claim this novel as her most prized: Station Eleven is a triumph of narrative and prose, a beautifully arranged work about art, society, and what’s great about the world we live in now.”
— Claire Luchette, Bustle

“An ambitious and addictive novel.”
— Sarah Hughes, Guardian

“Mandel deviates from the usual and creates what is possibly the most captivating and thought-provoking post-apocalyptic novel you will ever read . . . Beautiful writing . . . An assured handle on human emotions and relationships . . . Though not without tension and a sense of horror, Station Eleven rises above the bleakness of the usual post-apocalyptic novels because its central concept is one so rarely offered in the genre – hope.”
 The Independent (UK)

“A beautiful and unsettling book, the action moves between the old and new world, drawing connections between the characters and their pasts and showing the sweetness of life as we know it now and the value of friendship, love and art over all the vehicles, screens and remote controls that have been rendered obsolete. Mandel's skill in portraying her post-apocalyptic world makes her fictional creation seem a terrifyingly real possibility. Apocalyptic stories once offered the reader a scary view of an alternative reality and the opportunity, on putting the book down, to look around gratefully at the real world. This is a book to make its reader mourn the life we still lead and the privileges we still enjoy.”
Sunday Express

“A haunting tale of art and the apocalypse. Station Eleven is an unmissable experience.”
— Samantha Shannon, author of The Bone Season

“There is no shortage of post-apocalyptic thrillers on the shelves these days, but Station Eleven is unusually haunting . . . There is an understated, piercing nostalgia . . . there is humour, amid the collapse . . . and there is Mandel's marvellous creation, the Travelling Symphony, travelling from one scattered gathering of humanity to another . . . There is also a satisfyingly circular mystery, as Mandel unveils neatly, satisfyingly, the links between her disparate characters . . . This book will stay with its readers much longer than more run-of-the-mill thrillers.”
— Alison Flood, Thriller of the Month Observer

“Haunting and riveting . . . Mandel will repeatedly remind us in this book, it's people rather than machines that make the world spin . . . In several moving passages, Mandel's characters look back with similar longing toward the receding pre-plague world, remembering all the things they'd once taken for granted . . . In a move that's sure to draw comparisons with Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad, Mandel periodically travels backward in time, allowing us to see how blind and selfish such characters were, back in the day when they had so much and lived so small . . . As a result, Station Eleven comes to seem less like a spaceship reflecting how we'll live our dystopian future than a way of thinking about how and where we're traveling here and now. It's not just the residents of Mandel's post-collapse world who need to forge stronger connections and live for more than mere survival. So do we all.”
— Mike Fischer, Knoxville News-Sentinel
 
“Post-apocalyptic scenarios are rarely positive . . . but Mandel’s book embraces a different view while still depicting how difficult living would be in a desolate world.”
— Molly Driscoll, Christian Science Monitor Editors’ Pick

"Enormous scope and an ambitious time-jumping structure, Station Eleven paints its post-apocalyptic world in both bold brushstrokes and tiny points of background detail. As the conflicts of one era illuminate another, a small group of interrelated characters witnesses the collapse of the current historical age and staggers through the first faltering steps of the next . . . [A] powerfully absorbing tale of survival in a quarantined airport and on the dangerous roads between improvised settlements, protected by actors and musicians trained for gunfights. Mandel has imagined this world in full, and her ambition and imagination on display here are admirable."
— Emily Choate, Chapter 16

"Audacious . . . A group of actors and musicians stumble upon each other and now roam the region between Toronto and Chicago as the Traveling Symphony, performing Shakespeare — “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Romeo and Juliet” — for small settlements they find in the wilderness. Their existence alone provides the novel with a strange beauty, even hope, as one actress notes how these plays survived a bubonic plague centuries ago . . . Station Eleven is blessedly free of moralizing, or even much violence. If anything, it’s a book about gratitude, about life right now, if we can live to look back on it."
— Kim Ode, Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Station Eleven . . . I couldn't resist . . . You should read it, too . . . It'll make you marvel at the world as we know it . . . [and] remind you the people who drive you the most crazy are perhaps also the ones you don't want to live without."
— Mary Pauline Lowry, Huffington Post Books Blog
 
“Never has a book convinced me more of society’s looming demise than Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, an apocalyptic novel about a world just like our own that, much as our own might, dissolves after a new strain of influenza eradicates 99 percent of the human population. A soul-quaking premise, and a story that, I must warn, should not be read in a grubby airport surrounded by potential carriers of … whatever disease, take your pick . . . Mandel displays the impressive skill of evoking both terror and empathy . . . She has exuded talent for years . . . There is such glory in humanity, in what we, through every plague and every age, continue to create — like this book — and in what we are capable of sustaining.”
— Tiffany Gibert, LA Review of Books

"Mandel comes by a now-common genre mash-up, highbrow dystopia, honestly, following three small-press literary thrillers. By focusing on a Shakespeare troupe roving a post-pandemic world of sparse communities, she brings a hard-focus humanity to the form. Repeated flashbacks to the life of an early flu victim, a Hollywood actor who dies onstage in the character of Lear, provide both comic relief and the pathos of a beautifully frivolous world gone by."
— Boris Kachka's 8 Books You Need To Read This September, Vulture
 
“Disappear inside the exquisite post-apocalyptic world of Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven and you’ll resurface with a greater appreciation for the art and culture we daily take for granted. With fearless imagination, Mandel recounts the peripatetic adventures of an eccentric band of artists, musicians, playwrights, and actors as they traverse the world’s dreary landscape attempting to keep culture and art alive in the aftermath of a devastating disease that has wiped out much of civilization . . . Strange, poetic, thrilling, and grim all at once, Station Eleven is a prismatic tale about survival, unexpected coincidences, and the significance of art and its oft under-appreciated beauty. ”
— September 2014’s Best Books, Bustle

“The most buzzed-about novel of the season.”
— Stephan Lee, Entertainment Weekly

"In this unforgettable, haunting, and almost hallucinatory portrait of life at the edge, those who remain struggle to retain their basic humanity and make connections with the vanished world through art, memory, and remnants of popular culture . . . a brilliantly constructed, highly literary, postapocalyptic page-turner."
— Lauren Gilbert, Library Journal (starred)

"This fast-paced novel details life before and after a flu wipes out 99 percent of the earth's population . . . As the characters reflect on what gives life meaning in a desolate, postapocalyptic world, readers will be inspired to do the same."
Real Simple

“Once in a very long while a book becomes a brand new old friend, a story you never knew you always wanted. Station Eleven is that rare find that feels familiar and extraordinary at the same time, expertly weaving together future and present and past, death and life and Shakespeare. This is truly something special.”
— Erin Morgenstern, author of The Night Circus

"Station Eleven is a magnificent, compulsive novel that cleverly turns the notion of a “kinder, gentler time” on its head.  And, oh, the pleasure of falling down the rabbit hole of Mandel’s imagination — a dark, shimmering place rich in alarmingly real detail and peopled with such human, such very appealing characters."
— Liza Klaussmann, author of Tigers in Red Weather

"Her best, most ambitious work yet. Post-apocalyptic tales are all the rage this season, but Mandel’s intricate plotting and deftness with drawing character makes this novel of interlinked tales stand out as a beguiling read. Beginning with the onslaught of the deadly Georgian flu and the death of a famous actor onstage, and advancing twenty years into the future to a traveling troupe of Shakespearean actors who perform for the few remaining survivors, the novel sits with darkness while searching for the beauty in art and human connection."  
— Most Anticipated: The Great Second-Half 2014 Book Preview, The Millions

“Ambitious, magnificent . . . Mandel’s vision is not only achingly beautiful but startlingly  plausible, exposing the fragile beauty of the world we inhabit. In the burgeoning postapocalyptic literary genre, Mandel’s transcendent, haunting novel deserves a place alongside The Road, The Passage, and The Dog Stars.”
— Kristine Huntley, Booklist (starred)

“[An] ambitious take on a post-apocalyptic world where some strive to preserve art, culture and kindness . . . Think of Cormac McCarthy seesawing with Joan Didion . . . Mandel spins a satisfying web of coincidence and kismet . . . Magnetic . . . a breakout novel.”
— Kirkus (starred)

Station Eleven is the kind of book that speaks to dozens of the readers in me—-the Hollywood devotee, the comic book fan, the cult junkie, the love lover, the disaster tourist. It is a brilliant novel, and Emily St. John Mandel is astonishing.” 
— Emma Straub, author of The Vacationers
 
Station Eleven is a firework of a novel. Elegantly constructed and packed with explosive beauty, it's full of life and humanity and the aftershock of memory.” 
— Lauren Beukes, author of The Shining Girls
 
“Disturbing, inventive and exciting, Station Eleven left me wistful for a world where I still live.” 
— Jessie Burton, author of The Miniaturist

"A unique departure from which to examine civilization's wreckage . . . [a] wild fusion of celebrity gossip and grim future . . . Mandel's examination of the connections between individuals with disparate destinies makes a case for the worth of even a single life."
Publishers Weekly

Library Journal
★ 09/01/2014
Onstage at a Toronto theater, an aging movie star drops dead while performing the title role in King Lear. As the other cast members share a drink at the lobby bar before heading into the snowy night, none can know what horrors await them: "Of all of them at the bar that night, the bartender was the one who survived the longest. He died three weeks later on the road out of the city." The Shakespearean tragedy unfolds into a real-life calamity just before the entire world is overtaken by a catastrophic flu pandemic that will kill off the vast majority of the population. The narrative is organized around several figures present at the theater that night, and the tale travels back and forth in time, from the years before the pandemic through the following 20 years in a world without government, electricity, telecommunications, modern medicine, or transportation. In this lawless and dangerous new reality, a band of actors and musicians performs Shakespeare for the small communities that have come into existence in the otherwise abandoned landscape. In this unforgettable, haunting, and almost hallucinatory portrait of life at the edge, those who remain struggle to retain their basic humanity and make connections with the vanished world through art, memory, and remnants of popular culture. VERDICT This is a brilliantly constructed, highly literary, postapocalyptic page-turner, and should be a breakout novel for Mandel. [See Prepub Alert, 3/24/14.]—Lauren Gilbert, Sachem P.L., Holbrook, NY
The Barnes & Noble Review

"May you live in interesting times," that apocryphal but durable "Chinese" curse, has always seemed like a foregone conclusion. In any age there is bound to be plenty going on that qualifies as interesting — that is, terrifying, dispiriting, and despair-inducing. Some of the more "interesting" phenomena commanding our attention at this writing are Russia's belligerence; the alarmingly rapid rise of ISIS; earthquakes in Northern California; the portentous rumblings of an Icelandic volcano; and the resurgence of Ebola in Africa. It is this final item — and the resulting worries about how it could be spread via air travel — that makes Emily St. John Mandel's end-of-days novel Station Eleven so grimly captivating. The disease in her scenario, a sort of aggressive flu, is short on horror movie symptoms, but the miracle of flight allows it to work quickly and to leave vanishingly few survivors.

Mandel, the author of three previous novels, has in Station Eleven borrowed a conceit from Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal (1957). Bergman's great film follows a knight and a troupe of actors through Sweden at the time of the Black Death; Mandel's book follows a traveling Shakespeare company through the Upper Midwest in the aftermath of a flu pandemic that has brought the world close to an end. That is where the similarities end, and it would be a mistake to call Station Eleven an homage, let alone a rip-off, of the film. Where The Seventh Seal treats the meaning of death in God's seeming absence, Station Eleven grapples with the meaning of life, creativity, and fame in the absence of a civilization to witness or nurture human achievement.

The book opens at a performance of King Lear in Toronto, just as the great pandemic is beginning but before any but medical professionals are aware of it. Arthur Leander, the famous actor portraying Lear, has a heart attack onstage; Jeevan Chaudhary, an EMT-in-training, leaps from the audience and tries unsuccessfully to revive him. This is a potent symbol of the doomed project of preservation — of order, sanity, and meaning — that occupies Station Eleven's characters. And it is shortly after this episode that Mandel retails a litany of things lost to the global disaster: "No more screens shining in the half-light as people raise their phones above the crowd to take photographs of concert stages. . . . No more pharmaceuticals. No more certainty of surviving a scratch on one's hand. . . . No more flight. No more countries, all borders unmanned." This unsettling catalogue goes on for two pages and concludes with a grim double entendre about the unmasking of our native potential for barbarism: "No more avatars."

The story picks up again in the former United States, "twenty years after the end of air travel." Kirsten Raymonde, who had been backstage — as a child actress — the night of Arthur's death, roams the ravaged midwestern countryside with the Traveling Symphony, performing King Lear and A Midsummer Night's Dream. One suspects that this ragtag troupe performs as much to make itself indispensable, and thus slightly safer from depredation, as to keep the lights of civilized culture flickering. Dangers abound. There are many tropes familiar from Cormac McCarthy's The Road as well as the Walking Dead graphic novels and television show: roving bands of marauders and "ferals,"infighting and politicking among the struggling remnant. Daily life is about making it to the next flimsy outpost.

Interwoven with this narrative is the tale of one of the first groups of survivors — including Arthur's best friend, one of his ex-wives, and his young son — trapped in a quarantined airport. (The quarantine lapses when there is no one left to enforce it, but the group is still trapped in every meaningful sense.) Food court stores and snack kiosks are emptied out; luggage is rifled for medication; devices run out of batteries; credit cards are discarded as it becomes clear that they will never mean anything again. The contingency and fragility of life as we know it stand in increasingly depressing relief. Planes take on a great significance. As a character says elsewhere in the book, "If I ever saw an airplane, that meant that somewhere planes still took off. For a whole decade after the pandemic, I kept looking at the sky."

This "looking at the sky" is pointedly not a nod to the religious or spiritual impulse. The things the characters in Station Eleven long for are squarely of this world, or at least what this world used to be. (Kirsten, after ransacking an abandoned house: "That's what it would have been like . . . living in a house. You would leave and lock the door behind you, and all through the day you would carry a key.") There is nothing like genuine religious feeling among the survivors, though — perhaps a bit too predictably — there is plenty of the counterfeit kind. The villain of Station Eleven, or at least of the narrative thread involving the adult Kirsten, is a sinister Prophet leading his cultish followers in rapine and violence. When the Prophet's origin story is revealed, so too is Station Eleven's weak grasp of the outsize role that the transcendent would play in a ruined civilization.

Instead of the transcendent, the search for meaning in the face of our sure annihilation, we get fame. Arthur Leander, the deceased actor, is the linchpin of Station Eleven. The third of the book's interwoven narratives recounts his rise to celebrity, his succession of wives, and the pleasures and perils of celebrity. What human need does celebrity satisfy, and is it a lasting satisfaction? These questions are encoded in the very structure of Station Eleven, its shifts of time and place focusing the reader's thoughts on the power of memory and nostalgia, the desire for something that doesn't pass away.

A stoic sort of longing imbues every page. One character founds a makeshift Museum of Civilization at the airport, where the doomed may examine such relics as smartphones and fancy shoes. Another founds a rudimentary newspaper, in which the annals of the crumbling world may be recorded. Kirsten covets tabloid articles about Leander, her dimly remembered friend, and pages of Station Eleven, the graphic novel by Arthur's ex-wife Miranda, about space travelers searching for home. Fame in Mandel's novel is not crude celebrity as we understand it, but the deeper kind of perdurability inherent in all great art and human endeavor. As the words on the Traveling Symphony's caravan — a motto remembered from an old Star Trek episode — go: Survival is insufficient. The goal is not merely to survive but to live on in the memories of others.

A writer living in Hudson, NY, Stefan Beck has written for The Wall Street Journal, The New York Sun, The Weekly Standard, The New Criterion, and other publications. He also writes a food blog, The Poor Mouth, which can be found at www.stefanbeckonline.com/tpm/.

Reviewer: Stefan Beck

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385353304
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/9/2014
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 3,849
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Emily St. John Mandel was born in British Columbia, Canada. She is the author of three previous novels—Last Night in Montreal, The Singer’s Gun, and The Lola Quartet—all of which were Indie Next picks. She is a staff writer for The Millions, and her work has appeared in numerous anthologies, including The Best American Mystery Stories 2013 and Venice Noir. She lives in New York City with her husband.

www.emilymandel.com

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Read an Excerpt

Jeevan’s understanding of disaster preparedness was based entirely on action movies, but on the other hand, he’d seen a lot of action movies. He started with water, filled one of the oversized shopping carts with as many cases and bottles as he could fit. There was a moment of doubt on the way to the cash registers, straining against the weight of the cart—was he overreacting?—but there was a certain momentum now, too late to turn back. The clerk raised an eyebrow but said nothing.

 “I’m parked just outside,” he said. “I’ll bring the cart back.” The clerk nodded, tired. She was young, early twenties probably, with dark bangs that she kept pushing out of her eyes. He forced the impossibly heavy cart outside and half-pushed, half-skidded through the snow at the exit. There was a long ramp down into a small park-like arrangement of benches and planters. The cart gained speed on the incline, bogged down in deep snow at the bottom of the ramp and slid sideways into a planter.

It was eleven twenty. The supermarket closed in forty minutes. He was imagining how long it would take to bring the cart up to Frank’s apartment, to unload it, the time required for tedious explanations and reassurances of sanity before he could return to the grocery store for more supplies. Could there be any harm in leaving the cart here for the moment? There was no one on the street. He called Hua on his way back into the store.

 “What’s happening now?” He moved quickly through the store while Hua spoke. Another case of water—Jeevan was under the impression that one can never have too much—and then cans and cans of food, all the tuna and beans and soup on the shelf, pasta, anything that looked like it might last a while. The hospital was full of flu patients and the situation was identical at the other hospitals in the city. The ambulance service was overwhelmed. Thirty-seven patients had died now, including every patient who’d been on the Moscow flight and two E.R. nurses who’d been on duty when the first patients came in. The shopping cart was almost unmanageably heavy. Hua said he’d called his wife and told her to take the kids and leave the city tonight, but not by airplane. Jeevan was standing by the cash register again, the clerk scanning his cans and packages. The part of the evening that had transpired in the Elgin Theatre seemed like possibly a different lifetime. The clerk was moving very slowly. Jeevan passed her a credit card and she scrutinized it as though she hadn’t just seen it five or ten minutes ago.

 “Take Laura and your brother,” Hua said, “and leave the city tonight.”
 
“I can’t leave the city tonight, not with my brother. I can’t rent a wheelchair van at this hour.”

 In response there was only a muffled sound. Hua was coughing.
 
“Are you sick?” Jeevan was pushing the cart toward the door.

 “Goodnight, Jeevan.” Hua disconnected and Jeevan was alone in the snow. He felt possessed. The next cart was all toilet paper. The cart after that was more canned goods, also frozen meat and aspirin, garbage bags, bleach, duct tape.

 “I work for a charity,” he said to the girl behind the cash register, his third or fourth time through, but she wasn’t paying much attention to him. She kept glancing up at the small television above the film development counter, ringing his items through on autopilot. Jeevan called Laura on his sixth trip through the store, but his call went to voicemail.

 “Laura,” he began. “Laura.” He thought it better to speak to her directly and it was already almost eleven fifty, there wasn’t time for this. Filling the cart with more food, moving quickly through this bread-and-flower-scented world, this almost-gone place, thinking of Frank in his 22nd floor apartment, high up in the snowstorm with his insomnia and his book project, his day-old New York Times and his Beethoven. Jeevan wanted desperately to reach him. He decided to call Laura later, changed his mind and called the home line while he was standing by the checkout counter, mostly because he didn’t want to make eye contact with the clerk.
 
“Jeevan, where are you?” She sounded slightly accusatory. He handed over his credit card.
 
“Are you watching the news?”
 
“Should I be?”

“There’s a flu epidemic, Laura. It’s serious.”

“That thing in Russia or wherever? I knew about that.”

“It’s here now. It’s worse than we’d thought. I’ve just been talking to Hua. You have to leave the city.” He glanced up in time to see the look the checkout girl gave him.

Have to? What? Where are you, Jeevan?” He was signing his name on the slip, struggling with the cart toward the exit, where the order of the store ended and the frenzy of the storm began. It was difficult to steer the cart with one hand. There were already five carts parked haphazardly between benches and planters, dusted now with snow.

“Just turn on the news, Laura.”

“You know I don’t like to watch the news before bed. Are you having an anxiety attack?”

“What? No. I’m going to my brother’s place to make sure he’s okay.”

“Why wouldn’t he be?”

“You’re not even listening. You never listen to me.” Jeevan knew this was probably a petty thing to say in the face of a probable flu pandemic, but couldn’t resist. He plowed the cart into the others and dashed back into the store. “I can’t believe you left me at the theatre,” he said. “You just left me at the theatre performing CPR on a dead actor.”

“Jeevan, tell me where you are.”

“I’m in a grocery store.” It was eleven fifty-five. This last cart was all grace items: vegetables, fruit, bags of oranges and lemons, tea, coffee, crackers, salt, preserved cakes. “Look, Laura, I don’t want to argue. This flu’s serious, and it’s fast.”

 “What’s fast?”

“This flu, Laura. It’s really fast. Hua told me. It’s spreading so quickly. I think you should get out of the city.” At the last moment, he added a bouquet of daffodils.
           
 

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Interviews & Essays

A Conversation with Emily St. John Mandel, Author of Station Eleven

What is Station Eleven about? What is the significance of the title?

Station Eleven is about a traveling Shakespearean theatre company in a post-apocalyptic North America. It's also about friendship, love, what it means to devote a life to art, what remains when civilization crumbles, music, oppressive dinner parties, and knife-throwing.

The narrative moves back and forth in time between the years leading up to a societal collapse, and a point in time twenty years later, when the traveling company moves between the settlements of the altered world, performing Shakespeare and music. Station Eleven is the title of a comic book that one of the actors, Kirsten, carries with her on the road. It was given to her as a little girl, just before the world ended, and she's held on to it ever since. It's the object that connects the two time periods in the book, and I suppose one could also see it as a stand-in for the burden of memory that these characters carry with them. Most of them retain some recollection of what the world was like before the collapse, and the more they remember of that lost world, the more they've lost.

Station Eleven is a departure from your past works of fiction. What inspired you to write a post-apocalyptic novel?

It was partly just that I wanted to write something different from my previous books. My first three novels were generally categorized as literary noir, and as much as I love that genre, I didn't want to be pigeonholed as a crime writer—not because I have anything against crime fiction or crime writers, just because I don't want to be pigeonholed as anything. It was also partly that I wanted to write a love letter to the modern world—the high-speed trains, internet, antibiotics, electricity, cell phones, all of these wonderfully useful things that we take for granted. I've always loved post-apocalyptic novels, and it occurred to me that one way to consider the modern world would be to write about its absence.

The novel opens with the death of a famous actor from an apparent heart attack, mid-performance of King Lear. That same night, the reader witnesses the beginning of a flu pandemic that wipes out all but a few pockets of civilization. Why did you choose to feature this scene, and this play, as a catalyst of sorts to the world's demise?

I chose that opening partly for technical reasons—I wanted to open the book with a gripping scene—and partly because King Lear is a play that's deeply concerned with loss, and a play about losing everything seemed a fitting way to usher out the pre-pandemic world. I liked the idea of a theatre full of people who have no idea that these are the last few hours before the world comes undone. By the morning the news will be full of this overwhelming pandemic, within a week the city will have shut down, but first they had this experience together in a beautiful theatre on the last normal night of their lives.

Fifteen years after the pandemic, the reader is introduced to "The Traveling Symphony," a troupe that roams the desolate landscape of the upper Midwest performing Shakespeare plays to small groups of survivors. Left in a world without electricity, without running water, without contemporary luxuries, the troupe lives by the slogan, "survival is insufficient." Explain what inspired you to create the group, and why you chose to focus on Shakespeare in particular.

This book changed a great deal between the time I started thinking about it and the final execution, but it always involved a company of Shakespearean actors. I'd originally thought the book would be about the life of an actor in a scrappy-but-underfunded touring Shakespearean theatre troupe in Canada. Later I changed the setting to a post-apocalyptic North America, but the troupe remained. It seemed to me that people would want what was best about the world, and for me, what was best about the world would include the plays of William Shakespeare.

For the first few drafts, I had the company performing plays from different eras, even teleplays, but that started to seem a little incongruous: I had this company traveling over a desolate landscape, performing episodes of Seinfeld and How I Met Your Mother to communities of people who lived without electricity, and it just didn't quite make sense. Those works are products of the modern world, and of course, in a post-apocalyptic scenario you're no longer in the modern world; you're back in the age of candlelight.

Also, it seemed to me that there are some interesting parallels between Shakespeare's time and the post-pandemic era about which I was writing, so as I continued revising Station Eleven, it began to seem more and more natural that the company would focus exclusively on Shakespeare. In Shakespeare's era, theatre was often a matter of traveling companies moving from town to town, performing by candlelight. Also, he lived in a time and a place that was haunted by recurring episodes of bubonic plague, and you see it here and there in his texts. You've mentioned in interviews that you wrote Station Eleven as a "love letter to our world right now." When writing the novel, what did you determine that you would miss most about your everyday life?

Electricity and running water. Also, modern dentistry, in the absence of which I would have lost almost all of my teeth by now. Why did you choose to set most of the post-apocalyptic part of your novel in the Midwest and life beforehand mainly in Toronto? Why these two places specifically?

A year or so before I started working on this book, I went on a book tour in Michigan. There were a couple of stops along the lakeshore—Brilliant Books in Sutton Bay, although they've since moved to Traverse City, and McLean & Eakin in Petoskey—and I fell in love with the area. It's a beautiful part of the world, with excellent bookstores. I knew I wanted to set something there, just because I liked it so much. When I started writing Station Eleven, the lakeshore struck me as an ideal location for my traveling company, for tedious practical reasons having to do with continuous proximity to fresh water.

I've been interested in writing about Toronto for a while. I like that city a great deal, and I was there from ages eighteen through twenty-two, which are obviously very formative years. Also, I had a strange experience there once, and this is no reflection on Toronto, but it might have marked the first time I started thinking about what a post-apocalyptic city would be like: I was walking up a brightly-lit commercial street one night—I was probably about nineteen at the time—and just for a second, the lights blinked out. Every streetlight, every light in every store. They came back on so quickly that everyone on the street was asking one another, "Did you see that? Did that really just happen?", but the moment stayed with me. It only takes an instant of blackness to suggest the terror of a city with no electricity.

New York's gone dark twice in the years since I moved here—the 2003 blackout, and then those strange days after Hurricane Sandy when lower Manhattan had no electricity, during which time I somehow brilliantly managed to get stranded downtown after dark two evenings in a row—but I think that flicker in Toronto was the first time I started thinking about the fragility of the grid.

Your novel challenges the reader's perceptions of "old" and "new," by interweaving pre and post-apocalyptic story lines. Characters find tabloids in abandoned houses, a museum of the past inside an airport, and roam desolate landscapes with modern day artillery in hand, to name a few. What do you think the reader will gain through these juxtapositions?

I think there's an interesting tension in the juxtaposition of old and new, which probably accounts for the continued popularity of steampunk. In a way, the tabloids in abandoned houses are a physical reflection of the current digital age. Everything you say on the Internet is there forever. In Station Eleven, twenty years after the collapse of civilization it's still possible to read celebrity gossip.

An important destination for characters trekking through the post-apocalyptic world of Station Eleven is the Museum of Civilization, a place where travelers leave behind objects that remind them of the world that once was, a place that seems to span the gap between past, present, and future. Characters who lived before the downfall value the museum for its ability to serve as a memorial of the past for generations to come. Why do you think it is important to memorialize the past, and how do you think doing so will inform our future?

The past is context for the present, isn't it? I think having a sense of history is important, in order to avoid repeating the same mistakes. As a species, it seems to be important to us to hold on to the past: witness the wild popularity of sites like ancestry.com, where people sign up and pay membership fees and spend hours engaged in genealogical research to discover where they came from. In the context of this book, the Museum functions as a repository for artifacts of a lost world—after the lights go out, you've got to put your dead iPad somewhere—and a place where people can come together to remember and study the past. There's a sadness to it, because the objects collected there are from an age of expansion and technological innovation that's unlikely to come again, at least in these characters' lifetimes. And of course, for the survivors of a pandemic with a 99% mortality rate, the technology is the least of what they've lost, so it's also a place for collective mourning.

What do you most want readers to take away from Station Eleven?

I didn't write the book with a message in mind, but it wouldn't be unreasonable to see the book as a suggestion that perhaps we could all stand to be a little more mindful of the fragility of civilization, and perhaps slightly more appreciative of the technological marvels that surround us. Isn't it wonderful to have electricity? It's something I very much appreciate, personally.

Who have you discovered lately?

I'm reading a manuscript of a new novel by Peter Geye, whose most recent book was The Lighthouse Road. I've only met Peter a couple of times in person, but we have a fantastic working arrangement where we read and give notes on one another's drafts. His notes are always absolutely superb. I loved The Lighthouse Road, and his new novel is going to be even better.

I discovered a brilliant author a couple of months back. Her name's Elena Mauli Shapiro, and her second novel, In The Red, is coming out in October. It's an incredible story about crime, love, and morality, and it's one of the best books I've read in years. I want to read everything she writes.

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Reading Group Guide

  The questions, discussion topics, and reading list that follow are intended to enhance your reading group’s discussion of Station Eleven, the dazzling new novel by acclaimed author Emily St. John Mandel.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 54 )
Rating Distribution

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(31)

4 Star

(11)

3 Star

(8)

2 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 54 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 15, 2014

    There has been a lot of "buzz" surrounding Emily St. J

    There has been a lot of "buzz" surrounding Emily St. John Mandel's contribution to the post-apocalyptic genre, Station Eleven, which was selected as one of Amazon's best books of the month for September. While I'm not sure that all the hype is quite justified, I did enjoy Mandel's writing and her fresh approach. Rather than placing her primary focus on the horrors and challenges of survival in a world decimated by the "Georgia flu," Mandel clearly believes the motto she gives her Traveling Symphony: "Survival is insufficient." The main characters in Station Eleven are not ex-military hardasses, as is so often the case in this genre; they are actors, musicians, and artists who believe that the fine arts are essential to our human identity, a sentiment with which I heartily agree. Mandel conveys this feeling not only through the actions and dialogue of her characters, but also by following key relics of the pre-apocalypse world (a paperweight, a comic book) as they pass through various hands, connecting lives in sometimes unexpected ways. We have here, not six degrees of Kevin Bacon, but six degrees of "Station Eleven," the comic book from which the novel draws its title.

    Strangely enough, Station Eleven's strength is also its main weakness. Mandel gives short shrift to her characters' survival narratives. Survival may be insufficient, but it is nevertheless essential. Kirsten Raymonde, the child actor who subsequently joins the Traveling Symphony in its Shakespeare productions, doesn't remember her first year as a survivor, presumably because it was too traumatic. Although I didn't need the gory details, I did feel as though her amnesia left a gaping hole as I reached the end of the book.

    This quibble aside, Station Eleven is a moving and surprisingly hopeful addition to the literature of the post-apocalypse.

    I received a free copy of Station Eleven through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

    7 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2014

    Station Eleven Review and Opinion

    Though i am only 13 years of age (About to be 14), i would highly reccomend this book. This book is appropriate for ages 15 and up. Though there are some obscenities and graphic violence, this book will open your eyes to a whole new world of literacy. The author is honetly a genius, this peice of writing is absolutely preciously valuable.

    5 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2014

    Literary dystopia at it's best

    If you love literary fiction you'll love this. If you are not a fan of science fiction or dystopian fiction...well, read this anyway. It's all about character, time, and place. You'll love it and expand your horizons. Trust me!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2014

    Not your typical post apocalyptic tale

    I am a sucker for the recent flood of apocalyptic tales, and this was one of the best stories I've read in a long time. It was less about the collapse of civilization and more about the characters experiences, but the story provided enough details of the events to be satisfying. I did not want the story to end, and yet I could not put the book down. I would recommend this to anyone who likes to read!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 17, 2014

    Wonderful! Emily is such a gifted writer. Engaging and beautiful

    Wonderful! Emily is such a gifted writer. Engaging and beautifully written, STATION ELEVEN has something for everyone-a little sci-fi, dystopia, heartache and survival. I will recommend this book to everyone.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 19, 2014

    I Also Recommend:

    A good read. More a series of interwoven stories than a traditio

    A good read. More a series of interwoven stories than a traditional novel. The stories/storylines influence each other, some directly, others indirectly. Past and present are presented in no particular order. This flipping back and forth between the times before and after the apocalyptic event emphasizes the order within chaos concept that is center to the overall story and drives home the fragile, transitory nature of life and all we take for granted.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 17, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    There is an expectation among those who research such things, th

    There is an expectation among those who research such things, that the end of world, as it presently stands, will not occur due to a war fought over oil, religion or politics. Its final gasp will not be due to nuclear fallout or global warming.  The end will come because of a natural occurring virus against which 99.99% of humanity has no resistance. That is the premise upon which Ms. Mandel launches what has all the markings of a remarkable trilogy.  How humanity was whittled down to potentially extinction levels is of less importance in this story than how those who lived respond to being survivors of a sparsely populated world.
    The book opens with a production of Shakespeare’s King Lear at Toronto’s Elgin Theater. The death of the lead actor, Jeeven Chaudhary, star of stage and screen, from a heart attack during Act IV, is a death unrelated to the pandemic but it does set the tone for what will happen after the devastation the flu strain will bring is complete.  This flu is so contagious, incubates so quickly and is so deadly that humanity has no chance of responding; Shakespeare is timeless & humanity has been responding to his works for centuries. One of the book’s over-arching themes highlights the difference from the “temporary” from the “transcendent.”
    Kristen Raymonde is an 8-year-old bit player on stage when “King Lear” has his heart attack. In “Year 15,” as time is now measured, she is a member of a traveling Symphony and Shakespeare company. “Cities” are made up of groups of more than 100 and are typically centered around buildings constructed to serve people – former gas stations, fast food restaurants and big box stores. Houses, for reason’s unclear are shunned and allowed to dilapidate after being repeatedly searched. Everyone who survived Year One is leery, paranoid and guarded. As the troupe is on constant tour, they see the stagnation of humanity and are on constant alert for fear of a reoccurrence of “what happened.” In response to what she sees Kristen ponders if, perhaps, “humanity should pass from existence.”
    At each stop, the Company performs - music one night, Shakespeare the next. The story is told in flashbacks each “visit to before” sheds light on how those still living came to react as they do, how seeming disparate events and elements were not as random as they first seem, everything and everyone is connected to the present. Life is reduced to its basics – food, water, shelter, community. One goes to bed at dark and rises with the sun. Questions so important when “everything worked” are revealed to be empty, replaced by deeper ponderings of faith, power, beauty and trust. The survivors are no longer connected to possessions, having learned to treasure what is of real value.
    Religion is still alive in this new age, as is the genuine faith sometimes found in its practitioners. What is more often the case, however, in this tale of warning, is one’s “religion” gives credence to delusion. Prophets abound, their followers seeming to find safety in following the words of one who “hears the voice of god” and will obey what this prophet says, even if it means violating every moral and value they possess.
    The book ends with many questions answered and new paths discovered.  The “end” did not feel like a conclusion, Kristen’s angst was confronted with hope.  I would like for this journey to continue, but if Ms. Mandel brought her readers to the intended place of parting, it is a good spot to rest.  

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2014

    Amazing Novel- I can't put it down

    I am only 200 pages into this book but I can already tell I'm going to be sad when it ends. The author has masterfully created a post civilization world that forces the reader to examine their current life and wonder what it would be like to live without the luxuries we have come to expect. This book isn't gross or creepy just a wonderfully organized plot that keeps you hooked. I can't wait to see where it goes but I also never want it to end.

    I can't recommend this book highly enough.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2014

    Survival Is Insufficient

    A key quote from Star Trek in this beautifully written and more upbeat post-apocalyptic novel. Highly recommend.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2014

    So Far it's not drivel

    My previous review indicating this was drivel was premature. After the first 50 pages the sgiry picks up and the writing also improves.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 23, 2015

    If you are into brilliant rational art more than into emotional experience,go for it!

    This is brilliantly constructed novel with great complexity of characters and time lines.
    St. John Mandel intertwines her characters and time with ease flow and great love for the integrity and ambition of the theme she tackles.
    I was intrigued by the characters plot and had trouble getting emotionally involved.This is a novel of desperation,trust and hope in relationships that help all of us survive in different levels.

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  • Posted January 17, 2015

    A good read. I would give this a 3.5 but the rating system does not allow me to do that.

    A good read. A little slow to start but pick up as the story progresses.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2015

    One of my favorite reads so far this year

    A beautifuly written story about the lives of people effected by a flu that wipes out 99% of the world's populatiin. I finished and wanted more.

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  • Posted January 14, 2015

    Mot beautiful book I've read in a long time. Most apocalyptic bo

    Mot beautiful book I've read in a long time. Most apocalyptic books fall into the trap of showing only the darkest parts of humanity while delving into humanity's survivor mode. This is really not an honest portrayal of humans, the ability to adapt and connect with one another is. I was nervous that I would be bored with the pre-pandemic part of the story and I wasn't. So while this story has a large number of dark moments (it is a post apocalyptic story), it has what so many cliched dystopian novels lack, hope. The book weaves the story lines of multiple characters while maintaining a thread of consistency. If you're wavering on reading this story like I was, read it. 

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  • Posted January 12, 2015

    This was such a fascinating read, and I have to admit, based on

    This was such a fascinating read, and I have to admit, based on the reviews posted on several sites, I did not anticipate I would enjoy the book quite to the extent I did. The story was so captivating I found myself immersed in the storyline right from the start and completed the book in a day. I want to share Station Eleven with everyone I know! Great job, Ms. Emily St. John Mandel. I eagerly await your next piece of work.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2015

    To me, I felt as i was reading i was continually waiting for som

    To me, I felt as i was reading i was continually waiting for something big to happen that never did.  While there were parts of the story that made it hard for me to put the book down there were equally as many times where i and to force myself to get through a chapter.  The story flip-flops between different subplots and time periods which I personally did not enjoy.  Overall, was expecting more and don't particularly recommend this one.  

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2015

    Station Eleven

    One of the best books I've read this past year

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2015

    Michael Frank

    Great story. Really enjoyed how all the characters were intertwined . Started a little slow, but I didnt put it down and read it in a day.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2014

    Daisy

    Walks in

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2014

    To all

    Anyome want sex reply to lani plz

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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