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It begins with an actor dying onstage as he performs the title role in King Lear. It is the first of many, many deaths: A fast-spreading pandemic has wiped out nearly all the world's population, leaving behind a remnant who even two decades later are still struggling for ways to find peace or equilibrium. Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven is a dystopian novel that never resorts to zombies or CGI-like pyrotechnics to reveal its characters.