Review: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Opening sentence: “The King stood in a pool of blue light, unmoored.”

I’m just going to start this review by saying: You need to read this book. It’s the first novel in a while that’s had such a visceral effect on me. It’s brilliant. Station Eleven is a dystopian novel but not like any you’ve read before (refreshingly, not a zombie in sight). The Georgia Flu wipes out a majority of the earth’s population and we follow the journey of several of the survivors, plus one or two characters from life before the Flu. It has a fresh, contemporary tone that I really liked, “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.”

Kristen, our lead character, is a member of the Travelling Symphony, a band of travellers who play music and perform Shakespeare, their motto: Survival is insufficient. Yes, it may be a quote from Star Trek, but as a concept, how brilliant is it? The angle of preserving the arts, even after a dystopian disaster is what made Station Eleven (amongst other things) such a unique read for me. The message to keep hold of hope, even when all seems doomed really resonates and struck a chord with me.

The story is majoritively set across a time scale of 19 years since the epidemic changed life on earth, some people remember a time before, children know no different. There is no electricity, heating, TV, internet. Phones are wonderfully described as: “These taken-for-granted miracles that had persisted all around them.”

Characters that seemed small or secondary at first are developed so you care about them and as we follow Kristen and the Symphony through this barren world, you get swept up in the story.

You may be wondering what the Station Eleven of the title refers to? Well, its a comic book that Kristen carries with her, a memento of her previous life, “Station Eleven is the size of Earth’s moon and was designed to resemble a planet, but it’s a planet that can chart a course through galaxies and requires no sun.” This might sound very random but – as with everything in this book – there’s more to it than that. It’s the wonderful character development and the way the several plotlines are so ingeniously twirled together. It’s almost too much to delve into every element of the plot as it’s so amazingly intricate; a delicate balance that’s truly effortless while remaining page-turning.

Then just when I thought I couldn’t love it any more, it had the perfect ending (not so easy to find and there’s nothing worse when a great reads lets you down in the final pages). Equal measures fascinating, terrifying and beautiful, Station Eleven is truly something special to read – I encourage you to do so!

/ Published by Picador 2014

/ 333 pages

/Rating: 5/5

16 thoughts

    1. That’s good to hear, thank you! Yes, no zombies in a dystopian read is always going to be a plus for me!


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