Peter Reads: Station Eleven

September 1, 2015

I read Emily St. John Mandel’s “Station Eleven” – A post apocalyptic novel. Winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award and National Book Award nominee.

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It’s set largely in Toronto and what used to be Michigan, before & after the apocalypse respectively.

It’s like Margaret Atwood’s “Year of the Flood” in the sense that it tells the story through characters, and has elements of the story told before the apocalypse as well as a separate storyline for the present day, which is after everything fell.

This book is about a traveling theatre troupe, living in the apocalypse, making their rounds from city to city. They’re largely Shakespeare focused, which is awesome, and definitely a treat to read. The book starts out with King Lear, and has elements of Midsummer’s, more, but I don’t want to spoil it if you want to read it.

Mandel’s view of how society collapses is really striking, just how fast and how everything and indeed, everyone is important. There’s a great part where she describes why an airplane isn’t taking off and it’s because there isn’t a massive support network of staff that need to get an airport working so a plane can take off.

One of the biggest points of the narrative is the bleakness that comes from the apocalypse. Just surviving is hard and there’s no grandiose moment to be had. But that’s the point, right?

I also like (And Brent Bellamy and I have discussed this) how the characters are well…HUMAN. They’re not super good, they’re not super bad. Remember in Year of the Flood (if you’ve read it) where the bad guys are these supremely evil rapists and murderers? You won’t find that here, even amongst the ‘bad guys’, save for one man called “The Prophet” – But I think he’s more of a caricature than an actual portrayal of something human.

Anyway, great book. Next is “Between the World and Me”.

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