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'Station Eleven' by Emily St. John Mandel


I finally finished Station Eleven. Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel, is a hybrid book of post-apocalypse science fiction, people and relationships, and popular culture. Sounds messy, I know, but Station Eleven tells the intriguing stories of the survivors (and the ones less fortunate) of the Georgia Flu pandemic, and how the world is affected after the global disaster.

Station Eleven begins with the death of famous actor Arthur Leander. Shortly after Arthur's death, the world faces a deathly outbreak of the virus Georgia Flu that spreads rapidly across the globe leaving survivors few and far between. Station Eleven explores the lives of people surviving the world during and after the outbreak, and if I had to describe it as something, I'd say it is kind of the Love Actually of sci-fi books (in a sense that you're following lots of character's stories that intertwine with each other - does make sense?!).


I love how Mandel has scattered cultural references trhoughout the entire book. The Travelling Symphony, a band of travellers performing on road after the Georgia Flu has wiped most the population, have made it their duty to preserve, and share, the works of Shakespeare and theatre. Kirsten, a child actor pre-Georgia Flu and now a member of the Symphony, has the phrase "Survival is Insuffciant", which is a quote from Star Trek, tattooed on her and written on the caravan. Post-pandemic children learn about aeoplanes and internet in school; concepts they can't believe. It's an interesting take on how modern culture and the arts lasts lifetimes - many of the characters struggle to remember, or don't remember, where they have seen these phrases or technology or literature, yet it's imprinted on their minds and they make an effort to keep it alive. The sense of loss is overwhelming in this book.

I like this idea that the arts have such an impact on us all, and I had a bit of a chuckle when the character Jeevan bases his entire survival strategy on things he's seen in action films - it's pretty relatable because I think that's what I'd do haha! I found myself rooting for characters like Jeevan, hoping they'd survive, and I think that Mandel has great talent in creating unique characters that reflect relatable human qualities.

To be honest, I found Station Eleven to be a slow read for the first two thirds. It took me a long time to get into the story and, because I kept leaving gaps in my reading of the book, I kept confusing myself over the many characters I was introduced to and what time frame I was reading in. Trying to remember everyone's name in the Travelling Symphony was a pain!

The first chapter is gripping and throws you right into the story, making the reader eager to discover how the characters will survive the epidemic.You are whisked out of that story and into a new one quite quickly as the plot flits between Present Day/Georgia Flu outbreak and the years Post-Flu outbreak. Once you've got used to this though, the story ties together beautifully. It's just a shame that for me there was no consistency in excitement or suspense due to too much chop and change between time frames and character plots. I did enjoy the book and I loved the last part of the book - I think maybe I needed a bit more focus and attention on the intricate beginning of the novel. It's not a novel you can just pick up and read in bits; you need to dedicate time to read this to appreciate it all.

Despite my moans, I'd have another go at reading Station Eleven. Now I can read it with retrospect, I'd like to see how I feel about the characters and their specific actions, and how this adds to the overall plot. Some parts of the book left me in shock and kept me in suspense, which was ejoyable. Although at times it's a little predictable, the book is a fantastic read and leaves you wondering how the world would actually cope with a worldwide pandemic.

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