Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
This is not your teenager’s dystopian novel.
I’m a fan of a certain type of dystopian novel…ones that show us the human side of people struggling against terrible odds to maintain their humanity. Among my favorites, Station Eleven has risen to the top.
Told from multiple points of view in chapters that alternate between pre-flu and post-flu years, this novel is ambitious but never feels difficult to read. That alone is a triumph of the author’s skills. Here the skills are turned toward the hearts of individuals who remember the world before the pandemic and those who were too young to really miss the ease of technology and industry.
The thread that runs throughout is the life of a single actor who dies the night the flu really begins to take hold. His death is not flu-related yet everything about his life is. He is an example of how individuals can rise toward the pinnacle of celebrity before tumbling into ignominy. He wants to inspire and enlighten through art yet somehow is mired in trappings he cannot control.
And yet his legacy lives on. The art he brought to the world is carried on by a traveling troop who provides music and performances to people starved of culture in the post-everything world. The love he felt resonates still in the hearts of those he loved and people he died too early to meet.
By showing how one life can survive even the decimation of 99% of the world’s population, the author has managed to show us how even we, in our rush of technology and industry, make a difference.
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