Station Eleven

Station Eleven

Book - 2014
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"One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time--from the actor's early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as the Traveling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains--this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor's first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet."--
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2014
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780385353304
0385353308
Branch Call Number: FIC MANDEL 2014
Characteristics: 333 pages ; 22 cm

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Top 10 Science Fiction Books by Female Authors

In 2015 I made it a priority to read more science fiction and more books by female authors. As you may have guessed, the overlap between the two is woefully small (but growing!). For my Top 10 list, I thought I would share with you some of my favorite science fiction books by female authors, many of which I read for the first time this year. (more)


From Library Staff

Arthur Leander gives the performance of a lifetime as King Lear, but when he dies onstage it is the harbinger of a global pandemic that will leave the human race darkling.


From the critics


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j
JamesWEwins
Oct 18, 2019

Not worth the wait. another distopean story where the plot is all. Little character development. I got no futher than page 73

thedyslexiclibrarian Sep 26, 2019

Not a book to read when you are home with the flu, as it is about the world after a flu epidemic kills about 9/10's of the population.
Fairly standard dystopian genre for adults; another reviewer described it as 'gentle', and I think that is a great description of it.

Would I look out any more of this author's - no, not original enough.

r
rixonkj
Sep 24, 2019

The most impressive part of this book is the intricacy of the plotting. There are approximately a thousand different characters in two separate major timelines, and Mandel keeps them all coordinated enough to pull off an ending that smashed. The prose was often heartbreakingly lovely, and many of the characters were complex and interesting. As a literary novel, this is quite good. As a speculative fiction novel, it was less impressive, mostly because it deals with themes that are solidly in the mainstream of speculative fiction, about the end of the world and what that means for human relationships and communities. Mandel’s mechanism for ending the world is a commonly used one—plague features everywhere from Biblical apocalypses to the YA novels I was reading in the 90s. But this is not a bad example of that subgenre. For me it wasn’t that fresh, but it was beautiful, and if you have the time for it you’ll probably like it.

JCLMELODYK Sep 16, 2019

I probably wouldn't have finished this if I had not selected the audio version. I had trouble with the structure of the novel and where she was headed. In the end I enjoyed it and I'm glad I stuck with it.

e
EljayJohnson
Jul 07, 2019

Through one man's life - someone perhaps more selfish than most, more talented than many, more regretful than some - we watch the end of civilization and humanity in glimpses of the lives of people he affected. This is an almost perfect jewel of a book. Beautiful prose, stunning characterizations, heartbreaking and also uplifting story. Wow.

h
hannahkateriss
Jun 12, 2019

This is a quirky novel that deals with an apocalyptic scenario in a fresh way. I liked how all of the stories tied together and even though the story jumped around it was still easy to follow and make connections. Typically I don't like stories that don't tie everything up in a neat bow at the end, but I still enjoyed the book overall and still felt a sense of closure. I would recommend to my friends who may not be into science fiction but want to get into it.

g
goddessbeth
Jun 01, 2019

The setting is post-apocalyptic/during the plague the ends civilization, but this story is entirely character driven. At its heart, it's about the choices we make and the threads (of coincidence? fate?) that weave between us. I find that a hopeful thing in general, the idea of Whitman's ductile threads connecting all life, and it's made even more so in this story with the contrast of monumental death tolls and the harshness of survival. We don't get too deep into any single character's life or head, but each character is definitely unique, understandable, fully realized, and relatable. Even the villain was shaped by trauma in a way that's sympathetic (and I love when a villain is sympathetic, even as I find their choices horrifying). This was a quick and engaging read that remained thought-provoking with a thread of hope throughout.

h
hsunseri
May 18, 2019

4.03

v
VLSGarnerJ
May 17, 2019

1. Too much fantasy.

IndyPL_SteveB May 11, 2019

A famous Hollywood actor has a heart attack and dies while performing King Lear on stage. Within a few weeks, 99% of the world’s population is dead from a virulent version of the flu. The survivors either had immunity or were fortunate to be somewhere where the flu was never brought. Coincidentally, several of the survivors happen to be people with a connection to the actor. Mandel ranges back and forward in time, showing the backgrounds of the main characters, the collapse of civilization, and the attempts of some of the survivors to maintain their humanity and culture when everything has changed.

The novel starts slowly and then is confusing for a while until the reader is able to see the outlines of the author’s vision. But eventually I was hooked and compelled to finish, as the novel ends in both sadness and hope. It’s a carefully crafted, compelling novel about *people*, not a science fiction adventure, not really a disaster novel.

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Quotes

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t
Tjad2L
Jul 13, 2017

"[...] everyone knows when you've got a terrible marriage, it's like having bad breath, you get close enough to a person and it's obvious."

k
KaseyNB
Apr 14, 2017

“She was thinking about the way she’d always taken for granted that the world had certain people in it, either central to her days or unseen and infrequently thought of. How without any one of these people the world is a subtly but unmistakably altered place, the dial turned just one or two degrees.”

k
KaseyNB
Apr 14, 2017

“They spend all their lives waiting for their lives to begin.”

k
KaseyNB
Apr 14, 2017

“I stood looking over my damaged home and tried to forget the sweetness of life on Earth.”

k
KaseyNB
Apr 14, 2017

“The beauty of this world where almost everyone was gone. If hell is other people, what is a world with almost no people in it?”

k
KaseyNB
Apr 14, 2017

“It was gorgeous and claustrophobic. I loved it and I always wanted to escape.”

k
KaseyNB
Apr 14, 2017

“She had never entirely let go of the notion that if she reached far enough with her thoughts she might find someone waiting, that if two people were to cast their thoughts outward at the same moment they might somehow meet in the middle.”

k
KaseyNB
Apr 14, 2017

“No more Internet. No more social media, no more scrolling through litanies of dreams and nervous hopes and photographs of lunches, cries for help and expressions of contentment and relationship-status updates with heart icons whole or broken, plans to meet up later, pleas, complaints, desires, pictures of babies dressed as bears or peppers for Halloween. No more reading and commenting on the lives of others, and in so doing, feeling slightly less alone in the room. No more avatars.”

k
KaseyNB
Apr 14, 2017

“No one ever thinks they’re awful, even people who really actually are. It’s some sort of survival mechanism.”

k
KaseyNB
Apr 14, 2017

“First we only want to be seen, but once we’re seen, that’s not enough anymore. After that, we want to be remembered.”

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FaithR
Feb 03, 2019

FaithR thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

Summary

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melwyk Sep 25, 2014

One snowy night in Toronto, an actor playing King Lear drops dead on stage. Only 24 hours later, most of the city is dead from a rapidly spreading virus. The few survivors find, as the electricity and water stop, as the internet drops out, that the virus has killed 99% of the world's population.

The question arises: how to live now? In Emily St John Mandel's unusual approach to a post-apocalyptic novel, the survivors of this modern plague retain their longing for community and civilization, trying their best to live in pockets of humanity across North America.

Early on, we meet the Travelling Symphony, a group of musicians and actors who travel caravan-style around the countryside, performing Shakespeare and symphonies to the scattered inhabitants of tiny settlements. As Kirsten, a main character, has tattooed on her arm: Survival is insufficient.

However, this symphony is also heavily armed, as chaos does exist in the new world. There are those in this rough life who rely on violence, including an eerie Prophet who controls a town the Travelling Symphony rolls into at the start of the story. This Prophet and his followers will pursue them for the rest of the book, adding an edge of suspense.

The story weaves back and forth from apocalyptic present to the past, revealing ways in which all the characters are connected. The constant return to 'before' results in a sense of nostalgia for what we haven't yet lost. Mandel points out precious elements of daily life that her characters have lost forever – the taste of an orange, the feel of air conditioning, ice cream, the ability to connect with one another by phone.

Throughout the book we also encounter Dr. Eleven, a scientist in a graphic novel that Kirsten has carried with her over the many years of post-apocalyptic life. The two volumes she owns of this tiny graphic novel sustain her. Dr. Eleven lives on a satellite, Station Eleven, after the earth is destroyed, and his story reflects her own. This imaginary graphic novel is fleshed out so wonderfully that I hope it is only a matter of time before Mandel releases a real-life edition.

This is a beautiful book; imaginative and full of complex characters, it is a post-apocalyptic novel that combines danger with beauty, sadness with hope. Mandel clearly believes that there is something good in humanity that will endure.

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