Book Reviews

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel


“An audacious, darkly glittering novel about art, fame, and ambition set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, from the author of three highly acclaimed previous novels.

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.

Sometimes terrifying, sometimes tender, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.” ~Goodreads


Yes, another Post Apocalypse/Dystopian novel, right? Wrong. This one was so different from the ones I have read in the past. It’s stylistically complex. Haunting and compelling. The added story line of a group choosing to roam as a symphony and put on plays brought beauty to a time when there was none. There are no sanctions or groups divided fighting one another. Although labeled as “Science Fiction”, it felt all too real. It’s survival at the most basic form.

A flu wipes out most of the world’s population and the survivors are trying to figure out what in the world happened. This nonlinear story does something that many of “those books” did not do. It describes life before and after the flu pandemic. This is what sets this story apart from “the others”. The flashbacks from pre-flu have all the comforts of life: water, food, security, technology, medicine, communication, what we experience now as a society. Those who survived the flu might have it worse because of knowing what was taken from them and the people they have lost. Those who were very young or born post-flu don’t know what life was like and are fascinated by stories of electricity, planes flying through the skies, calling someone on a cell phone, connecting with other via computers, schools, hospitals, etc. Again, this spin on a typical apocalypse story had me glued from page one.

“Not just the mere fact of survival, which was of course remarkable in and of itself, but to have seen one world end and another begin. And not just to have seen the remembered splendors of the former world, the space shuttles and the electrical grid and the amplified guitars, the computers that could be held in the palm of a hand and those high-speed trains between cities, but to have lived among those wonders for so long. To have dwelt in that spectacular world.”

The five main characters who are somehow connected all have ample page time telling their story. However, I did not feel connected to a single one. I did not find myself cheering for their survival or emotionally connected to what they were going through. Yes, I found myself holding my breath at times imagining myself and my family in their place. Wondering how I would have survived and what lengths I would have gone to. I just felt like a voyeur at times, reading a story about characters. Michelle from That’s What She Read explains it much better than I.

There were loose ends for me. SPOILERS (maybe): What happens with the “V” book? I think of myself as somewhat intelligent, but I couldn’t find the connection with the Station Eleven comic book. What ever happens to Miranda? Are other countries affected? I loved Jeevan but felt his story was not as developed. I figured out the “twist” around 80% and it was good but when it came to those characters meeting up, it ended before finding out why he became the way he was. I would have liked his backstory.

But I loved it. Isn’t that the funny thing about a book? It screams Book Club and maybe all those open ended questions are there for a reason. Maybe a spin off? Maybe just to mirror the life of a world that has collapsed. There are no reasons. There are no answers.

*Thank you to Edelweiss for the ARC. I first heard about this book via BookPage from my library and was captivated by all the buzz about it. I luckily received an ecopy via Edelweiss and then my luck improved with winning a final copy from GoodReads as a giveaway. I was not compensated or required to post this review.


Book Jacket      

9 thoughts on “Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

  1. I’ve read other good reviews of this book. But I heard someplace that it is YA. I wish Book reviews would mention When a book is YA.That makes a huge difference to me.

  2. I have this book on my list, but I think the unanswered questions you are left with after reading the story would drive me a bit crazy. Do you think there will be a sequel that will answer those questions?

    • Love your new pic! I wondered too is there would be a sequel but sometimes it better to let those questions simmer a bit. I like happy endings but many books that are wrapped up with a tidy little bow at the end also annoy me.

      • Thank you! I had some help from a friend when I told her I didn’t want another photo. I agree sometimes it’s better to have unanswered question then a neat and tidy ending.

  3. I loved this book but felt as you did about the Station Eleven comic. My thought was that it wasn’t the content, it was where the book ended up- if that makes sense.

    For me, this was just head and shoulders above the other dystopian America novels this summer- namely, California, which I thought was OK not great. I agree about Jeevan and the feeling of connection per se but it didn’t bother me. I simply loved the story as a whole and feel as if there could be more to come.

    • Yay! Someone to chat with about the book. I loved it too and think you have valid points all around. I can see a fan creating a comic book and maybe even a follow up with more to come. I also really liked Miranda and would welcome some more on her story. HEAD AND SHOULDERS above the other dystopian overall in my opinion. While this is labeled “Adult” I would recommend it to younger readers as well. So intelligent and powerful. 🙂

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