The timeliness of Station Eleven cannot be overestimated. Despite media overrun with zombies and vampires produced by a cataclysmic virus, Station Eleven sets us in a fairly ordinary imagined aftermath of a plague-like epidemic. The story is matter-of-fact in it’s depiction of rampant destruction by the flu and the logical re-boot of society.
Mandel keeps the story tautly focused on a small network of characters. The orbit is around one man, his family and a few random individuals that prove pivotal both pre- and post apocalypse.
Arthur Leander is a Canadian born film and stage actor of some note. He has a working career that provided him with enough money to indulge his whims and move lightly through life. He has a series of ex-wives and a son.
The story opens when Arthur is in the twilight of his career performing in "King Lear" in Toronto. This particular performance is the dividing line between all things before the flu epidemic (known as the Georgia Flu) and after the fall. The collapse, which is profound due to the flu’s 1% survival rate, takes intelligent people back to a more isolated civilization.
The post-epidemic narrative follows a traveling symphony that also performs Shakespeare plays. The threads that knit into a web of links from past to present is neat and credible. They are journeying to a regional airport in the Midwest that is both a refuge and has spawned the stories most dangerous character.
The threats in this world are human—as maybe they always are in the end. Lost family and friends collide into each other with fate-like twists. The title of the novel is from a graphic novel of the first ex-wife that while a touchstone for the novel doesn’t necessarily integrate seamlessly.
About the Author
Emily St. John Mandel was born and raised on the west coast of British Columbia, Canada. She studied contemporary dance at the School of Toronto Dance Theatre and lived briefly in Montreal before relocating to New York. Her fourth novel, Station Eleven, is a 2014 National Book Award Finalist.