Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Book Review: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

From Goodreads:
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.
Absolutely stunning.  I think this is literary genre fiction at it's finest.  Yes, it's about the aftermath of a major apocalyptic event in which the majority of the world's population is wiped out.  But it's REALLY about the characters and the way their lives connect and disconnect and reconnect.  Character-driven fiction that I'd say rivals any pure literary fiction I've read recently.  The post-apocalyptic setting is interesting, of course, but it's really the characterization that shines here.

Entertainment Value
I think many times people hear "character-driven" and interpret it as "boring."  In this case, it couldn't be further from the truth.  I was absolutely caught up in the world Mandel has created, and not just the post-apocalyptic world.  I was equally intrigued by Arthur's life in Toronto, his marriages, and the life of Jeevan, the EMT student who tries to save him after his collapse.  Of course the element of apocalypse and the self-proclaimed prophet with violent leanings doesn't hurt in terms of keeping the reader invested either.

It was, I have to say, particularly chilling to read this during a week filled with news on the spread of Ebola throughout Africa and into Europe and the United States.  It's definitely on the darker side of things, although it has plenty of beautiful human moments throughout.  I think it's definitely worth reading and highly recommend it, especially if you're a fan of character-driven fiction or are interested in the post-apocalyptic sub-genre.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with a copy to review.

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