Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Review: 'Station Eleven' by Emily St. John Mandel

Station ElevenHas it ever happened to you that you read a book, love it, talk about it and then forget to review it? Yeah, same. That happened with Station Eleven and I'm beyond embarrassed since I was actually there when it won the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Fiction novel! But now that I've realized my tremendous error I am here to fix it! Thanks to Pan MacMillan and Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Pub. Date: 10/09/2014
Publisher: Pan MacMillan, Picador
Kirsten Raymonde will never forget the night Arthur Leander, the famous Hollywood actor, had a heart attack on stage during a production of King Lear. That was the night when a devastating flu pandemic arrived in the city, and within weeks, civilization as we know it came to an end. 
Twenty years later, Kirsten moves between the settlements of the altered world with a small troupe of actors and musicians. They call themselves The Traveling Symphony, and they have dedicated themselves to keeping the remnants of art and humanity alive. But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who will threaten the tiny band’s existence. And as the story takes off, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, the strange twist of fate that connects them all will be revealed.
As I said above, I actually loved this book and hence it's ridiculous that I managed to forget to write a review for it. Perhaps one of the reasons was the enormous buzz that Mandel's book created for a while. You could see Station Eleven everywhere and seemingly everyone either had read it or was in the process of doing so. Hyped books are always at danger of being either made out to be better than they are (everyone is looking at you, Fifty Shades and Twilight) or getting ignored by many. When a book becomes too much of a hype people start not reading it simply for that very fact that it's already all around them. I was almost in the latter camp until a friend of mine convinced me to just give it a try. The fact that Shakespeare is in there as well is only a massive bonus, since who doesn't love Shakespeare?

Post-apocalyptic books are always a difficult one for me because frequently the author demands a major leap of faith from the reader, promising that this will all make sense at the end of the book, and then simply doesn't deliver at the end. Word-building, which is such a key aspect of anything dystopian, apocalyptic of Fantastical, also becomes an issue when it's simply lacking or not developed enough. Station Eleven is set in a world where almost 99% of the whole world population has been eradicated by a virus, which created an isolation no one nowadays can really imagine. Mandel did really well in presenting her version of the world in a realistic way, making it so much more easy for her readers to sink into her story and not be constantly disturbed by errors. Mandel's writing style in and of itself is a joy, working really well in describing her characters and their surroundings, as well as keeping all the story threads together.

As frequent readers may know, novels which are told in a non-linear way or have interesting structures are a favourite of mine. When done well, this type of story telling is incredibly rewarding because it requires much more interaction and dedication from the reader to stay alert and involved. For Station Eleven it really worked as well. It means you don't just get a single perspective on this world and how it became what it is, but rather a whole range of different points of view which make for a much richer picture. The only let down is that at times the balance between Arthur Leander's story and that of the troop of actors post-virus is off, with most of the interest definitely lying with the latter and the former hence being a distraction. But this in no way affects the overall enjoyment of the book.

I give this book...

4 Universes!

Station Eleven is the book that changed my mind, and many others, about the post-apocalyptic genre. Mandel offers something new and interesting and does it masterly. I'd recommend this to fans of post-apocalyptic and non-linear novels. It may not be for everyone but it's a rewarding book!


  1. Great review. I love post-apocalyptic books and nonlinear books, so I really want to read this one.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

    1. Thank you AJ! I definitely think 'Station Eleven' is a book for you then :D Thanks for commenting :)