Station Eleven

Station Eleven

by Emily St. John Mandel

Overview: 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 bandís 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

Gail Reid (10/17/15): A famous actor, Arthur Leander, has a fatal heart attack on stage while performing King Lear in Toronto. Within 48 hours the entire world changes due to the apocalyptic attack of the Georgia Flu, a virus so virulent that it kills most of the world's population. What follows over the next twenty years is a well structured but meandering story of the survivors, several of whose lives intersected with Arthur Leander on that fateful day.

Much of the novel centers on the Traveling Symphony, a ragtag group of musicians and actors whose motto is "survival is insufficient". They travel this new dystopian world where there are no longer boundaries among the states and electricity and automobile travel are only memories, performing Shakespeare and symphonies in towns that developed around destroyed airport hangars and devastated commercial buildings.

It may appear from the summary that there is an insurmountable bleakness to this new world after "the collapse" when the years are renumbered from 1 through 20. Yet there is richness in the relationships between the characters; in the very feats of survival against criminals and cult leaders and in the pursuit to preserve music and theater in a redefined civilization.

Although I don't care for science fiction and I disliked Cormac McCarthy's "The Road", I thought Station Eleven was a wonderful read. I was so engaged with the story and the characters that I wanted to read it straight through, cover to cover. We all know there is no time for that!
Rating: *****

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