09 December 2014

Review: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven by Emily St. John MandelAre you thinking you don't need to read another dystopian novel? Are you wondering if there is anything new in the genre? If so, my answers are Yes you really do need to read Station Eleven and Yes Emily St. John Mandel really does do something different.

The basic premise of Station Eleven is simple: A flu strain, originating in the Georgia Republic and killing within hours after infection, spreads throughout the globe, leaving only a handful of survivors. What happens to the 1 percent who are left in a world without an infrastucture?

Here are my thoughts in a Bullet Review.

  • Setting and timeline: The novel is told in a nonlinear fashion, allowing us to learn about the main characters in the before and after. We see the immediate affects of the flu outbreak through the eyes of only a few individuals.
  • Main characters: Arthur, an actor; Miranda, a graphic artist; Jeevan a paparazzo-turned-paramedic; Kirsten, a child actor; the Prophet; the members of a traveling entertainment troupe; Clark, a friend of Arthur's; a group of people living in the airport in which they were initially stranded.
  • Why this book is different: First and foremost, Mandel has created a scarily real situation. In this dystopian world, we haven't had nuclear war, mega climate change, or economic collapse; instead we have the very possible situation of a deadly virus capable of wiping out the human race. If you recall, the flu pandemic of 1918 caused more deaths than did World War I. So, yeah, flu can be nasty. Second, Mandel set the current action of the book long after the flu, so we see both survivors and young people who were born after the end of gasoline-powered engines, the Internet, and the electrical grid. The world is very much the same as it is today, but also very much changed.
  • What I loved: The way people and events that were introduced separately come together and then drift apart and then come together again, like leaves floating on the surface of a pond.
  • Fun extra: Most of the novel is set in western and northern Michigan, an area of the United States I'm very familiar with, which helped me easily imagine the setting.
  • Recommendations: Even if you don't normally read dystopian fiction, you might like this book because it is not fantasy or science fiction. Also, this is an adult novel without teen-romance angst, which is refreshing. For you dystopian fans: What are you waiting for? Get reading. If you need more convincing, note that Station Eleven was a National Book Award finalist. Oh, and if you liked The Dog Stars, you're bound to like this.
  • Audiobook: I listened to the unabridged audiobook edition (Random House Audio; 10 h, 41 min), read by Kirsten Potter, whose tone seemed to enhance the otherworldly feel of the novel. Her performance was appropriately emotional, with excellent pacing. I noticed a couple of mispronunciations of Michigan locations, but overall I can recommend the audiobook.
For an audiobook sample, click the play button on the widget:

Published by Penguin Random House / Knopf, 2014
ISBN-13: 9781401228804
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


rhapsodyinbooks 12/9/14, 6:38 AM  

I wasn't planning to read this because I really didn't like her previous book, but too many people have been raving about this one!

bookjourney 12/9/14, 9:11 AM  

I am excited about this one - pretty sure this will be my choice for first book of the year :)

JoAnn 12/9/14, 9:29 AM  

Ok, you've convinced me! I was going to skip this one, but have now added it to my audio list. I've listened to Kristin Potter and enjoy her narration.

holdenj 12/9/14, 10:07 AM  

Great review! It's already on my Christmas list and another friend had mentioned The Dog Stars to me in reference to probably like this one.

Belle Wong 12/9/14, 12:10 PM  

I'm waiting on this one from the library but I might use a credit and get this in audio.

Sarah (Sarah's Book Shelves) 12/9/14, 3:09 PM  

I totally agree with your review...esp about the leaves floating on the surface of the pond. I wrote about this aspect of the book in my review (all the little details that seem random but are seamlessly tied together...the comic books, paperweight, etc), but you said it much more eloquently in yours!

And - I'm not usually a fan of fantasy/dystopia...but loved this one.

Leah @ Books Speak Volumes 12/9/14, 3:20 PM  

I just read this book last week and really loved it. I love how the different characters' stories all fit together like puzzle pieces. My review goes up tomorrow!

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity 12/9/14, 4:57 PM  

This one is currently on sale in ebook form so I snagged a copy and just need to remember that I actually have a copy! This made me snicker: "Also, this is an adult novel without teen-romance angst, which is refreshing." Thank goodness for that!! ;)

bermudaonion 12/9/14, 6:18 PM  

I've kind of steered clear of this one because of the dystopian angle even though everyone is loving it. It sounds like I need to get over myself and get a copy of it.

Heidi’sbooks 12/9/14, 8:10 PM  

I keep looking at this in Barnes and Noble. I almost bought it the other day, but opted for The Underground Girls of Kabul. I'll have to get my hands on it, pronto!

Margot 12/10/14, 12:52 AM  

Your first paragraph was written straight to me. I have been avoiding dystopian fiction, but your review, plus the audio sample, convinced me to not give up on the genre. Thanks.

Daryl 12/10/14, 12:08 PM  

you know i am heading over to buy/download this right now … i am reading The Goldfinch so this will be like a palette cleanser when i am done, thanks!

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