Emily St. John Mandel – Station Eleven

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Station Eleven was a very ambitious novel depicting the collapse of society as we know it. A deadly flu virus breaks out and nothing will ever be the same again. The novel spans several decades and is told from different perspectives. We get to meet an actor who dies on stage, a comic book writer and a Traveling Symphony. What I found most intriguing was the immediate reaction of the characters as the crisis enfolds. We stay mostly with one character at that time and his experience is quite harrowing. His state of disbelief and panic but we also see him springing into action, still unsure if it’s an overreaction. What follows is a very minute drama; we see the world collapsing, and his world with it. Especially this part was written so well, that I could feel the fear and doubt, the apprehension. Part of the novel is a meditation on what remains of yourself once everything else is stripped away. No friends, no family, no partner, no more of my house, my job, my profession. As this character walks through the snow in a world forever changed, the mantra of his existence changes from:

“My name is Jeevan… I was a photographer”

to simply

“Keep walking”.

Even though some parts were not perfect, I still enjoyed the novel. This last quote to me really sums up the feeling (realization?) that I had while reading the novel:

“It just doesn’t make sense,” Elizabeth insisted. “Are we supposed to believe that civilization has just come to an end?” “Well,” Clark offered, “it was always a little fragile, wouldn’t you say?”

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