books

Station Eleven Review

05/09/2015

Station Eleven weaves together an original dystopia from
several different protagonists. These individuals’ lives have briefly crossed paths,
but all stem from a single event. The book opens with the onstage death of famous
actor Arthur Leander at the same moment that a virus pandemic breaks out,
ending the world as we know it. Following stories from before, after and during
this time, we find ourselves completely engulfed in this new world as we
discover the lives of those affected by the virus and the events that take
place beforehand.

Occasionally Station Eleven uses
an unusual technique of switching from past into present tense between chapters.
This gives a much needed insight into key events and characters, and yet is so
simply done it creates a natural flow that is very comfortable to read. As the
characters are connected between time (with the book following stories from
before, after and during the “collapse”) it is a crucial path to making these
links whilst unveiling their purposes. Whilst the book switches between the
starkly different new and old world, they both capture the feel of demise which
reflects the feel of Station Eleven.

Despite the book opening when the world is coming to an end,
the vast majority of the book is set 20 years on. This time period mainly follows
the journey of The Travelling Symphony, a group of survivors travelling along a
stretch of America performing Shakespearean plays. Their sole purpose is to
bring light and entertainment to communities that have set up amongst the decay,
and keep themselves distracted in a time of little fun. This group of survivors
are all interestingly diverse characters that come with their own tales of
hardship, representing how humanity would cope if this were a reality.

The one character who connects all these stories together is
Arthur Leander, whose death mirrors that of the old world. His journey into
stardom leaves him short of the youth and charisma he once held, which reflects
the ruin our world is facing, both in the novel and in real life. It can be
said that his death is not just merely linked with the “collapse” but
represents the corruption of humanity. His being is symbolic of the old world and
its odd fixation on wealth and fame, whilst his death marks a time of change in
society.
Station Eleven, unlike many of its apocalyptic predecessors,
captures humanity as a whole in a refreshingly realistic way. Dangers arise in
plausible scenarios, creating a steadily growing tension throughout without the
feeling that we are reading a horror novel. The suspense in Station Eleven
reflects that of a real life survival situation, which is all too easy to place
ourselves in the midst of. Differently so to the usual realm of dystopian
novels, there is a unique simplicity in both the intertwined storylines and the
natural rhythm of the writing. This captures the true meaning of a desolate world,
without the need of society-saving-heroines or dramatic events that corrupt governments.
Isn’t the end of the world dramatic enough without all the added chaos?

Fans of dystopian fiction set between the time of present
society and future ones will wolf down this book as it captures the raw state
of human kind and really raises “what if?” questions. It will leave you both
wanting more and satisfied with the stand alone book, for it brilliantly ties
off loose ends but leaves the future of our characters’ lives to our
imagination. It is hard to put into words exactly how this book makes you feel,
but it is definitely true that it stays with you long after. Despite the heavy
topic and what could be a very bleak story, Station Eleven, perhaps due to the characters
being connected through time, gives a very positive outlook on life. This is
down to the fact that with the cruelty of the new world comes a great joy in
the small and simple things in life – something we in our westernised societies
often take for granted. Emily Mandel has created an original dystopia with a
lot to say that makes it truly stand out on our shelves; it is no surprise that
Station Eleven has won the Arthur C. Clarke Award.

Age recommendation: NA/A

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