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Staff Pick of the Week: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

station eleven


This week’s staff pick is a dystopian page turner. The story travels back and forth in time to a period before the “Georgian Flu”, a deadly virus that wipes out 99% of the population, and twenty years after the end of civilization.  Following several characters whose stories weave together in unexpected ways, the story touches on humanity, remembering the past and the importance of art and culture.  Our staffer recommended it as “science fiction for non-science fiction readers”.

A flight from Russia lands in middle America, its passengers carrying a virus that explodes “like a neutron bomb over the surface of the earth.” In a blink, the world as we know it collapses. “No more ballgames played under floodlights,” Emily St. John Mandel writes in this smart and sober homage to life’s smaller pleasures, brutally erased by an apocalypse. “No more trains running under the surface of cities … No more cities … No more Internet … No more avatars.” Survivors become scavengers, roaming the ravaged landscape or clustering in pocket settlements, some of them welcoming, some dangerous. What’s touching about the world of Station Eleven is its ode to what survived, in particular the music and plays performed for wasteland communities by a roving Shakespeare troupe, the Traveling Symphony, whose members form a wounded family of sorts. The story shifts deftly between the fraught post-apocalyptic world and, twenty years earlier, just before the apocalypse, the death of a famous actor, which has a rippling effect across the decades. It’s heartbreaking to watch the troupe strive for more than mere survival. At once terrible and tender, dark and hopeful, Station Eleven is a tragically beautiful novel that both mourns and mocks the things we cherish. –Taken from Amazon


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