“Survival is insufficient.”
An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.
One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur’s chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.
Twenty years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten’s arm is a line from Star Trek: “Because survival is insufficient.” But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave.
Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful, elegiac novel is rife with beauty. As Arthur falls in and out of love, as Jeevan watches the newscasters say their final good-byes, and as Kirsten finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the prophet, we see the strange twists of fate that connect them all. A novel of art, memory, and ambition, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.
Honestly, what a fantastic speculative dystopian novel. It’s my all time favorite of this genre thus far. This is what dystopian novels should strive to be.
The pacing of this novel was phenomenal. I loved how nothing was linear, but everything connected. It made each moment satisfying. Because she organized this way, it seemed as if each chapter had a climatic feel. It was refreshing to be so absorbed in these pages
Each character meant something to me as well. Their lives, no matter how insignificant in the scheme of time, actually impacted history in some way.
And another thing, some quotes in here fully resonated with me (like the opening quote above).
What would we really miss if humankind seemed to vanish? We don’t think about the under appreciated things like insulin or the Internet. Mandel asked these questions a lot, and it reminded how much I take for granted in my life. What would I do without electricity? Air conditioning? A mode of transportation? She really forced me to reflect on every tool or gadget that make my life easier. Overall, this book really made me think about how fragile society is and how quickly everything can disappear.