Book Review: Station Eleven

Every year, my university picks a book to study - everyone (this year around 800 students as part of classes, plus misc staff and faculty) reads it and the author visits in March to do readings and workshops. All very exciting. I've read the book every year I've worked there (well, skipped last year, oops) and this year was looking forward to it because people raved about the book!

Then I heard it had Shakespeare in it. Not a huge Shakespeare fan (I'm just not that smart or cultured).

Then I realized it was dystopian fiction. I HATE dystopian novels! Why? First of all, everyone dies. Which is sad. So then I think about losing the people I love and I get sad. So then I dream about death and I get depressed. Reading about everyone dying is soul destroying and the world is depressing enough - I don't need to get more depressed by reading for fun. Second, bad stuff happens when society breaks down and people are left in a lawless state. Like horrible terrifying gruesome stuff. Have you read The Road by Cormac McCarthy? There are a couple scenes from that book that still to this day haunt me, 10 years after I read it they still crop up in my dreams. Horrible violent stuff. Why would I want to read about that? Depressing. Gruesome. No thank you.

But the author is coming in March, so I gave it a go...

Station Eleven
By Emily St. John Mandel
352 pages

An actor dies on the stage of King Lear, a child actress watching from the wings. That night, a flu flies into Toronto that eventually kills 99% of the people in the world. Fast forward to twenty years later, the child actress is now an adult, and part of a travelling performance group. They reach a settlement only to learn a prophet has taken charge, and not in a good way. The book flips between the present day post-flu world and the past, tracing the lives of many interconnected characters, who all have a part to play in the future.

Is that vaguely interesting? Besides the horrible death and gruesome gross dead body stuff,, I hate dystopian! The writing is very accessible and easy to follow, and I even liked the plot lines from the past. But it was just so depressing learning about the new normal people had to deal with in the post-flu world. And I could think about is the loss. And death. And that stupid quarantined plane the entire time I was flying back from Toronto a couple days after finishing the book. Dammit, like I needed another book haunting me.

The ending was good though. Almost happy. Hopeful. So there's that.

Was it a good book? Yes. Would I recommend it? Of course! Will I be reading a dystopian novel ever again? Not if I can help it! I'm glad I read it before the author comes, as I wouldn't have read this otherwise. And it got me thinking (even if it was haunting, depressing, thinking) so I guess that's the whole point, right?