All I’d heard about Station Eleven was that the setting was post-apocalyptic and people were raving about it. But I thought, don’t we have enough post-apocalypse books already? The answer is No. We do not. After reading Emily St John Mandel’s breakout novel, I can safety say that human ingenuity can almost always find a way to take what’s been beaten like a dead horse (like that phrase) and do some heavy duty necromancy to reanimate the equine corpse (see what I did there?)
A summary is almost unnecessary as the overarching conflict resembles most other books of the genre. A deadly virus with an incubation period of mere hours effectively wipes out 99% of humanity within weeks. Civilization is decimated. Yet life goes on. Now, twenty years later—and here’s where Mandel begins to make this narrative her own—a colorful cast characters who all had the apparent coincidence of crossing paths at theater performance of King Lear just hours before the plague hit are again finding their paths, lives, histories, and humanities intersecting once again.
I’ve said this already, but it’s worth restating the genre similarities in order to point out how well Mandel diverges from them. She’s doing very little different from every other post-apocalyptic book. But she’s doing it tenfold times better. The writing is better, the characterization, the language, the webbing, the tension, the arc, the beautiful intermingled way in which she stitches the tattered lives of humanity together into a tapestry called family. Even now, as I’m on to reading other books, I find myself questioning why certain descriptions and world-building can’t look like Mandel’s does.
This is no doubt augmented by my acute synesthesia, but Station Eleven is one of those books whose pages glitter with color. When not thinking of specific plot points, I see the verdant greens of Michigan forests, the margarine light of fluorescents glaring over a muted stage, the suffocating black of a world in terror, and the bright, warmth—the color of hope.
So stay a while at Station Eleven, your imagination will thank you. 4/5 stars.