“Station Eleven” is the best-selling, award winning, breakout novel by Emily St. John Mandel, who was born and raised on an island off the coast of British Columbia. I devoured it in a single day a couple of months ago. I’ve been savoring and rereading it ever since.
The book’s primary storyline follows a troupe of actors, the “Traveling Symphony,” about twenty years in the future, after a viral pandemic has wiped out 99% of the world’s population.
Although most reviewers categorize the book as “post-apocalyptic” or “dystopian” science fiction, that may be a little misleading – much as I love science fiction. Yes, it’s a compelling tale that takes place in a possible near future, but I think there are several reasons it’s a mistake to group “Station Eleven” with other recent dystopian fiction, such as the “Hunger Games” series.
Mandel’s book is superbly written, in lyrical, almost poetic language. She explores her characters’ efforts to reengage in a meaningful social contract, rather than focusing on the collapse of civilization, or on an alternate dysfunctional reality. It’s a way to talk about what it means to be human. The book pays homage to the role of the arts in our humanity, as well. The motto of the traveling troupe is a line from Star Trek: “Because survival is insufficient.”
I believe “Station Eleven” is successful both as compelling, plot-driven science fiction, and as a literary novel – by which I mean with a focus on character and social issues.
A lovely book, which helps us to notice – and celebrate – both our humanity and the beauty of the world around us.
This is KLCC. I’m Connie Bennett, reviewing "Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel.