Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is a literary post-apocalyptic story that really shines as an audiobook and absolutely mesmerized me. I was a bit nervous going in, but also in the mood for something different and Station Eleven is definitely different. Most post-apocalyptic stories I’ve read lately have been solidly YA, and Station Eleven takes basically the opposite approach: it isn’t about who’s going to survive the apocalypse, it’s about who these people were before it happened and who they are 20 years afterward.
Note: I listened to Station Eleven on audio. Listening to a book strongly impacts my reading experience.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Narrated by Kirsten Potter
Published by Knopf on Sept. 9th, 2014
Genres: Adult, Literary, Post Apocalyptic
Page Length: 336 pages
How I got my copy: Gift
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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.
Fifteen 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 Eleventells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.
- Above anything else, Station Eleven has beautiful and entrancing writing. I found myself simply loving hearing these words even though they weren’t talking about something that I would normally be all that interested in. I was worried that I’d get sleepy while listening to Station Eleven while driving and I never did. I actually didn’t mind traffic because it meant I could get through more of the book.
- On top of wonderful writing is the amazing narration of Station Eleven. You can’t really ask for better than a spectacular narrator reading gorgeous writing can you?? All the characters had strong voices of their own, the emphasis was done perfectly to help me understand what the writing was implying, and it was just downright fun to listen to.
- I will never lose interest in the post-apocalyptic story idea as long as the emphasis is actually on the events and not on romance >.>. Station Eleven takes a really interesting approach to this inundated genre but focusing about a decade before the apocalypse and two decades after it instead of the scary moments during.
- I absolutely love interweaving storylines and Station Eleven has a number of them that seem rather random as they are introduced, but they all click together in such elegant and clever ways. I really enjoyed getting all the little questions answered subtly as we find out one more detail about a side character’s past.
- Station Eleven portrayed a flu apocalypse very realistically to my mind. Nearly everyone died, but some were very lucky or resistant and made it. Civilization mostly collapsed, but people congregated in small towns and survived one way or another. Some crazy people took advantage, some started a traveling symphony to keep Shakespeare in the minds of the populace.
- I must admit that I don’t read literary fiction hardly at all, but Station Eleven had very little plot to speak of. For the most part, Station Eleven is a bunch of character portraits, so if you need a strong plot to drive a story, you’ll probably be disappointed. I get the impression that this is typical for literary fiction though?
- The ending of Station Eleven left a bit to be desired by me. It just felt quite abrupt and surprising that it was over, though I guess that is understandable if there wasn’t a strong plot to conclude.
Station Eleven is a great audiobook to pick up if the idea of a literary post-apocalyptic story intrigues you. If you’re tired of the YA trend but not tired of the idea of apocalypses, I highly recommend Station Eleven. It is just a refreshing experience!
Have you read this one? What did you think? Are you excited for it if you haven’t gotten to it yet?
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
© 2015, Anya. All rights reserved.