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cook*create*read: Review: Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Review: Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel

I think Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel was one of the most hyped books of the last quarter of 2014.  Every one and his dog seemed to be reading and mostly loving this book, which didn't bode well for me.  I tend not to enjoy the super hyped up books and end up bitterly disappointed.  And so I put off picking this one up for quite some time.

For those of you who've been living under a rock, this book is set mostly in a post apocalyptic world that has been wiped out by a killer flu virus.  All the more scary because it is so plausible.  The timeline flits between three time periods - several years before the apocalypse, 'day zero' and the days immediately after the flu virus hits and 20 years into the future.

The parts of the story that were set before the killer virus were the least enjoyable for me.  I found the characters here to be spoiled, boring, selfish and one dimensional and the storylines predictable and flat.

The post apocalyptic sections were far more enjoyable, with some beautifully written sections.  Here is one example - this goes on for quite a few paragraphs, but this is just an excerpt:

No more screens shining in the half-light as people raise their phones above the crowd to take photographs of concert stages.  No more concert stages lit by candy-coloured halogens, no more electronica, punk, electric guitars. No more pharmaceuticals.  No more certainty of surviving a scratch on one's hand, a cut on a finger while chopping vegetables for dinner, a dog bite. No more flight.  No more towns glimpsed from the sky through airplane windows, points of glimmering light; no more looking down from thirty thousand feet and imagining the lives lit up by those lights at that moment.
Can you imagine it?  It sends a shiver up my spine.

Overall, although it did not quite live up to the hype for me, I did enjoy this story.  The writing was often beautiful, the characters mostly likable and empathy-inducing and the entire premise believable and frightening.   I would recommend this to anyone wanting to dive into the apocalyptic genre.  I think this is a good starting point due to the mix of timelines, and I gave it a highly acceptable 3 stars.

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