by Emily St. John Mandel
Published: 9/9/14 by Knopf Publishing
4.5 out of 5 stars
This is a book about what happens after 99% of the world's population is killed by a flu-like virus called the Georgia Flu. Considering the recent news about the Ebola virus outbreak, parts of this story hit a little too close to home! This story flashes back to several points in time, but the main part of the story takes place 20 years after the virus attack. Those who survived the virus have attempted to rebuild their lives in small communities scattered across the country, while the Traveling Symphony travels from place to place bringing art and music into the lives of the survivors. A dangerous man named the The Prophet is rising in power and growing a cult of followers who threaten the safety of the Symphony members.
The main theme of this book seems to be based on a Star Trek quote, "Survival is insufficient." Most post-apocalyptic stories focus on how the survivors "survive." How do they find food, water, shelter and the other necessities of life? How do they defend themselves against violence and crime? There are some aspects of survival in this story, yet the main focus of the story is not simply how these people survived. It's about how they lived, even when the world as they knew it disappeared. It's about how art and music and literature stayed alive even in the darkest of times. It's about the power of memories and the possibility of hope for the future. I found it to be a hauntingly beautiful story.
The narrative jumps around between characters and points in time, and it can be a little confusing at times. I actually liked this aspect of the novel though, as I enjoyed figuring out how each chapter fit into the picture of the whole narrative. However, I could see how they style might be frustrating for some readers.
I've read a lot of post apocalyptic and dystopian novels. Stories about what happens when the world as we know it completely disappears are intriguing to me. I found Station Eleven to be refreshingly different from most other novels in this genre, and I think that is why I enjoyed it so much!