Station Eleven

Station Eleven

Book - 2014
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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 Eleven  tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2014.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780385353304
Branch Call Number: MANDEL E
Characteristics: 333 pages ; 22 cm


From Library Staff

"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 c... Read More »

LPL_DirectorBrad Dec 08, 2014

What a great book! An exquisitely written meditation on life after the collapse of modern civilization.

This smash-hit read of 2014 follows a roaming theater troupe near the Great Lakes. The nature of art, beauty, and survival all play out delicately in a world that has seemingly ended.

Two people have brought up this book to me in the past week. That can't be a coincidence!

After a devastating flu wipes out most of the world’s population, a traveling theater troupe goes from community to community to perform Shakespeare and music for the survivors. Their motto, adapted from an episode of Star Trek, is “Because survival is insufficient.” Eventually they encounter a p... Read More »

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Jul 22, 2018

An interesting take on a post-apocalyptic society. I liked that this story included perspectives from different age groups, genders and sexual orientation.

Jul 13, 2018

I enjoyed this look at a post-apocalyptic America following a deadly flu outbreak. Different perspectives and outcomes are woven together to make a story fabric with flaws, but with a clear sense of humanity and our foibles.

JCLSamS Jul 12, 2018

I read this book a couple of years ago and, while I found some aspects flawed, it has certainly stuck with me. Many of the characters are unique and well-developed, and the way the book follows society before, during, and after the apocalypse is intriguing. A few story lines are more interesting than others, so it can be a little irritating to switch back to people you're not interested in. I think it was worth my time, overall.

dhbhagat Jul 09, 2018

After a deadly flu wipes out most of humanity, this compelling tale takes you though the lives of some of the survivors, who now live in a world without electricity, the internet, and many of the things that we take for grated today. The book switches between their memories and present day, and we see how their stories intertwine, and explore what it means to survive, even if little else has.

TSCPL_Miranda Jul 08, 2018

What does it mean to be human? In Station Eleven, Emily St. John suggests that our relationships to one another and the beauty that we share through art and literature elevate our lives beyond simple survival.

Station Eleven begins with the death of one man, a star actor who suffers a heart attack onstage. An EMT trainee from the audience rushes to his aid, and a child actress witnesses the scene. At the same time, a deadly flu has already begun spreading, and in a matter of weeks nearly all of the people on earth have died.

Twenty years later, small groups of humans are making new lives without the technology of the past–no internet, electricity, or automobiles. Kirsten, The former child actress who witnessed Arthur’s death, roams as part of a Traveling Symphony who perform concerts and plays for small audiences. Their motto is a line from Star Trek: Voyager: “Because survival is insufficient.”

Mandel’s novel is about survivors, and their efforts to rebuild human society, but it’s also about the people who died, and the ways in which their actions and their art continue to ripple out to affect the living. In a narrative that moves between past and present, from one character’s point of view to another’s, readers gradually learn of the entangled connections that tie the characters to each other.

Station Eleven reminds us to appreciate the everyday miracles of our world—from lighted swimming pools and electric guitars to lightning fast communication with people around the world. There is danger and darkness in Mandel’s vision of the future, but there is more good than bad, more hope than sadness, and the people who remain hold tightly to the most beautiful parts of the world that’s been lost.

Jun 24, 2018

In post-apocalyptic stories, I always find myself wondering what happened before, what happened after, how did this character get in this situation, etc... Station Eleven is so multi-faceted and incredibly satisfying in ways that a lot of sci-fi stories like this are not. It was enthralling and shocking yet also felt so comfortable at times. This really is a WHOLE story.

JCLChrisK May 29, 2018

A brilliantly written, intricately plotted story about human connection--both connections that occur regardless of intent and the active pursuit of companionship--a story that just happens to take place during and after a global pandemic that wipes out the vast majority of humans. It beautifully captures everyday life, regardless of whether circumstances are mundane or extraordinary. In many ways, I found this to be an encouraging counterpoint to the bleakness of Cormac McCarthy's The Road, a more hopeful consideration of the human condition in the face of societal collapse. Survival is insufficient.

Apr 26, 2018

The writing isn't anything special. I'm not mad at it, but it didn't stand out to me in any capacity. The timeline and the effort to exalt the miracles of modern life were admirable, but when it came to the characters and the plot line, I just really couldn't give a sh*t. Half the time I was reading about the past all I could think was "Why exactly am I reading this? Remind me why I care?". There were bits and pieces that stood out to me, but overall, the book felt pointless and dull, and I'm kinda salty that I read it.

movieangel Apr 21, 2018

There are a lot of dystopian books out there, but few that feel as real and possible as this one. St. John Mandel has beautiful descriptions and complex characters. Playing with time and the things we all take for granted now, she created a compelling story that you're never quite sure where it's heading.

Apr 10, 2018

Really enjoyed the premise of this book, and found the multiple timelines & character perspectives engaging, although some timelines & characters are more engaging then others... It was a quick & compelling read, but I had hoped the ending would carry more of an impact.

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Jul 13, 2017

"[...] everyone knows when you've got a terrible marriage, it's like having bad breath, you get close enough to a person and it's obvious."

Apr 14, 2017

“She was thinking about the way she’d always taken for granted that the world had certain people in it, either central to her days or unseen and infrequently thought of. How without any one of these people the world is a subtly but unmistakably altered place, the dial turned just one or two degrees.”

Apr 14, 2017

“They spend all their lives waiting for their lives to begin.”

Apr 14, 2017

“I stood looking over my damaged home and tried to forget the sweetness of life on Earth.”

Apr 14, 2017

“The beauty of this world where almost everyone was gone. If hell is other people, what is a world with almost no people in it?”

Apr 14, 2017

“It was gorgeous and claustrophobic. I loved it and I always wanted to escape.”

Apr 14, 2017

“She had never entirely let go of the notion that if she reached far enough with her thoughts she might find someone waiting, that if two people were to cast their thoughts outward at the same moment they might somehow meet in the middle.”

Apr 14, 2017

“No more Internet. No more social media, no more scrolling through litanies of dreams and nervous hopes and photographs of lunches, cries for help and expressions of contentment and relationship-status updates with heart icons whole or broken, plans to meet up later, pleas, complaints, desires, pictures of babies dressed as bears or peppers for Halloween. No more reading and commenting on the lives of others, and in so doing, feeling slightly less alone in the room. No more avatars.”

Apr 14, 2017

“No one ever thinks they’re awful, even people who really actually are. It’s some sort of survival mechanism.”

Apr 14, 2017

“First we only want to be seen, but once we’re seen, that’s not enough anymore. After that, we want to be remembered.”

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melwyk Sep 25, 2014

One snowy night in Toronto, an actor playing King Lear drops dead on stage. Only 24 hours later, most of the city is dead from a rapidly spreading virus. The few survivors find, as the electricity and water stop, as the internet drops out, that the virus has killed 99% of the world's population.

The question arises: how to live now? In Emily St John Mandel's unusual approach to a post-apocalyptic novel, the survivors of this modern plague retain their longing for community and civilization, trying their best to live in pockets of humanity across North America.

Early on, we meet the Travelling Symphony, a group of musicians and actors who travel caravan-style around the countryside, performing Shakespeare and symphonies to the scattered inhabitants of tiny settlements. As Kirsten, a main character, has tattooed on her arm: Survival is insufficient.

However, this symphony is also heavily armed, as chaos does exist in the new world. There are those in this rough life who rely on violence, including an eerie Prophet who controls a town the Travelling Symphony rolls into at the start of the story. This Prophet and his followers will pursue them for the rest of the book, adding an edge of suspense.

The story weaves back and forth from apocalyptic present to the past, revealing ways in which all the characters are connected. The constant return to 'before' results in a sense of nostalgia for what we haven't yet lost. Mandel points out precious elements of daily life that her characters have lost forever – the taste of an orange, the feel of air conditioning, ice cream, the ability to connect with one another by phone.

Throughout the book we also encounter Dr. Eleven, a scientist in a graphic novel that Kirsten has carried with her over the many years of post-apocalyptic life. The two volumes she owns of this tiny graphic novel sustain her. Dr. Eleven lives on a satellite, Station Eleven, after the earth is destroyed, and his story reflects her own. This imaginary graphic novel is fleshed out so wonderfully that I hope it is only a matter of time before Mandel releases a real-life edition.

This is a beautiful book; imaginative and full of complex characters, it is a post-apocalyptic novel that combines danger with beauty, sadness with hope. Mandel clearly believes that there is something good in humanity that will endure.


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