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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SPPL_Kristen Mar 13, 2018

It feels odd to call a novel about the apocalypse beautiful and tender, but that is exactly what Station Eleven is. It showcases the best (and worst) of humanity without tipping over into cheesiness. Mandel also captures the horrors of living in a post-apocalyptic world without leaning too heavily on gore and violence. Even if you're not usually into the genre, Station Eleven is worthy of your precious shelf space.

Mar 08, 2018

I read this because it was recommended by the BPL. Great read. Thanks for recommending it BPL.

Miss Maggie Mar 08, 2018

I was expecting people to travel through time a la worm holes or a supernatural force in physics since this book is cataloged as time travel fiction. Alas, what they actually mean is that the story is told in shifting perspectives in different time periods. Bummer. I like time travelers.

Feb 28, 2018

I didn't believe I would like this book very much. I'm not into dystopian, end-of-the-world, post-apocalyptic books. But this. This was done so beautifully. I loved how it was written, choosing one point in time- the death of Arthur Leander, as the moment that the world ended. St. John Mandel took that moment and spiraled outward, both forward and backward in time, years before the Georgia flu ended the world, and twenty years after. The blurb on the back is a little misleading; it claims it's about a traveling symphony and a prophet. It is, but it's so much more than that. It's really about five or six people who were close with the actor who passed away- their lives before and after the virus that killed 99% of the world's population. Mandel weaves the stories so seamlessly that we don't know that the characters are going to collide with each other until a few pages before, because we're so wrapped up in their individual struggles and survival.
Mandel is frank with us about her story and the cost of the flu that rampaged across the world. Kirsten finds skeletons in their cars. In their beds. On the side of the road. Mandel shares the fates of random characters with us. A stagehand dies of exposure on the road to Quebec a week after Leander dies. Two little girls die two days later at home in bed. An entire airplane full of sick people lands and stays closed for twenty years. This seems harsh, but the end of the world as we know it would be tragic, and terrible, and horribly sad. It is made clear that some people are immune to the virus, and others survived because they were hidden away and prepared.
In the end, this novel is more of a feeling, or an impression. The second half of the book was constantly giving me goosebumps. Mandel keeps using words like impossibly, irrevocably, inescapable, inevitable, and others that completely set the tone of the novel. It conveys despair and the end of something, but possibly also a beginning of something else.
I wouldn't recommend this to anyone who specifically likes post-apocalypse novels, because this is more character driven than world-building, but here, it really works. Because, as Kirsten noted, "Survival is insufficient."

Jan 11, 2018

One of my most absolute FAVOURITE books. Mandel is a gifted writer who paints vivid scenes, and makes you care about each of the characters. A must read.

Jan 06, 2018

Station Eleven is definitely a thought-provoking book. It is written in such a lyrical way that it gently pulses in my head as I read it. The content in itself is worth five stars. All of the very different story lines (both in the present and in the past) are tied together in an interesting way. Even with the dream-like writing, the book felt very realistic to me. Station Eleven is a must read for anyone who likes realistic or dystopian fiction.

Nov 08, 2017

I enjoy survival stories. This one was not put together the way I expected the story to read, and I think that gave it an additional twist. The author was inventive about many of her creations, like the Traveling Symphony that toured along Lake Michigan area after the pandemic knocked out 99.9% of the population. I'll have to check out the other books she has written. The one thing that surprised me about reviews is that this survival story got a lot of rave reviews that I didn't understand. I personally preferred Lucifer's Hammer, for example, which Station Eleven reminded me of a lot. I recommend Station Eleven highly however.

Oct 26, 2017

This book is amazing. It really makes you think.

Sep 17, 2017

It took a little time to get into this apocalypse tale. The interplay of characters through each stage of the pandemic-caused apocalypse eventually drew me in as I got to know them and the threads of their circumstances. The actor, Arthur Leander, was not the most interesting character, being outshone by others in orbit around him. I especially liked Kirsten for her humanity and killer survival instincts and Clark for his seemingly easy transition into survival. The narrative about Arthur acting while interacting with friends made my think. I can imagine an actor doing that but then thought "Don't we all do that in our lives?"

Fascinating, yet stressful, this novel captures your attention and doesn't let go! I have a friend who has read this in print and audio at least 20 times. An amazing debut novel. Hopeful, and realistic, for a dystopian futuristic novel.
Rose in PR

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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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