I had been eyeing Station Eleven in the bookshop for quite some time, but it was only when a bookseller in the shop recommended it that I actually caved and bought it. The book, written by Emily St. John Mandel, is a dystopian novel set 15 years after a famous actor dies on stage and 15 years after a disease wipes out the majority of the human race, bringing civilisation to an end.
The novel follows the story of the Traveling Symphony, which travels around a desolate America, performing Shakespeare to any settlements of people that they find. The main character is a girl called Kirsten who, despite not remembering much from before the contagion hit, clings to the memory of Arthur, the actor who died on stage. The novel looks back at the lives of the characters touched by this actor and then explored how they were altered in the dystopian future.
I absolutely loved this twist on a dystopian novel. In many of the dystopian novels that I have read, more emphasis is based on the plot and what caused the old world to collapse, or a new enemy, rather than focusing on the characters. Station Eleven does the opposite. While there is an enemy, he takes a back seat to the characters. I felt that, by the end of it, I did not want to let the characters go, despite there being a clear and warming resolution to the story.
While I did enjoy the characters, at times I felt the story was a little slow, and there did not seem to much of a sense of threat. While there were deaths, there were only a couple of characters where I actually felt any emotion for their passing, and that was more because of the way it was written, or the reactions of the other characters more than any attachment to the deceased. There was no fear for the main characters, who you had built up an attachment to. I felt that the villain, in the end, was weak. He started off very well, but was a bit of a let down, and it was very obvious who he actually was, despite the author’s best intentions at keeping it a surprise.
‘Station Eleven’ is impeccably written, and I really enjoyed reading it as a twist on the typical dystopian novel. I loved the characters and how their stories all intertwined. It is definitely worth the read, and despite there being little threat, the various backgrounds and curiosity about where it goes makes up for that.