Station Eleven has received a lot of hype and accolades, and was listed on several "Best of 2014" lists. I do not disagree that this was a beautifully written and original story, but I suspect it will not stay with me - and hence, it earns that middle of the road rating of 3 stars. At the start of the book, the post-apocalyptic tale evoked fond memories of The Road. Others have made that same comparison to Cormac McCarthy but, for me, the comparison is short-lived. This book is literary dystopian fiction with a heavy emphasis on the literary and a marked dilution of the dystopian. That might not sound so bad, but these traits make the book bland, and the ending unresolved and unremarkable.
I was a bit disappointed in this book. I had read many of the glowing reviews and am aware that it was nominated for a number of book awards, so I was expecting a five-star book. At times, it felt like it could be, particularly when dealing with the conflict between the "prophet" and the Traveling Symphony. Those parts were suspenseful and kept me reading. Other parts, though, were really pretty boring. I didn't get the large amount of space devoted to Arthur, the aging actor in the pre-apocalypse parts of the story, He does provide a connection between some of the characters, but his life story just doesn't do anything to establish any empathy in the reader.
Other reviewers talked about humanity's inarguable need for art to make us human, but I didn't feel this theme was developed well enough. The Symphony travels around performing Shakespeare and giving concerts, but other than some of the audience crying during performances there really doesn't seem to be any effect to their performances. Another character sets up a museum of pre-apocalypse items in an airport, which people eventually come to see and/or contribute artifacts to the collection. However, again there is no sign that this has any effect on anyone.
The last aspect of the book that left me wanting was the Station Eleven theme. One of the characters published two science fiction comic books about a place called Station Eleven and a character named Dr. Eleven. There were some slight similarities between those comics and the post-apocalypse world, but if the book is named after one of those comics there should be a much stronger connection. I just didn't get that part of it.
I gave this book three stars because, for the most part, it kept me reading. I was curious to see if or how the world would recover from a very plausible disaster. The vital part that art would play in such a recovery was just not clarified enough for me.
This is a post apocalyptic story that feels like something that could actually occur. It hits very close to home.
99% of the world has died in a sweeping epidemic. The story follows the lives of a group of people - all interconnected although they don't all realize it.
Through flashbacks, we get both the pre and post epidemic lives of this group.
Very realistic. (No zombies!)
Im not really into post-apocalyptic novels, but this one had everything to keep my interest going: a vivid setting, realistic characters, and a plot finely woven between pre- and post-pandemic times. I often imagine if I were in a show like Survivor, or a character in the Hunger games, if I would have what it takes to survive. I think I'd stand a good chance, but how would the experiences change me? Would I have a more cynical outlook in life? Would I be an all-or-nothing cut throat? The arrogant narcissist? The one, who despite all the hardships, remains unchanged? This book really made me stop and think about the type of person I would become if I were to survive a world sans technology, loved ones, media or social order of any kind. The underlying message here is that we are more resilient than we think because "survival is insufficient." But how we choose (or are forced) to survive and live our lives anew is a horse of a different color.
I expected dazzle and substance from this highly praised National Book Award finalist, a book that one blurb called "darkly glittering". I was disappointed.
Mandel's determined attempt to be deep and important and oh-so-literary overwhelmed what might have been an interesting dystopian tale. The story tantalized with some interesting twists on the usual "end of the world as we know it" road trip, but these were, unfortunately, only superficially developed.
So it was the characters, not the deadly flu, that were supposed to be the focus of the story. The characters, however, were one-dimensional, even though pages of rambling, meaningless exposition were devoted to them. Mandel's prose overall was merely adequate, workmanlike at its best, clunky and awkward when it faltered.
The notion of "Station Eleven" (the ex-wife's graphic novel that gave the book its name) kept surfacing, but never seemed to lead to anything meaningful. Few things did. It all wrapped up with a rather puzzling and unsatisfying non-ending that some see as the promise (or the threat) of a sequel.
So, no dazzle, little substance. There are other books that offer better dystopian stories, better explorations of people and relationships, better writing. This one wasn't worth the effort.