Thursday, April 28, 2016

Cephalopod Coffeehouse: Station Eleven - Not your teenager's dystopia

Hello, Cephalopod Coffeehouse participants!

This month I read Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. For your viewing pleasure, the cover:

Um, wow. I heard about this book on NPR, and then, later, spotted it on my mother-in-law's coffee table. The book begins with an on-stage heart attack of a famous movie actor -- playing the role of King Lear, no less. On the heels of his death comes the demise of civilization: a highly contagious virus, the Georgian Flu, wipes out essentially 99.9% of the world's population in a matter of days.

The book is comprised of several narratives from several view point characters and the chronology bounces from pre-collapse to post-collapse and back again. The thread tying all of these characters together is the eponymous Station Eleven, a graphic novel created by Miranda, the actor's first wife.

Although billed as a science fiction dystopian novel, Station Eleven struck me as more of a poetic, philosophical treatise. I mean, the tough guys in this book are a band of musicians and thespians called the "Traveling Symphony." There is some interesting exploration of what is socially significant: if you had the chance to rebuild society, what would you keep from the past? What is worth passing on? What survives?

Although the jumps in point of view and chronology were somewhat distracting, I was engaged because the novel seemed to be building to some great revelatory conclusion. For me, the book ended without fulfilling its promises. Reading this book was like waiting at a train station, instead of taking a ride.