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Station Eleven

Station Eleven
Published: 2014-09-09
The sudden death of a Hollywood actor during a production of King Lear marks the beginning of the world's dissolution, in a story told at various past and future times from the perspectives of the actor and four of his associates. By the author of The Lola Quartet. 50,000 first printing.
I thought I was done reading post-apocalyptic novels. I read a bunch when I was in high school and college. I don't know why, but that seems to be the age for post-apocalypse & dystopia. Somebody's probably written a dissertation on that. Why do they appeal at that age, and why do they lose their appeal as you get older (unless it's just me, which I suppose is possible, and unless it's written by Stephen King, who can write just about anything and I'll read it).

But a friend was enthusiastic about this one, and said it was different. There's a traveling theater and music troupe; there's an insane religious cult; there's a dreadful flu that kills 99% of humanity in the space of a few weeks; there are scattered settlements among the abandoned cars; and there's a good amount of pre-apocalyptic story about people who are or are somehow associated with the post-A cast of characters. The timeline bounces around a lot.

So what's different about it, and why five stars? For one thing, there's a lot of art in it - Shakespeare, classical music, and the comic book that's set on Station Eleven in space, not to mention the movie star world of one of the characters. There's an appreciation for the things we take for granted; not just the big things but the ordinary daily life stuff we hardly notice. A message about skimming across life without paying attention, buried in smartphones and speaking trite office jargon to each other, runs through the pre-A segments. It spans a period of 20 years after the flu plus an undefined time before, and the progression through breakdown of civilization to what comes next over that long period seemed plausible.

The spirit is hopeful, on the whole. I think that might be one reason I, at least, lost interest in dystopia and post-apocalypse: I stopped wanting to read anything that was going to make me feel hopeless and miserable. And the writing itself is masterful; it pulled me into the world of the book and never bumped me out.

I'm glad I read it.

Written by Shan
I spent 25 years conducting performance audits of state agencies, looking for ways they could be more effective and efficient. I helped write countless government reports. I worked with the smartest, nicest people in state government, and was honored to be a part of that group. Now, though, I’m writing fiction (yay! adjectives! dialogue!), learning banjo, traveling, hanging out with my fabulous granddaughters, and – big surprise – I’m still not decluttering that back room that was on hold for the past 25 years.