Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is a post-apocalyptic novel. The world ends because of a disease called the Georgia Flu. The book jumps around in time and explores several different characters. Many of the survivors’ lives center around two people: Arthur Leander, who dies in the very first chapter of a heart attack while playing King Lear, and his ex-wife Miranda.
The main character is a girl named Kirsten. As a very small child, she sees Arthur die; she was also acting in King Lear. Hours after Arthur’s death, the end of the world begins. Miranda, an artist, is significant to many character because of a comic she wrote called Station Eleven, in which there are two copies in existence.
Twenty years later Kirsten is a member of a group called the Traveling Symphony. They travel around the Great Lakes region to play instruments and perform Shakespeare. Kirsten is still obsessed with Arthur Leander, and enjoys any information she can get on him. She also reads Station Eleven so often, because the book was given to her by Arthur. They visit one town which they notice has changed drastically, because of a man calling himself the prophet, who has his own connections to Arthur.
My favorite character is Clark, who used to be Arthur’s best friend. He starts a museum in the airport in Severn City, Michigan, collecting things from the old world. By the end of the novel he is very old, but we also see him as a young man hanging out with Arthur Leander. His main concern is for his boyfriend, which is when he also realizes that every single person in this airport has lost someone. I like him because he is so calm. At one point, Miranda is sitting outside at a dinner party while Arthur flirts with his next wife, and Clark comes out to talk to her. While most post-apocalyptic novels focus on surviving and creating a new world, this one focuses more on preserving the beautiful things from the old world.
The world ends so quickly in this book. As you read this blog post, a deadly disease could already be spreading about to end the world. The world, as we know it, could be over in a few days. On a less morbid note, I liked how much depth Mandel put into each character. We see a very detailed past for each character, so that we are not always reading about the time after the flu. However, the characters we get the most information about are Arthur and Miranda who are both dead after the apocalypse, but their lives make a huge difference for the surviving characters.
There was also a man named Jeevan, but I honestly didn’t care as much about him, so I’m not going to write as much about him, just that he exists in the book.