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Editorial Reviews

Editors Select, September 2014 - Station Eleven may take place during the end of civilization, but don’t make the mistake of discounting it as just another apocalyptic tale. The narrative shifts between past and present and follows five characters, each connected in some fateful way. We begin on a stage, where a world-famous actor suddenly dies while performing King Lear, and jump to Year 20, where a group known as the Traveling Symphony Orchestra travels between settlements, performing Shakespeare to captivated audiences. The result is a fascinating, suspenseful story that, despite its setting, is anything but bleak. I am eagerly awaiting more from Emily St. John Mandel, and I can’t wait to experience the book again with narration from Kirsten Potter ( If I Stay). —Sam, Audible Editor
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Publisher's Summary

An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.
One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur's chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.
Fifteen years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten's arm is a line from Star Trek: "Because survival is insufficient." But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave.
Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful, elegiac novel is rife with beauty. As Arthur falls in and out of love, as Jeevan watches the newscasters say their final good-byes, and as Kirsten finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the prophet, we see the strange twists of fate that connect them all. A novel of art, memory, and ambition, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.
©2014 Emily St. John Mandel (P)2014 Random House Audio
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Critic Reviews

"A unique departure from which to examine civilization's wreckage.... [a] wild fusion of celebrity gossip and grim future.... Mandel's examination of the connections between individuals with disparate destinies makes a case for the worth of even a single life." ( Publishers Weekly)
"Following three smart, voicey thrillers published with a small press, Mandel makes the leap … to ambitious, fantastical storytelling." (Boris Kachka, New York magazine)
"[An] ambitious take on a post-apocalyptic world where some strive to preserve art, culture and kindness.... Think of Cormac McCarthy seesawing with Joan Didion.... Mandel spins a satisfying web of coincidence and kismet.... Magnetic.... a breakout novel." ( Kirkus)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
3 out of 5 stars
By Stacy on 10-08-14


I was really into this story-beautifully written, interesting characters- then it just ended.

What the beep?

So I'm left to ponder what happened to all these people, and what was the real point of the book. I get it, I guess, but I seriously had no idea that the book was about to end when the "audible hopes you've enjoyed this program" came on. I wanted more! wahh!

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71 of 83 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars
By Mel on 09-24-14

Melancholy, Reflection, and Venison

I can't say what kind of apocalyptic society member I would be. A religious, rapture-ish event... I'd have to brush up on my survival skills, but a nuclear event or count down to Armageddon, and I would place my chair at Ground Zero, because I wouldn't want to be without the people I love, nor would I choose to live in a world where there was not some form of beauty, or sense of community. Alone, fighting just to survive, I would wind up as mad as King Lear. Station Eleven opens with a scene from the Shakespeare play and expands on the themes of survival and meaning.

Opening night, the lead actor suffers a heart attack and passes away. The news that night pronounces the actor's passing, and barely mentions a mysterious illness that has people flooding hospital ERs. Within 3 weeks, 99% of the world will die from a flu pandemic. Forward: Twenty years later, a troupe of actors and musicians called The Travelling Symphony moves from one outcropping of survivors to another performing plays and music. Their mission statement sounds enlightened and magnanimous, an ode to the arts... “Because survival is insufficient,” it is a quote one member recalls from a Star Trek episode he watched as a child. The troupe includes a woman that was a young child in the King Lear production the night the actor had his heart attack on stage.

At times, author St. John Mandel is eloquent with understated visions of a broken world. Her museum of artifacts is a centerpiece that connects people and stories, including the actor Leander. His personal life, his celebrity, is captured there in articles from the celebrity magazines left intact. She doesn't go into the breakdown of society or the aftermath of the pandemic, but focuses on the emptiness and melancholy borne of lost loved ones, simple pleasures only remembered, and the connections that remain stretched across a barren world, traversed by The Travelling Symphony. Here, the author is a mighty gentle giant.

Beyond the difficulties of surviving day to day, there is a menacing group of brutal men ruled by The Prophet, but sadly,he makes only a brief appearance and whimpers away. Just when I was hoping for a little trouble-maker to take my mind off the moping and memories, and roasting venison over burning tires, again. Once you get the general premise, you better be ready to dwell on it. Mandel writes beautifully and has created a world that is eerie and surreal, but I started to feel swallowed by the melancholy. For all the hype, all the great reviews, all the promises that I would be haunted by this powerful story, I wasn't feeling it. From my frame of reference, it's been done before. Mandel thinks outside the apocalyptic genre box, but doesn't enlarge the real estate.

The book stays high centered in that world of reflection, the menagerie of meandering melancholics mourning the past, hoping for a better future, chewing deer meat, occasionally appreciating the arts, coming up with some profound thoughts--wallowing in sentimentality. I recommend the book, in spite of my sarcastic, irreverent nature; but not to hard-core apocalyptic/dystopia fans, or anyone that believes the saying "you can't move forward with one foot in the past." (I think Mr.Spock said that in an episode.) It is a lovely novel, written beautifully-- my head tells me so.

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70 of 85 people found this review helpful

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