Station Eleven

  • by Emily St. John Mandel
  • Narrated by Kirsten Potter
  • 10 hrs and 41 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

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.


Audible Editor 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


What the Critics Say

"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


I am really struggling to understand what people like about this book. This book is terrible.

The characters are so poorly drawn. Arthur, a vapid movie star drifts from woman to woman without conscience. His existence as a movie star is dimly imagined as if through the lens of a person who only reads UsWeekly. His craft is only discussed inso far as to ruminate (uninterestingly) on celebrity (actors sacrifice privacy, paparazzi are opportunist scum, the money and glamour are ultimately unfulfilling: nothing illuminating here)
Miranda lives with some dude for a few years, wakes up one day decides to move in with a movie star she bed the night before time passes & with no real understanding of what went wrong between them (or why they even liked each other) she becomes, apropos of no sort of instruction or schooling, based solely on a temp job she took several years earlier, a shipping magnate (but only after discovering the right pair of shoes!) In her spare time she writes and draws a graphic novel she never intends to publish, and most frustratingly, the author and nearly every character & even Miranda herself continually blur the distinction between a comic *book* and comic *strip*. Then there's several members of a post-apocalyptic orchestra who are boilerplate and interchangeable (was there a difference between Deiter & August). Oh! And there's a guy who is a paparazzo but only for a while before becoming an EMT cos THAT happens. This book is so shitty it's actually making me mad.

Then there's the apocalypse. If you are looking for a new or evolved spin on the end of the world plague story look elsewhere, survivors in this book do the same things you've already seen in a bunch of other (better) books: walk a lot, miss electricity and especially mobile devices, learn to hunt and fish and basically do everything you've probably already thought of yourself if you were ever high and wondered what would happen if the world ended in a great big plague. Scratch that, you probably came up with more interesting things when you were high, like, I'd live in the White House or inside the Statue of Liberty.

The book lacks intelligence, none of the characters are especially engaging, the quality of the writing is strong in spots but not sufficient enough to excuse the very flimsy plotting & character work. This is easily one of the most disappointing books I've read in a long time. About halfway through I considered quitting it, after finishing it I wish I had, it never improved. Meaningless characters drift and then it ends.
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- Jack

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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- Mel "Say something about yourself!"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-09-2014
  • Publisher: Random House Audio