Station Eleven Review

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (what a name!) centers around an apocalyptic, end-of-the-world scenario involving a super-flu that wipes out most of humanity. It’s a more concise and grounded version of Stephen King’s The Stand, and was of particular interest to me given our post-COVID world.

Mandel weaves a complex narrative with multiple POV characters—there’s a paramedic, a comic book artist, and a troupe of Shakespearean actors—that jumps between multiple time periods and locations, and I couldn’t help but make comparisons between it and Cloud Cuckoo Land. Much like Doerr’s masterpiece, the threads of Mandel’s story are loosely tied together by Station Eleven, an independent, Sci-Fi comic book dealing with the end of the world. Unlike the former novel, however, which centered around a lost, Ancient Greek play, the comic’s relevance to the overall story was lost on me, and it was hard to care about any one character with so many flashbacks to events that do not push the plot forward or affect the primary heroine’s journey in any meaningful way.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy Station Eleven. It was a lot better than the miniseries based on it. There are a lot of good ideas here, the story is well told, and Mandel’s writing, at times, excels to the level of poetry. I also have a fondness for reading about people in dire situations. But a lack of cohesion and tension weakens the storytelling, and it probably didn’t help that I’d just finished Cloud Cuckoo Land, a rare work-of-art that explores many of the same themes in a much more compelling way.

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