Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

/ posted in: Reading

It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine…

A global flu is spreading rapidly.  A flight from Moscow brings it to Toronto.  In a matter of days, an estimated 99% of the population is dead.

Years later, a troupe of actors and musicians travel around the Great Lakes performing Shakespeare to isolated towns of survivors and people born after the flu.  Kirsten was a child actor on stage when Arthur Leander died in Toronto the night the flu hit.  She has vague fond memories of him as a kind man who gave her some comic books about Station Eleven, a space station the size of a moon.

The book traces her experiences after the flu and the experiences before and after of several people who were in contact with Arthur Leander.  The book jumps around in time to compare their intertwining lives before the end of civilization and now.

It took me a while to get into this book.  I almost put it aside but everyone has been raving about it so I gave it another go.  I’m glad I did.  I liked the way the disparate characters in the story are actually related in tangential and circumstantial ways.

I think the thing that will stay with me from this book though is this.  Kirsten had heard of the theory of multiple universes.  She wasn’t sure if it had been a real theory or if the person who told her about it had made it up.  She asked around but no one could tell her anything.

“No one had any idea, it turned out.  None of the older Symphony members knew much about science, which was frankly maddening given how much time these people had had to look things up on the Internet before the world ended.”  pages 199-200

I’ve often been frustrated by myself whenever I feel bored when I am holding access to the sum total knowledge of humanity in my hand.  Now I’m going to add the guilt of knowing that playing Candy Crush was wasting knowledge gathering time that I won’t get back.  But that’s ok, I guess.  I’ve never wanted to survive an end of the world scenario.  No, thank you.  I’d like to be first to die, please.  No running for my life while fighting zombies for me.  I’d like to be at the epicenter of the nuclear bomb blast.  While reading this book, I was making disaster plans involving access to the good drugs at work to kill myself before the food ran out.

Is it just me?  Do you imagine yourself as a survivor or as zombie food?