Station 11 by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel

'You fall asleep for short periods and then for longer periods and then forever.'


Station 11 is an absorbing character driven post-apocalyptic story where the Georgia flu wipes out 99% of the population.


If indications are anything to go by and that quote at the top bears consequence then it’s no surprise that I fell asleep listening to the narration of this story at one point, was that related to the story or more my state of acute knackeredness, probably a little of both.


The story revolves around famous actor Arthur Leander, who dies from a heart attack in the first chapter, just as the Georgia Flu pandemic is about to devastate life as we know it. The tale then kicks between various timelines and different people in the life of this actor while sporadically returning to the present, 20 years after the pandemic and the journey of a band of companions called the Travelling Symphony who trek between the remaining settlements performing concerts. The danger comes in the form of a self-proclaimed prophet and his followers, and when people start disappearing the intrigue definitely rises.


The world building is always interesting in these type of stories, no electricity, no internet, no running water, there's not much in the way of entertainment which makes a symphony all the more valuable in the new order of things. Well I would have to say it felt like the primary focus was characterization over world building and the majority of it focused on the past and people who were long dead for our present timeline.


Station 11 itself is a space ship comic series designed and written by Miranda, one of Arthur's ex-wives who is one of the point of view characters in the story way back when the Georgia flu hits and even further than that.


So it's certainly not in the realms of an action packed read but there is an undertone of something sinister going on, this is concentrated purely in the present aspect of the story, the bit I really wanted more of but felt like I didn't get enough of.


To be honest this isn't what it'd call a thrilling read, it's beautifully written don't get me wrong, the story and characters are engaging in a way that makes you care what happens to them. The constant bouncing from present to past had me desperate to get back to the present and the fate of the Travelling Symphony as it moved through the territories. I felt there was a little too much time given to the past, not overly essential but there were characters I wanted to hear more about and others not so much and as a result it certainly gave more depth to the story but not necessarily where it was needed most.


The literary goodness of this story will appeal too many and it did to me in parts but it walks a fine line between bland and captivation. There's not so much on the collapse of life and we never really feel the weight of the disaster but just a little too much perhaps on this actor, this new life's only danger a religious zealot after more wives. Maybe only good people survived this flu that's what it felt like anyway, a few crazies maybe but mainly everyone just copes and moves on with life.