Sometimes, a book comes out with a lot of hype attached to it. The writer is supposedly the next “big thing” and there’s a huge buzz for months after the book’s release. Jonathan Franzen. The Dragon Tattoo books. The Hunger Games. Gone Girl. And these books (yeah, I hated The Corrections) don’t always live up to the hype for me. I’ve read tons and tons of rave reviews about Station Eleven over the past few weeks, and I was so worried that it would fall into the disappointing category.
But this book, you guys. This book.
Station Eleven is unlike any book I’ve ever read. It’s about a flu that wipes out over 99% of the world’s population within weeks. It’s about the nature of celebrity, and how it changes people. It’s about the undying appeal of Shakespeare. It’s about graphic novels and Star Trek. It’s about humanity, the good and the bad. And it’s about the survivalist instinct, and the frightening moment when you, as an individual, have to decide what your own personal survival is worth.
And I adored it.
The book flips around in time, and is told from various perspectives. In present-day Toronto, a movie star collapses on stage during a performance of King Lear — dead of a heart attack. And later that night, a mysterious flu begins to tear through the city.
We learn more about the man who died on stage — Arthur Leander was a big star with several ex-wives and a son who lives half a world away.
We meet Jeevan, a man training to be an EMT, who runs up on stage and tries to resuscitate the fallen actor. Jeevan gets a tip from the hospital about the flu, and locks himself up in a tower apartment with his brother, slowly watching the end of civilization.
And we meet Kirsten, a young girl playing one of King Lear’s daughters on stage that fateful night. And 15 years later, a member of a traveling Shakespeare troupe, walking from town to town in the new world, being in music and drama to the other survivors.
There are very few scenes of suffering from the flu (unlike The Stand, where we got lots of gory details), but we still understand the tremendous feeling of loss for the survivors. Many details about the very first months and years after the flu are lest purposefully vague, as if too painful to remember.
The writing is simply beautiful. I felt for each and every character and what they had and lost in life. And yet, while the book sounds like it should be depressing, it was actually quite the opposite. I closed this book with a feeling of hope for the characters inside it. Highly recommend.