January 17, 2015
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.
I learned about Station Eleven in a Facebook post from one of my favorite authors, Marcus Sakey. He posted that he was only 121 pages in and was loving it. He had previously recommended The Martian by Andy Weir which ended up being my favorite read of 2014 (it's also being made into a movie staring Matt Damon, I CAN'T WAIT!) so I promptly downloaded it on Audible and started listening.
By a couple of chapters in, I was a little skeptical. Station Eleven seemed a little too artsy for my liking. All the talk about the theater and symphony was making me think I wouldn't enjoy the book but I quickly got sucked in and was dying to finish the book.
The only downside is that all the post-apocalyptic books I've been reading lately are starting to freak me out. They've got me thinking "what if?". It didn't help that during the December 2013 icepocalypse we had in Dallas I made a run to the grocery store and was shocked by how empty the shelves were. This was only 3 days of ice and there was not a vegetable or loaf of bread to be found in a major grocery store. Now I'm stockpiling water in my garage and thinking I should start buying bullets by the case.
But back to the book. The way the story weaves in and out of the different time periods is so very suspenseful. I keep wondering how everything is going to tie together in the end and then suddenly it all makes sense. The characters are exactly as they should be. I despised the not so good guys and adored the heros. I absolutely loved this book.
I highly recommend this for anyone who loves post-apocalyptic survival stories.