Review: Station 11

Posted: June 25, 2021 by in Books that are Mediocre (3/5 single_star) Meta: Emily St. John Mandel, Post Apocalyptic
Station 11

If you’re looking for a book that focuses on character development, then STATION 11 is the book for you.

Or maybe plot isn’t so important and you like meandering through a setting that is both familiar and foreign.

It may also be that you like books with elements that don’t seem important to the plot as a greater whole OR maybe you find satisfaction with plodding through 280 pages before you start seeing the connections between the characters and plot points.

If this is the case, you might just enjoy STATION 11. Alas, those aren’t the kinds of things I look for in a book. I definitely wasn’t the target audience.

STATION 11 was written in 2015, pre-COVID–and that’s an important distinction because the story revolves around events after a worldwide pandemic that kills more than 90% of the population, immediately plunging survivors into a pre-Industrial Revolution existence. On one hand, reading this after living through 2020 makes me grateful things weren’t worse; but on the other hand the book may exacerbate any COVID PTSD y’all may be experiencing. Just a little friendly neighborhood warning for you.

Kirsten was 11 years old when the Georgia Flu hit Toronto. Everyone but her brother died, but she doesn’t remember that first year after everything changed, it was just too traumatic. Now, 20 years later, she travels with a roving symphony and acts in Shakespeare plays as they travel from settlement to settlement around the Great Lakes area. Life is rough. No dentists. No antibiotics. No electricity. No birth control. She vaguely remembers flying in airplanes, but now the rusted shells of cars litter the old asphalt roadways. Instead she has to learn knife skills in order to be able to protect herself.

Jeevan got the news that the flu had hit Toronto from a doctor friend who suggested he hole up somewhere. So after maxing out his credit card at the local grocery, takes the supplies to his brother’s apartment and they wait out the first months of chaos before emerging to find a new–and empty–world.

STATION 11 follows several characters after a plague wipes out most of the human population--and how they're connected in unexpected ways.

Clark was in his fifties when he found himself stuck at a quarantined airport with a hundred other stranded travelers. He spends the next 20 years collecting the memorabilia of a past world.

What connects all these people? Actor Arthur Leander was famous, but was spared living in a post-plague world by having a heart attack the night before the flu hit Toronto. The main POV (and some non-POV characters) characters have a connection to Arthur in one way or another. They recall their relationships with Arthur as author Emily St. John Mendel explores this post-plague world–what it would look like, how it affects the characters, and how they move through it.

But what does “Station 11” have to do with it? The Arthur connection is that “Station 11” is a self-printed comic book written and drawn by his ex-wife, Miranda. But why name the book that? I guess the exploration of the novel is more subtle than my action-packed Fantasy and Sci Fi preferences allow. It’s all very literary with the connections to Arthur. Maybe Station 11 has to do with hope and the desire for a better world? But we know so little about the actual contents of the comic “Station 11” that it’s difficult to pin down the purposes of including this setting element and what it has to do with the title, other than it sounds cool.

The majority of the story follows Kirsten and her travels with the Symphony, their visit to a town taken over by a megalomaniac prophet that eventually comes to haunt them. The connections between the characters to Arthur and then their connections to each other as a result are the main drivers of the story, but it was hard to feel like it drove the story very much. Depending on that as the story driver made it fall flat and the ending rather petered off.

It would probably be a good book for a book club of women who usually don’t enjoy reading Fantasy or Sci Fi, and you’re trying to sneak it in. It’s the kind of story that would incite plenty of discussion. But if it’s a book club for hard Sci Fi readers, I’d pass.

  • Recommended Age: 14+
  • Language: A handful
  • Violence: Deaths, references to rape, but nothing graphic
  • Sex: Referenced

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