Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel
Adult fiction review by M
Station Eleven was pitched as being for Margaret Atwood or Hugh Howey fans. I’m an Atwood fan but had never heard of Howey. This novel has had a huge (social media) presence, and from what I can gather, many people adore it. I didn’t.Station Eleven is an apocalyptic novel. A virus, details unknown, kills almost everybody. There are a few survivors who have to start all over again and they’re afraid (typical apocalyptic scenario). A group of them form the Travelling Symphony, which tends to perform Shakespeare. Rather than simply exploring the now, the novel focuses on a few characters and their past, which helps to provide clues as to why survivors choose to protect and sustain certain ‘artefacts’. This held much promise for me but then the novel introduced a very coincidental ‘bad guy’ plot that I did not find very believable nor interesting.
I felt like I was reading something that wanted to be profound. But there was a disconnection for me: too many characters, none of whom were especially endearing to me; a plot that was built upon many coincidences (potentially very plausible but always unexplained, and therefore too convenient).
I couldn’t sense the ‘Atwood’ beyond post-apocalyptic similarities with the MaddAddam world (and on my current re-read of Cat’s Eye, some similar objects turn up: comics, glass ornaments etc ). As an Atwood fan, I was disappointed. The Travelling Symphony doesn’t hold the same place in my heart as God’s Gardeners. I can’t comment from the Howey camp.
Publication details: September 2014, Picador, London, hardbackThis copy: review copy from the publisher