Author: Emily St. John Mandel.
Station Eleven (2014) follows various individuals and their lives pre- and post-apocalypse. A pandemic, the “Georgian Flu” wipes out the majority of the human population, causing societal collapse, forcing the survivors to scour for food, to live without electricity or technology, and to band together amid violence and religious cults.
Mandel weaves together a wide cast of characters whose lives intersect in the past and present. This is plot device I am personally very fond of, and the novel does a great job in drawing together character narratives, even in the most unexpected ways. Along with this, the narratives are fractured. The timeline jumps from past to present, and from country to country, creating a montage of perspectives to view characters and events.
Genre hopping is a major feature of this novel, yet Mandel melds all these elements together to create a cohesive piece. She explores post-apocalyptic America through world building and discusses the collapse of society and technology. Although these are sci-fi elements, the novel strongly engages with the characters at the heart of the novel through drama and romance during the pre-apocalyptic passages. Mandel creates space for these different topics, allowing the reader to move in and out of narratives and subject areas.
In terms of what Station Eleven (2014) brings to the table, it has endless points for discussion. For a sci-fi novel, it engages a lot with humanity and what it means to be human. The novel talks a lot about humanity’s technological dependency, and how technological paraphernalia can become historical artefacts when we are no longer able to power them. Mandel also discusses love and relationships, and how those things can intertwine with the media, such as tabloid newspapers and gossip columns. The strongest theme in the novel is the power and importance of art in people’s lives. Through different narratives, the novel explores comic books, plays, symphonies and musical performances that have all been created with passion from individuals and have all affected their readers/ listeners in some way. She highlights the durability of art, such as Shakespeare, in a post-apocalyptic era, arguing that story-telling is a necessity for humanity as it uplifts us, but more importantly, it allows us to imagine.