Station Eleven is a beautifully depicted novel by Emily St. John Mandel. It came out in 2014, and has since been devoured by many avid readers. The novel centers around mankind before, during, and after a pandemic wreaks havoc on the earth. It is a prime example of how to elegantly write about a dystopian society. If you love to read, and even if you don’t, this novel is one to pick up.
As I said, Station Eleven hops through time; before, during, and after a pandemic sweeps the earth. This is a tricky feat; sometimes a reader can get lost in the continuous back and forth. St. John Mandel weaves a seamless web of time and space — not once will you wonder about what time period you’re in. This is because she focuses on three characters that depict the times before, during, and after the disease hits. The shifts in time are worked so flawlessly that it is easy to flit from one time period to another without losing track of characters or place.
The creativity behind the development of Station Eleven is amazing, especially once you realize the many ways the title of the book, and what it refers to, affects the characters and plot. The world, luscious and then barren, that St. John Mandel created will suck you in and keep you there long after you read the last sentence. Following the characters, their extraordinary lives before and after humanity is forever changed, will warp the way you look at the world.
This being said, there are a few things I wish had been further expanded upon. There is a complex, interesting character introduced; The Prophet, a neurotic man whose religious beliefs have pushed him to inhumane actions, is very interesting, and St. John Mandel introduced quite a few things about him that intrigued me. Yet, there could have been so much more to him. The opportunity was there, but I felt that his plot was not fully explored. As a result, I was left wondering about a character who had so much more to tell us about himself. We understand what drives him to this path, but I still maintain that his character could have been given more time and a bit more development.
I also wish that St. John Mandel had focused on the “during” time period a bit more; she left us venturing out into the newly quiet world and when she comes back to it her characters have already settled in. I’d hoped that we could have stayed with them a bit longer to fully grasp what it was like to have survived a massively infectious disease and then travel out into a brand new Earth.
The meaning behind the title, Station Eleven, is especially powerful once you realize how it connects to the plot and characters. Though no one realizes it, Station Eleven lives within everyone–before, during, and after the Georgia Flu takes hold of the Earth–and there’s something very magical in realizing this. It is subtly placed and yet it is as bright as a neon light once revealed. I encourage you to think back to every chapter once you realize the connection and you will be in awe of the complex threads St. John Mandel has left for us to put together.
The characters are fascinating, the language and imagery are beautiful, and the plot is complex, creative, and completely unlike anything I’ve read before. This novel is one that you will read through very quickly to see what happens next, and when you’ve reached the end you will feel complete. Don’t miss this. Station Eleven is an experience of its own that will leave you changed.