Station Eleven is an adult post-apocalyptic/dystopian novel written by Emily St. John Mandel and I’m actually quite surprised by how enjoyable it was, especially considering that I bought this book on a whim two days ago without knowing anything about it whatsoever. Those who followed my reviews should know by now that SFF is my number one favorite genre to read, that’s why I always find it strange how the great standalone always came from genres I don't usually read, like this book.
Picture: Station Eleven by Vincent Chong
I won’t be talking about the plot at all, if you want to know what’s the premise of the book is about, the blurb of the book did a great job of explaining without spoiling anything, a rare case I know. Before you start reading this book, I need to remind you that this book is slow paced and highly characters driven. These characters will matter a lot in deciding your enjoyment of this book and this is in my opinion, the most important factors in this book; pretty much any book I read really, well-written characters will always be the priority. Luckily for me, although it didn’t happen immediately, I did end up enjoying all the characters’ POV by the halfway point of this book. Not only were the characters written realistically, reading how they cope with the new world and how all these characters storyline converged were compelling. This is a slow paced book and even though it’s a post-apocalyptic book, the majority of the storyline centered pretty much on the characters’ lives before and after the collapse of civilization. However, do know that it is really rewarding to read it to the last quarter of the book. At first, it may seem like the character’s story were disjointed, but believe me, every character's POV were important. Mandel took me by surprise with her talent in seamlessly connecting all the plot and characters, bringing a great style of storytelling in this atmospheric piece of work.
“Hell is the absence of the people you long for.”
Parts of what made this book unique and different from other post-apocalyptic story is the positive messages that the author conveyed. Don’t get me wrong, the setting is bleak but I can’t help but feel peaceful reading it. In the video game, The Last of Us, there is a lot of walking around, scavenging stuff, and there was this moment where the characters found a herd of giraffes; that simple moment was one of the most beautiful moments of the game. This book has that sense of atmosphere, both the bleak and the beautiful part. The literal meaning of darkness can’t exist without light, same as how despair can’t exist without hope, and even in the darkest of times, hope will always find a way to prevail one way or another. This book gave a feeling of melancholy and at the same time, grateful. It’s poignant at times but evocatively joyful. Focusing on humanities, perseverance of art, I love how the author tells a story that centered on finding hope in the hardest of times; even after the collapse of civilization, humanity will somehow find a way to survive, for better or worse. This book also serves as a reminder that we MUST do something for this world other than merely surviving. There was one passage about ‘sleepwalking’ through life in particular that in my opinion will resonate with a lot of readers who still have no idea what they’re doing with their life, especially in jobs; at least that’s how it felt for me.
“Survival is insufficient.”
Mandel’s prose was seductively simple and beautiful, making this book something that’s worth a read when you’re in need of a wake up call or some positivity in harsh times. The only minor issues I had with the book is there were a few moments in the beginning after the outbreak that were a bit boring and I thought the ending could've been much more satisfying; it ended in a way that made this book doesn't feel like a standalone.
This is pretty much all I can say about the book without spoiling anything. It’s a short read—only a bit more than 300 pages long, and it's really worth your time. Station Eleven have won an incredible amount of awards and I’ll concur that they are quite well deserved.