This is a very short review, just to say that I loved this novel.
The subject matter is relatively bleak: the world as we know it ends in the first chapter, as a super-flu wipes out almost every human being on the planet.
People who find Station Eleven "too comforting": look, I killed off 99.99% of the population with a superflu.— Emily St. J. Mandel (@EmilyMandel) March 30, 2015
In fairness, I guess I could've taken out the remaining .01%. But then it would be a novel about deer and cockroaches.— Emily St. J. Mandel (@EmilyMandel) March 30, 2015
The story develops, from there, into its past and its future, expanding like a spider’s web. Twenty years after the plague, we see a troupe of actors and musicians wandering the ruined northern reaches of Michigan, dealing with hostile towns and lost comrades. We also see the characters in the past (of the novel’s beginning), living their lives just as we are now, trying to make sense of existence, seeking fulfillments and rewards of varying kinds, pursuing art and each other.
The book, to me, possessed an enormous kindness, both to its characters and its readers. Station Eleven seemed filled with a sense that life, and the things we consider central to life (art, love, the self, the imagination, behaving decently to others), are of true and worthy significance. The apocalypse does not, it turns out, change those things, even as the survivors of our era head down into brutality and fear.
And although the narrative jumps from one character to the next, and one time period to the next, the reader is never confused, never slowed. It’s serious writing, and yet also a quick read.