Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Station Eleven


Book Title: Station Eleven
Author: Emily St. John Mandel
Date Started: February 8th 2015
Date Completed: February 11th 2015
Genres: Adventure, Dystopian
Quality Rating: Four stars
Enjoyment Rating: Three stars
Rating: Four stars

I really enjoyed Station Eleven and it was a nice variation on the post-pandemic/apocalyptic world, but for me it was just missing something to make it completely brilliant.

The writing in this book was very clever. The ordering of words etc itself was nice, and I fell very comfortably into reading it fast, but the big thing that impressed me about Station Eleven was the structuring. This story isn't told in chronological order, and we aren't shown any one character's full story: it's this big mix of bits and pieces from everyone, and thoughts and memories from characters, and little hints left to tie people together. What I really loved was the gradual reveal of the character's exposition because of this; you learnt about some of the characters as you followed them in 'present day', but then you realised you didn't really know them until you learnt something from another person's past - likewise, there's mentions of people in he apocalyptic world, but then we actually follow them in some chapters. while this sometimes didn't have the biggest impact on the story (only sometimes), it was really interesting and definitely kept my attention fixed.

There are just little parts of Station Eleven that I would never have thought of for the setting and just worked beautifully: the Travelling Symphony being the obvious example. Though the idea of a group of actors and musicians travelling around after the apocalypse isn't actually far fetched at all when you think about it, they're two things I would never have put together and thought of to make a story from. But it works so wonderfully, because the mere idea of Shakespeare performed in that setting is just brilliant to me. I was very disappointed when the performances stopped reasonably near the beginning - but the plot turns in a direction where it's impossible and rightly so. (The Severn Airport was also an idea I really loved - a museum of artefacts from the 'old world' - and Clark setting it up in memory of his partner hurt my heart a little bit.)
Though the story itself was good, the things that stick out to me while I'm writing this are the little details: the things that made Station Eleven different and interesting. So I'm not going to talk too much about the plot itself, but know that it's substantial and reasonably satisfying (perhaps the reason it wasn't perfect for me was because the story doesn't quite mark up to the little things). One big difference is the portrayal of a post-apoclyptic world, and I'm not sure that's the right word for it, because it's not exactly an apocalypse - a pandemic yes. But this world wasn't shown as a complete disaster with everyone deciding they might as well just give up now. And that, for me, was an amazing difference. It reminded me how long it's been since I've read a dystopian that doesn't mirror that one we all know and can't help but think about in this genre. But Station Eleven's world wasn't all disaster; there were nicer moments and there were feelings of safety between these people, and it actually made it feel a lot more real - and definitely more interesting. This wasn't overdone either - there was an almost perfect balance between the harsh realities of the world, but the nice reminiscent stuff too.

The characters in Station Eleven were great: even the evil ones had a backstory and a development to who they are in the 'present day' of the narrative - and the jumps in time meant we really got to explore these developments.
Kirsten was my favourite character in this book, and I loved very slowly tying together her past. But actually, I think as we followed her story (she's really the protagonist in the 'present day') just getting to know the older Kirsten was enough to make me love her: she's not made out to be this huge hero, or to know everything, or to be particularly special or anything. She really is just normal, and yet she still stands out because we follow her and we learn about her - it just goes to show for me that a main character doesn't have to have all these crazy rarities to be interesting or important.
Clark was the loveliest character in the story and I don't think I want to reveal anything else about him.
Everything in this book seemed to tie together beautifully - apart from Jeevan. I loved his character and his story was great, but it just stuck out to me as the one thing that didn't intertwine so closely with everything else. I don't think it's a bad thing, but it just felt a bit strange - at the very least I was expecting Kisrten to bump into his on the road and never find out their connections.

There's a nice structure in this book, so the pace of the action itself doesn't matter too much since we're tying pieces of information together as we go instead of getting consequences from events. I found it really hard to put down because of this, and the reasonable lengths of chapters helped.

Station Eleven's a really good variation on typical post-apoclyptic books, but it also combines some other elements you wouldn't expect. While it has its serious parts, there's also more heartwarming scenes than is typical of the dystopian genre.

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