2017 is going to see some changes on my blog, and one of them will be an increase in bookish posts. If you're not into that then soz, but it'll be happening regardless. Books make up such a massive part of my life that it just makes no sense to confine them to my secondary blog anymore. I'll not be posting the same content on both blogs of course - that's going to stay firmly review filled, whilst I'll be making posts like this one, book hauls and other quirky book-related posts here on Nourish ME.
Winter always sees an increase in how much I read. It's a great way to slow down time as time seems to be ever quickening in the lead up to Christmas. Despite reading a few great books this month, Station Eleven really shone out for me. I was totally hooked. And by that I mean reading until I fall asleep with the book in my hand, reading snippets on my bus journey to work, and curling up with the book during every spare moment I had.
In a world that seems so fucked up right now (sorry 2016 but you did shit on us all a bit) it was both comforting and terrifying to read this dystopian novel from Emily St John Mandel. Comforting in that the end of the world as we know it didn't involve a dictatorial American president, but concerning in that the world was stripped of everything we hold dear.
Now, I'm not going to lie, I may have picked this up because the blurb reminded me of 'The Walking Dead'. But that's totally acceptable. The main premise of Station Eleven is that the world has been hit by a flu pandemic, killing 99% of the population. As the flu rapidly spreads across North America, amenities such as groceries and electricity are wiped out. People are forced to endure horrific tragedies as they watch their family members die, only to be left in a world that forces them to go back to the root of their ancestors.
Mandel switches between the present - 20 years after the pandemic hits - and the past to show the difference between the two worlds. A twenty year gap means there are a whole host of people that never experienced planes, cars, telephones, the internet: everything we use on a daily basis. And it raises the question of whether they're better off not knowing the world as it was before.
With a sudden loss of family and friends, people either band together or become lonesome nomads. We read of the group of people living in an airport, joined together as if family because they were in the same place when the flu struck. The main text however centres around a travelling symphony, who bear the motto 'survival is insufficient'; a motto they, oddly enough, gained from Star Trek.
One of the most interesting things about Station Eleven is possibly that it contains no true central protagonist. We could say it's Arthur Leander, an actor whose life is featured in much of the book. Or it could be several of his ex-wives. Or Kirsten Raymonde, a lead actor in the travelling symphony. Or even Clarke Thompson, Arthur's best friend.
I love books that come with a character's back story. By interweaving the lives and plot projection of so many of the main characters, Mandel gradually reveals to us the driving forces of a diverse group of people struck by a world disaster. It raises the question: what would it do to you? Is survival insufficient?
Indeed, when the travelling symphony reach a town that a couple of their band decided to live in, they realise that not everyone has coped with the tragedy as well as they may have done. The town has fallen victim to a mysterious prophet, who believes that him and his people have been saved from the plight of others' because of an innate goodness or, in his case, an innate divinity. When the symphony can get no answers from any of the townsfolk regarding the whereabouts of their settled members, they start to wonder whether the prophet is more dangerous than he originally seemed.
I basically need a sequel to this to come out asap! Have you read it? What is your book of the month?