Sunday, 29 March 2015

Station Eleven: Book Review | The Small Desk

Every time I went into any bookshop I kept seeing this book: it was in the charts section, the recommended reading, in the window, everywhere. Then I bought it on a whim because I couldn't stand not knowing what 'Station Eleven' was. Turns out knowing what 'Station Eleven' is isn't some great mystery, and by telling you I won't be ruining the story. It is the title of a comic book that joins the dots throughout the entire novel.

When I read the blurb for this book I felt none the wiser, and when I re-read the blurb I am still not sure if it is a good enough overview: it doesn't exactly sell the book to me. It was the continuous promotion and the fact that it is a New York Times bestseller that sold it to me. The blurb states: 'If civilisation was lost, what would you preserve? And how far would you go to protect it?' Now that I re-read it, I'm not sure this is really what the book is about. The reason I liked reading this novel is that I wanted to see how the lives of every character overlapped: which characters' lives would be the next to overlap and how each characters' life would evolve from pre-collapse to what seemed like the beginning of the next chapter of the collapse.

Written by Emily Mandel, a Canadian dancer, this novel speculates as to what it would be like if the majority of the population on earth was wiped out by a flu virus. It is a dystopian novel. I was worried that I wouldn't like the novel as I like to read things that are feasible. I don't like Sci-fi or fantasy-fiction, and I can assure you that this novel is neither of these genres.

Mandel makes it relatable by detailing how long the electricity lasts, how the internet is lost, and how the iPhone becomes a relic in a museum. The novel is incredibly detailed and descriptive, to the point where you start believing this is really what the next era in the earth's history could be like. The first few years after the collapse are terrifying, people who would never kill, kill to survive, but after 15 years or so it starts to become a bit more civilised and hope is not lost for humanity.

The whole story starts with the death of a famous actor, Arthur Leander, and despite him not particularly enjoying the fame towards the end of his life, his name is remembered throughout the novel and helps the reader to string together the numerous plot lines. The novel jumps across different timezones, time periods and lifetimes. I'm not sure I know exactly what the core message of the book is, or if there is one, but I can tell you one thing, it is definitely a book that helps you escape the daily grind, but also to appreciate the daily grind, as there is no daily grind for the people of the collapse, there is no normality.
This is the third book review on The Small Desk, the other two are: Elizabeth is Missing and The Miniaturist.
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