Friday, December 26, 2014

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mantel

Where were you when the world changed forever?  Kirsten Raymonde was eight years old and a child actress.  She is on stage in a production of King Lear when the main character, played by legendary actor, Arthur Leander, collapses and dies.  Jeevan Chaudhary, an EMT in training, is in the stage and attempts to give Arthur CPR.  Arthur's best friend, Clark Thompson, has sold out his artistic yearnings long ago and is now a management consultant.

What changes the world?  A disease with an innocent sounding name, the Georgia Flu.  But it's not mild and sunny; instead it is the most virulent strain of flu seen.  The survival rate?  One percent.  In a matter of days, ninety-nine percent of the world's population is gone.  Then everything else goes.  Flight, the Internet, communications, grocery stores, everything gone, gone, gone.  All that is left are the survivors, attempting to find ways to manage what life is left to them.

Kirsten joins a group of artists who move from settlement to settlement, called the Traveling Symphony.  Jeevan is now a settlement's nearest thing to a doctor, although the rigors of post-antibiotic and pain medicine surgery is daunting.  Clark was one of a group of people who were on the last flights, diverted to a small airport where they have been living for twenty years now.  In addition to being survivors, they are connected by a small comic series, Station Eleven, created by Arthur's first wife, about the rigors of living in a post-trauma world.  Once entertainment, the series is now inspiration.

The three come together to fight a threat, a Prophet who believes only he is right, and that everyone else must do what he commands.  As they do so, they continue to struggle towards a new life that can replace the one they lost.

Emily St. John Mantel is one of the best of the new novelists, and this is probably her breakout book.  Her writing is calm, moving on inevitably, taking the reader along.  Not a word is extra and the pace moves the story along quickly.  Her vision of what the world would look like after a disaster and how the survivors would interact and build something new is inspiring as well as chilling.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction as well as science fiction fans.

No comments: