WARNING MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
You might be surprised why I quote Star Trek: Voyager at the beginning of a book review. But in fact this quote plays an important part in the book Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel.
This book is not your typical straight forward this is the hero and this is the antagonist dystopian novel.
In Station Eleven it is actually rather hard to decide who even is the main character. As the book switches between many views. One that definitely comes up most is the view of Kirsten who has made it to the dystopian future.
In the first chapter we start out with Arthur Leander who plays old King Lear dies on stage presumably due to a heart attack. This is only the beginning of the epidemic that grips the world. Though it is never cleared up if Arthurs death was actually natural cause or if it was maybe related to the plague that wiped out most of the world.
Through some miracle Kirsten survives the plague and makes it to her mid-twenties, though she was on the stage with Arthur when the plague started spreading. By that time 15 years have passed in Station Eleven. She is now part of the so called Travelling Symphony and is an actor still. The Travelling Symphony travels from camp to camp. Now that is what I call it. One might call it civilisations also. It is in fact groups of survivors that have decided to stick together and set up a new home spread across the US and Canada.
It should be noted though that the Travelling Symphony has created a map which they follow over the years in order to not get into dangerous territory, as not all the ‚civilisations‘ are friendly.
Switching between characters puts together a whole new picture
As Station Eleven progresses we get to switch between characters. One moment we are in the post-epidemic future with Kirsten and then we are suddenly back with Arthur Leander. Even though, as I mentioned, the view that appears most in the book belongs to Kirsten, the whole book of Station Eleven seems to evolve around Arthur Leander and how he became a famous Hollywood actor. Kirsten has only met him as a child and was fascinated by the man once the epidemic had struck the world. In the future that unfolds afterwards she is in constant search of snippets about Arthur and his life and carries around a little bag with everything she has found.
Other characters that we read through in Station Eleven, show different life stages and character traits of Arthur, putting together an image over time about who he really is.
A book worth your while
The book itself feels to me very complete. It is hard to describe, but for some reason the book just clicked with me. But in all honesty it took me a chapter or two to really get into it, but once I did I had a hard time putting it down.
It is interesting to see, that Ms Mandel envisions a future post-apocalypse where people are happy to listen to Beethovens music and see Shakespeares plays time and again. That is what the Travelling Symphony is for. They carry bits of the past with them in the future.
It also seems that in the future we as the human race, would be able to work together. Maybe not in a global way as it was before the epidemic, but still groups form and live together in a civilised way. Even when a group decided that their new found religion was the way to go and forced one of the groups to follow their way, they managed to get rid of that eventually. Though it was only possible due to those religious people being eradicated.
In my opinion this book is definitely worth a read. It sticks out between the usual dystopian stories like Divergent or The Hunger Games, as it takes a more civilised and calm look on a post-apocalyptic future.
Furthermore it does not focus on a big love story that is important to the outcome of the book. Love does play a role, but it is not the main focus, as it is in many other stories.
If you wish to read why people in the future are so keen on watching old Shakespeare plays and how the phrase „Survival is insufficient“ can even apply today, than definitely give Station Eleven a read.