Book title: Station Eleven
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian, Post-Apocalyptic
Author: Emily St. John Mandel
Date of discussion: 25 October 2015
Venue: Zest Cafe & Restaurant, Bangsar South
Average rating: 7.2/10
A novel of art, memory and ambition, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the fleeting nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it. Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful novel is told in a beautiful, dreamy prose.
The thread that connects these stories is Arthur Leander, an aging Hollywood star who, on the same night that the plague began destroying civilization, was trying to reboot his career when he died on stage in Toronto during King Lear. As Arthur falls in and out of love, as Jeevan watches the newscasters say their final good-byes, and as Kirsten finds herself caught in the path of the prophet, we see the strange twists of fate that connect them all.
“Survival is insufficient” is a line taken out from Star Trek: Voyager and woven into the novel as the Traveling Symphony’s motto. We discussed what it meant to us and concluded that this is where ordinary people have to decide for themselves what it means to be human. Survival is insufficient because to be fully alive, one needs to make choices that define one’s character; whether to embrace good or evil, and belonging in the world. For the Traveling Symphony, they found their passion and purpose as a group to pursue music and theatre and as a result, Shakespeare continued to live through them.
While some of us didn’t find the book gripping enough and could not see the point of the story, we all did agree that it will make you marvel at the world as we know it. Station Eleven will make you think twice about the things we have at our disposal that we constantly take for granted. Imagine what life would be like if mundane things such as WiFi and the Internet, a fresh warm mug of coffee, the refrigerator or a hot shower were suddenly snatched away.
In the world of Station Eleven, planes no longer fly, cars no longer drive. Humans no longer have running water, electricity, the Internet. The characters’ longing for the sound of electric guitars, cool air blowing from a vent, and the miracle of flight will remind you of how amazing the world we live in truly is.
Station Eleven scored an average rating of 7.2 from the five of us; Diana Yeong, Ai Jou Chuah, Naz Ghazali, Christine Kemp and myself, Vivian Ong, who attended this book discussion.