No one paid much attention to the Georgia Flu at first, thinking it was localised to Russia. Day One, it arrives in Toronto. One week later, civilisation is collapsing. The death rate is estimated at 99%. Year Twenty, a band of travelling musicians and actors perform to the scattered towns of the survivors. This is the world now, few even remembering when planes flew and electricity brought light to the dark.
I read this excellent post-apocalyptic tale in a day; one of the things that kept me glued to the pages was the mystery of the dog. How did one of the same breed and name come to be there? This web of connections is a defining feature of Station Eleven. We are told the story of a man who died the day Georgia Flu hit North America, but he did not die from the plague. We know he is connected to Kirsten, one of the Travelling Symphony, but why is his backstory so prominent when he is no longer alive?
The motto of the Travelling Symphony is “survival is not sufficient” taken from an episode of Star Trek. I liked that the story focused on a time after the chaos of the plague had subsided and people had found ways to live to some extent. That maybe they could start to think about doing more than just surviving and the arts being part of that. They perform Shakespeare, plays from a time of a different plague, that also prove more popular than more modern offerings. Maybe they provide one small connection to the lost past.
Of course, after society collapses there will always be less than good people who rise up and take advantage. Sometimes the symphony meet these people on their travels. They would normally avoid these towns in future; their philosophy is to not get involved in the politics of others. But sometimes that’s easier said than done.
The title comes from a series of comics, produced on a small scale, which struck a chord with Kirsten who was given them as a child. They serve as a connection to the before but the content shares characteristics with the after. As a side note, the UK cover is in the same hues as the comics (and is so much more inviting than the US offering).
The narrative jumps around between Year Twenty, which is the present and various points in the past. Much of it in the before but as the story progresses and the connections start to snowball, some of the immediate after is revealed. It’s not a story of heroes but of normal people, working out how to live their lives when nearly everything they know is gone.
Station Eleven is published by Picador and will be available in hardback and ebook editions from 10th September 2014. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.
Shelve next to: The Dog Stars by Peter Heller
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.
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