Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
When I saw this book on a few lists of anticipated/books to read for this year, I remember reading the summary and just thinking, meh. Then a bunch of Cannonballers recommended it, and I was like FINE. FINE GODDAMMIT, I WILL READ THE FUCKING BOOK. Oh, you did not steer me wrong.
How could I not love a goddamn book about a travelling symphony that performs Shakespeare during what is essentially the end of the world? None of that’s a spoiler. None of that ruins the book. But for some reason this Mad Max adventure by way of the Furious Folger’s Shakespearean Library never came through in the descriptions. So that teaches you a lesson. Blurb hard you bastards. BLURB WELL.
The narrative swims between the world before the plague strikes, and the world after, gently easing characters together and easing them apart. The only other dystopian adventure I’ve liked more is Alan Moore’s Crossed 100+. How to explain Crossed. Wow. Kay. Um, a plague hits that causes people to essentially become every base primal instinct. They fuck, swear, cannibalized, and kill mercilessly. The disease is transmittable through fluid contact. So you have a world where these naked torsos are raping babies and chopping off people’s necks and fucking the wordholes. Those are in the tamer issues. So, yeah. Flash forward one hundred years. The survivors have built an entirely new society. People talk in this insane patois comprised of swear words and slangish English. So they’re all trying to survive while the Crossed have apparently fucked and killed themselves into oblivion. Anyway, read it.
But yeah, that’s what I liked about Station Eleven. We’re only a few decades out from the outbreak, so society has collapsed, but it’s also managed to barely put itself back together. The novel leaps back and forth in time, interweaving the time before the plague to the days after to the earliest days. It’s not gimmicky, and it gives it a nice freshness, so the characters don’t just develop forwards but fill in backwards too.
Anyway, if you’ve ever done theatre — especially Shakespeare — or if you dig on the dystopian lit like I do, I highly recommend this. You’ll dig it with both hands.