Book: Station Eleven
Author: Emily St. John Mandel
One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur's chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.
Fifteen years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten's arm is a line from Star Trek: "Because survival is insufficient." But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave.
Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful, elegiac novel is rife with beauty. 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 crosshairs of the prophet, we see the strange twists of fate that connect them all. A novel of art, memory, and ambition, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.-Goodreads
Review: I was prepared to love this book. Every one of my friends rated it 5 stars. Every one of them. I tried, I really did, but this was like going on a date with your dream guy and discovering he was as boring as he was good looking. Lest I seem too negative here, I didn't hate this book by any means, and I do think St. John Mandel is a talented writer. The best thing about this novel is how it's constructed. I like how she switches narratives and timelines, and if this is her style, I definitely want to read more of her stuff.
That being said, I found it predictable, boring and I was unable to connect to any character except for Jeevan, who was MIA most of the book. There is definitely a theme in post apocalyptic books (and I've read many of them) where the religious people are the crazy or evil ones. It's repetitive. The 'big bad' so to speak in this book was not a surprise (I'm not even sure if the reader was supposed to be surprised by his identity) and never really that scary. Kirsten (think of Katniss with less characterization) and the traveling symphony had potential, but I could never care about any of them. I was really interested in Jeevan (paparazzi turned paramedic, I mean, how cool is that?) but he was underutilized. Perhaps most concerning is that I kept taking breaks to research other books on goodreads and catch up on news while I was literally in the middle of chapters. I should have burned through this book in a few hours but it took me several days.
Overall-well written with a unique structure, but the characters failed to keep me engaged.