Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

In a primitive world changed by a flu pandemic, a band of minstrels and actors wander the American midwest performing Shakespeare to the survivors. As the novel's timeline flashes back and forth - before and after the Georgia Flu - we see the interconnectedness of the survivors, whose stories link back to a celebrity actor, Arthur Leander.

This book was on a lot of best of 2015 lists and was a finalist for the National Book Award. The author went on record saying she doesn't consider it sci-fi because there's no technology and gadgets involved. She says it's literary fiction.

While the "no technology" is technically accurate and the traveling symphony-and-Shakespeare troupe offers a bit of high-brow flair, I think it's cutting a pretty fine line to say this post-apocalypse novel isn't really in the sci-fi genre. The book is at heart a look at the invisible links between people, man's ability to adapt to survive, and a look at what the world could be like without "modern technology."

I enjoyed the book. The shifting perspectives keep the narrative moving along without getting bogged down in the minutia of survival, plus allow some dramatic tension as story threads cut out and return again later. I was pleasantly surprised a couple times as the connections back to Arthur were revealed.

Plus, now I know that living in the airport may be the best option, post-plague.

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