Station Eleven

A National Book Award Finalist
A PEN/Faulkner Award Finalist

Kirsten Raymonde will never forget the night Arthur Leander, the famous Hollywood actor, had a heart attack on stage during a production of King Lear. That was the night when a devastating flu pandemic arrived in the city, and within weeks, civilization as we know it came to an end.

Twenty years later, Kirsten moves between the settlements of the altered world with a small troupe of actors and musicians. They call themselves The Traveling Symphony, and they have dedicated themselves to keeping the remnants of art and humanity alive. But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who will threaten the tiny band’s existence. And as the story takes off, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, the strange twist of fate that connects them all will be revealed.

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, September 2014: A flight from Russia lands in middle America, its passengers carrying a virus that explodes “like a neutron bomb over the surface of the earth.” In a blink, the world as we know it collapses. “No more ballgames played under floodlights,” Emily St. John Mandel writes in this smart and sober homage to life’s smaller pleasures, brutally erased by an apocalypse. “No more trains running under the surface of cities … No more cities … No more Internet … No more avatars.” Survivors become scavengers, roaming the ravaged landscape or clustering in pocket settlements, some of them welcoming, some dangerous. What’s touching about the world of Station Eleven is its ode to what survived, in particular the music and plays performed for wasteland communities by a roving Shakespeare troupe, the Traveling Symphony, whose members form a wounded family of sorts. The story shifts deftly between the fraught post-apocalyptic world and, twenty years earlier, just before the apocalypse, the death of a famous actor, which has a rippling effect across the decades. It’s heartbreaking to watch the troupe strive for more than mere survival. At once terrible and tender, dark and hopeful, Station Eleven is a tragically beautiful novel that both mourns and mocks the things we cherish. –Neal Thompson

Nanci Arvizu, Writing and Reviews Editor

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  1. Survival is insufficient This is a beautiful, haunting novel about the end of the world as we know it (thanks to something called the Georgia flu, which wipes out 99% of the world’s population in mere days). The story jumps back and forth between the time before and after “the collapse,” and the narration rotates through various characters’ points of view. Though the premise (plague apocalypse) sounds sci-fi, Station Eleven is light on the science and heavy on the philosophy. It’s definitely much more about how the…

  2. Why all the raving reviews? I didn’t dislike this book but I didn’t particularly like it either. And I’m really blown away by all the five star ratings it has received. It’s essentially a pre and post-apocalyptic story. A pandemic infects the world and kills 99% of the population. One of the major issues with this book is the meandering timeline. There are two primary storylines (and several subplots) one before the Georgian flu about an aging actor and one after about actress who was alive when…

  3. Short of potential I sometimes wonder if I’m too critical; why I see so many holes in stories that keep me from deriving the unbridled pleasure so many others seem to experience. I really loved this book at first and the jacket premise that sold it to me at an independent bookstore is a fascinating one – a traveling symphony wandering the Great Lakes after the collapse of society. 

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