Review by Tilly Martin
Setting her story in the decaying environment of a post-apocalyptic earth, Emily St John Mandel details the journey of several characters, all somehow intertwined, who are trying to make it in this new world. One of the most interesting aspects of the novel is that, unlike the custom in books of this genre, most aspects of the story are very realistic. There are no zombies and no individuals with semi-magical powers to save the day; every character is a hero in their own way, surviving on their own.
Mandel does a great job of describing a world that is quite imaginable for the reader. There are moments of high tension and great sadness, and every loss feels raw. Hearing that this is a novel about the end of human beings, potential readers might assume that in reading the novel they might become numb to death as it is such a common occurrence, but in Station Eleven, death is respected and marked whenever it happens; every death feels like a loss. For me, this is one of the great charms of Mandel’s novel, as she emphasises to readers what the really valuable things are in life, and how you don’t necessarily notice what these are until an important person or connection is lost.
For this reason, I would definitely recommend this book, as in addition to having great action sequences, deep characterisation and a good plot, the book is so life-affirming. Immediately after reading the first section your view on the world directly in front of you will change to one of appreciation. It will make you imagine what it would be like to have all of that familiarity, comfort and luxury taken away from you and to be forced to try and rebuild it, alone. Above all, though, the wonderful character relations Emily Mandel creates in the book affirm for all readers that the most important assets in life are togetherness and community.
Tilly Martin is a second-year joint honours Education Studies and English Literature student at York St John University.