So I have a confession. Originally I had planned on writing this review about a fantastic non-fiction gem The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson before realizing that it was published all the way back in 2003. A novel that had been out for over a decade did not fit the goal of more current reviews that I had put forth for this particular set of posts. So I decided I should find something else to read and review. No big deal. Then I spent a fantastic booze-filled weekend in San Francisco with old friends and wasted all the reading time I’d set aside for the as yet undefined something else I was supposed to review today. So with my admittedly arbitrary self-imposed deadline looming over my head I did a quick search of 2014 best book lists looking for something I could power through in an afternoon. Good, bad, or weird didn’t really matter I was in get’r’done mode. The title Station Eleven get popping up and the length was right so I rolled the dice.
And now I’d like to take this opportunity to thank God, Allah, The Universe, Odin, or whatever kind of dumb luck governs these things that I did because holy shit is this book good. Emily St. John Mandel’s fourth novel follows three distinct story lines before, during, and after an apocalyptic pandemic, with the three protagonists linked by one single, fateful night. Part dystopian, part Shakespearean this genre bending tale weaves together a beautiful portrait of art, passion, love, and life so perfectly crafted that it’s incredible ingenuity and inventiveness are almost an afterthought. I say almost an afterthought because as lost as you can become in the novel’s poetic tales of humanity while you are reading it, when you finally do put it down you can see the whole of it for what the book really is: A master’s class in narrative structure.
Ms. St. John Mandel writes with a love and respect of the word that could rival Carlos Ruiz Zafon or Patrick Rothfuss, while her experimental style shares some strong similarities with David Mitchel’s Cloud Atlas. Though Station Eleven is slightly less ambitious and far better executed than that Mitchel’s own novel about humanity across the ages.
I don’t want to go into anymore detail as I would prefer to let you unwrap all of this novel’s joy for yourself. But I will close with two last thoughts. The first is that this book is an absolute no-brainer must read and it is now one of my default recommendations whenever someone asks what they should look at next. The second is that as soon as I hit publish on this post I’m going online and ordering Emily St. John Mandel’s previous three outings whereas yesterday I’d never heard of her. So what are you waiting for? Go pick it up. Station Eleven. In Stores Now.