Audiobook Review: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mendal

Station ElevenSource: Library
Publisher: Random House Audio
Series: –
Narrator: Kirsten Potter
Edition: Audiobook, 10 hour and 41 mins
Genre: Science Fiction Post Apocalyptic
Purchase: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Book Depository  *
*I receive a small monetary kickback from Amazon purchases
Rating: 4.5/5

An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.

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.

Station Eleven is one of those super hyped books that actually surprised me because of it’s substance. I tend to avoid the hype, because chances are it presents something ‘new’ but in an easy and somewhat mind-numbing way that in the end makes the story just like everything else. This is so not the case. Station Eleven is a beautifully told tale that centers around several people who in someway have a connection to a man named Arthur, who never saw the new world.

Arthur is an actor who dies on stage leaving behind several ex-wives, friend, and people who have some connection to him. 20 years after the Georgia Flu takes hold, killing most of the worlds human population, those people he’s left behind are having their stories told. I loved the back and forth narrative style that Station Eleven has. Instead of a linear story we get bits a pieces from the past of several people, some times Arthur but most of the time it’s those who knew him well or in passing. We get to see Arthur’s slow rise into stardom and his turbulent relationships, and how Kirsten and Jeevan fit into the mix and how that night changed everything.

The main theme of the story is that ‘survival is insufficient’ and I think it’s a beautiful notion to hold on to. Many of the characters carrying the past with them in some way, and those that are old enough to remember the ‘before’ try to give some of that knowledge to those who are too young or have been born into the new world. Art, music, pieces of the previous life are all things that these characters try to hold on to the most…and we get to see how that can go wrong as well. It has the beautiful literary style that helps it stick in your memory, but it doesn’t detract from the still dangerous world that these people live in. I love it when a post apocalyptic story focuses more on human nature than the actual happenings of the downfall. There is just something so poignant about reading a story where the characters are forced to rise above and seeing just how that can go so differently for each person.

The narrator, Kirsten Potter, was excellent! She had the right pacing and I found myself enjoying it quite a lot on normal speed, which is something I usually loathe doing.

Station Eleven is certainly worth the hype!

4.5 Stars

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One Response to Audiobook Review: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mendal

  1. Hey Michelle! I just finished this one too and really enjoyed it. I love your point that the lyrical, literary style doesn’t detract from the danger of the story – so smart. I think in a way too, it even highlights the danger because the style and substance are sort of at odds with one another. Great review! Feel free to check out my review and let me know what you think 🙂

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