Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

“The beauty of this world where almost everyone was gone. If hell is other people, what is a world with almost no people in it?”

4/5 stars.
ebook, 352 pages.
Read from August 24, 2020 to August 31, 2020. 

This book is what you get when you combine brilliant writing with an end-of-the world-based plot, a dash of Shakespeare, theatre/band nerds, celebrity gossip, religious cults, and the occasional Star Trek reference. It’s a collaboration that no one knew they needed and this was so close to being a 5-star rating for me.

A pandemic hits the world and wipes out 99% of the population within a very short period of time. It’s so contagious and deadly that those who catch the flu-like virus are dead within 48 hours. Each chapter is narrated by characters who will eventually be connected at one point or another throughout the book. The opening chapter begins with a famous actor, Arthur Leander, who has a heart attack while performing King Lear. An in-training EMT in the audience, Jeevan Chaudhary, who once was a paparazzi who followed Leander around in his previous career, jumps to stage to try and resuscitate him. A child actress, playing one of King Lear’s daughters, is comforted by Jeevan as Leander passes away. Outside, the outbreak was making its rounds in the city. Later that evening, Jeevan, having been given warning from a friend who works at a hospital, locks himself up with his paraplegic brother in his apartment as the world as we know it, ends.

Fast forward to the future where the few remaining humans barely survive in small stationed camps. The once child actress, Kristen is now with a travelling troupe of actors and musicians who travel from camp to camp performing Shakespeare. A lost art from a lost time that brings comfort. Kristen remembers very little of the time prior to the pandemic but holds onto a collection of comic books Leander gave her titled, Captain Eleven. After losing a few members of their troupe, Kristen and her fellow performers find themselves contending with a self-proclaimed religious prophet who kills those who don’t follow.

The Earth is a barren landscape of what humanity used to be and there are now generations of children who have never used electricity, the internet, or been inside a moving car or aeroplane. As each chapter of the book goes back and forth in time, you start to learn more about each of the character’s lives before the pandemic and how each of them is connected to Station Eleven.

This story had me from the opening chapter. The author artfully encompasses an end-of-the-world story that includes Shakespeare, so I was immediately hooked. What was peculiar about reading this book was the timing since I was in lockdown for the COVID pandemic. Probably not a good idea to read about a virus that wipes out the world in the middle of a real worldwide pandemic.

I didn’t want to put this book down but what stopped me from giving this book a 5-star rating was the ending. The ending left me wanting more, a lot more. I was expecting a bigger conclusion with some larger connection between all the characters. After some fast-paced action, the ending is happy and one in which all the characters can breathe a collective sigh of relief, of which I did enjoy immensely, it’s just that I was just hoping for more a twist or larger piece of the puzzle. Jeevan and his character felt completely dropped shortly after the pandemic and he didn’t play a relevant part in any of the character’s lives through the book and that was a huge disappointment. The ending felt like there was a lot left unsaid and after immensely enjoying the whole book I felt ending was dissatisfying.

This book will be a contender for the top book I’ve read in 2020, of that I have no doubt. I would strongly encourage you to pick up this book if any of the above topics interest you. The ending may not have been what I wanted but it was probably because I didn’t want it to end.

Monstress, Vol. 3: Haven by Marjorie M. Liu

“What happened once, will happen again…but in a different form. To become a future-teller, one needs only to study history.”

4/5 stars.
ebook, 196 pages.
Read on July 12, 2020.

The cryptic saga continues in Monstress Vol. 3. I read this in one sitting but I slightly regret doing so and may place this volume on my re-read list. 

This particular volume focuses heavily on the Old Gods, which as we’ve learned from previous volumes is what the entity that lives within Maika and his name is Zinn. Zinn betrayed the Shaman Empress, of which Maika is believed to be connected to and much of the plot focuses on this lore. As a reader, you somewhat expect to get more information on what is starting to unfold but the you’re often left with more questions as some aspects of the the lore and plot are quite cryptic.

Further, the Cumea and the Dusk Court are both out looking for Maika because of her connections with the Old Gods, and an impending war between the two sides looms again.  Maika and Kippa finds themselves in a city called Pontus, in which we learn that the city managed to stay safe during the last war due to a piece of armor that shielded the city. Unfortunately it is broken and knowing that a war is likely occur soon, Maika gets recruited by the city to help repair it. Kippa leaves and goes her own way shortly after this occurrence leaving Maika wondering about her connections to the people around her and how she has lived in survival mode for so long. Maika also comes to learn that she is not the only one with an Old God inside of her…

There is a lot to take in with this volume, it’s almost overwhelming, even more so than the first two volumes. However, it’s hard to complain when the artwork is so stunning and details such a visceral picture. Even though the lore is expansive in this volume, as a reader you start to really piece all the histories together to get a firmer grasp on this story and setting. I am looking forward to what awaits in the next volume. 

The Dragon Head of Hong Kong by Ian Hamilton

Ava Lee displays some remarkable skills and feats that don’t go unnoticed by the leader of the people she is working with but who is this Dragon-Head leader?

4/5 stars.
ebook,  166 pages.
Read from August 4 to August 9, 2020.

I stumbled across this read while browsing the Kobo store one day and was intrigued by the title and description. I’ve been in living in Hong Kong for nearly five years now and I love to read and watch films that are set here, finding thrill at recognizing the cities landmarks and skyline. While I don’t read a lot of mystery or action based books, I really enjoyed the prequel to this series and anticipate reading the next volume.

Ava Lee is an ambitious forensic accountant that recently opened her own firm after struggling to work for someone else. It’s boring work but the work and the firm is her own and she can do things as she sees fit. Ava Lee is a Hong Kong born Canadian, raised by her mother in Canada with her wealthy businessman father remaining in Hong Kong. Ava Lee gets a strange proposition from a very desperate friend if the family who has found himself swindled out of a $1 million CAD. Reluctant to take the seemingly impossible job, Ava Lee agrees to it on her mother’s insistence as well as her own intrigue for adventure. After arriving in Hong Kong, Ava Lee quickly finds herself tracking this scammer across the border in Shenzhen where she meets some scrupulous characters to help her catch the fraud. Ava Lee displays some remarkable skills and feats that don’t go unnoticed by the leader of the people she is working with but who is this Dragon-Head leader? Unsure of whether or not her immediate alliance is to be trusted, Ava Lee still must capture the scammer and return the money to its rightful owner.

One of my favourite aspects of this book was the descriptions of Hong Kong, as it’s clear this is a place the author knows well. I could see and recognize the streets, smells and sounds of the streets as Ava Lee walked through them.  I also found myself quite captivated by Ava Lee’s character and enjoyed the author’s easy and visual writing style. I also captivating by the story build up and I am very interested to see where the next part of Ava’s story goes.

I’d recommend this book to anyone who loves mystery or action based novels or anyone familiar with or interested in the wonderful city of Hong Kong.