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.

The Winner of Canada Reads 2020 is…

Do agree with this years winner?

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After some tumultuous and aggressive debating, the winner of this year’s Canada Reads is We Have Always Been Here by Samra Habib!

While the debates and outcome definitely did not go as I was anticipating, however, I am satisfied with the results.

I will say that after this year’s debates, I think it’s imperative that CBC start to look at changing things up next year by having separate non-fiction and fiction debates. I think it’s just to difficult to size up books when they’re so different, especially since the winners from the last three years have been non-fiction.

What do you think about this year’s winner? How do you think the debates should proceed next year?

Canada Reads 2020 will resume in July

Need to get reacquainted? I’ve read all five books and have selected my favourites and predictions for this year’s winner.

Hooray! Canada Reads 2020 debates are back on with firm dates set in July. The debates were originally postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

I’ve read all five of the books in contending and I’m excited to finally have these books discussed. Need to get reacquainted? Here are the five contenders with links to my reviews.

Want to know who I think it’s going to take the cake? Check out my predictions and personal favourites post.

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Ways to Tune In:

ONLINE: CBC Books will livestream the debates at 11 a.m. ET on CBCBooks.caYouTubeFacebook and Gem. The debates will be available to replay online each day. The livestreams on YouTube and Facebook will be available to watch outside Canada.

ON RADIO: Canada Reads will air on CBC Radio at 11:05 a.m. ET, CT, MT, PT; at 1:05 p.m. in Atlantic Canada; and at 1:35 p.m. in Newfoundland and Labrador. A repeat of the show will air at 10:05 p.m. local time, 10:35 p.m. in Newfoundland and Labrador.

ON TV: CBC TV will broadcast Canada Reads at 4 p.m. local time.

PODCAST: New episodes of Canada Reads will be posted daily on CBC and on iTunes.