Review: Station Eleven

Station Eleven comes with an excellent pedigree. Emily St. John Mandel’s novel was nominated for many awards – winning several – and got a shout out from the folks at Make Me Smart. It’s partially based in a post-pandemic world, which resonates with the current times pretty strongly.

Even without the timely topical resonances, it’s quite a good book. She’s written a nice combination of plot-driven mystery in the vein of Crash or Magnolia, post-apocalyptic page turner, celebrity send-up, and meditation on the role of art in societies both pre- and post-industrial. That’s a lot of balls to keep up in the air, and she does it with brio.

The structure is impeccable and the writing is quite lively. There’s a lot to like here, but beyond the resonances with my current safer-at-home perspective, it never caught fire for me. That’s strange and frustrating for me to conclude. Analytically, I can point at a lot of great features of this book, but nothing brought it alive for me. I guess I chalk it up to the magic of art. If it does sound like something you’d life, do give it a try. As I say, I think it’s very well done. It may pop for you in a way it did not for me.


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