by Emily St. John Mandel
Hardcover, 352 pages
This novel has been described as the perfect post-apocalyptic story for those who hate post-apocalyptic stories. We couldn't agree more. The story essentially begins with the end of the world. One night, in a Toronto theater, onstage performing the role of King Lear, 51-year-old Arthur Leander has a fatal heart attack. There is barely time for people to absorb this shock when tragedy on a significantly larger scale arrives in the form of a flu pandemic so lethal that, within weeks, most of the world’s population has been killed.
What makes Station Eleven so impressive is the way that it departs from generic convention. The novel is less horror story than elegiac lament; its pacing is slow and its style understated. It is terrifying, reminding us of how paper-thin the achievements of civilization are. But it’s also surprisingly — and quietly — beautiful.