Post-Apocalyptic Fiction: Station Eleven
Posted by Pamela Bobker on April 20th, 2016
In Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, 99% of the world’s population has been killed by a devastating flu. The story opens at a production of King Lear, where aging actor Arthur Leander drops dead of a heart attack, just as the flu pandemic strikes. The narrative is organized around several characters present at the theater, and goes back and forth in time following the characters as they make their way through a dystopian world. Kristin, for example, is one of the survivors, who was a child onstage with Arthur when the flu struck and is now part of a traveling troupe of musicians and actors. Arthur’s friend Clark is part of a stationary group stuck for years in an airport and he takes on the role of curating a kind of museum to the past. Though Arthur dies at the outset of the book, he provides the connection among the characters, as he has touched each of them in some way.
Apocalyptic, Post-Apocalyptic, Dystopian–what’s the difference? Apocalyptic is when the devastating event happens during the book; in post-apocalyptic fiction, the story happens after some sort of catastrophic event. And dystopia is just the opposite of utopia – a future that is not desirable. The end of civilization may be caused by nuclear war, climate change, pandemic, divine judgment, an impact event (comet), cybernetic revolt, supernatural phenomena or an alien invasion. A current trend is the zombie apocalypse, in which the world is taken over by zombies, the undead who usually attack people. In Station Eleven, there are no zombies or other creepy things. It simply traces the story of how several people survive after the pandemic, and how their lives intersect. Even if you think post-apocalyptic books are not your “thing” I urge you to give it a try; it’s about people, relationships, and the fragility of life as we know it.
If post-apocalyptic books ARE your thing, here are some others:
The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood (2009)
Flood by Stephen Baxter (2008)
The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig (2015)
The Dog Stars by Peter Heller (2012)
The Children of Men by PD James (1993)
The Stand by Stephen King (1978)
The Leftovers by Tom Perotta (2011)
Zone One by Colin Whitehead (2011)