Saturday 28 February 2015

Station Eleven

Christopher Priest has already given a far more eloquent appraisal of this novel than I am capable of - read his review here - but I cannot resist adding my own response. What a phenomenal book: beautiful, complex, haunting, humane, surprising at every turn, and so marvellously constructed that you hardly dare breathe. Like the best science fiction (I am not sure quite what I would call this book) it makes us see the world through fresh eyes, with a luminous new clarity.

The end of air travel is a recurrent motif running through the novel: the characters are constantly looking up into the sky, remembering what it was to like to see planes, and the people born after the collapse of civilisation have no real understanding of how aircraft operated. There's a marvellous scene in which one of the older characters patiently tries to explain the purpose of runways, and that rocket ships were not the same as airliners. Later, the action converges on an airport, where the rusting forms of airliners still litter the runways and parking slots.

Not for the first time, I was reminded of this piece by Alain de Botton:

How we would admire planes if they were no longer there to frighten and bore us. We would stroke their steel dolphin-like bodies in museums and honour them as symbols of a daunting technical intelligence and a prodigious wealth. 

Similarly, Emily St John Mandel's book reminds us what a privelege it is to be alive in the present day, in this time of wonders and miracles that we mostly take absolutely for granted.


  1. I'm going to read this book based on your recommendation. Coupled with the cover art and that de Botton quote I'm eager to be reminded of the remarkable in everything around me.

  2. Hi Al -
    That quote is very similar to that by Aldo Leopold writing about the loss of the Passenger Pigeon:
    "There will always be pigeons in books and in museums, but these are
    effigies and images, dead to all hardships and to all delights.
    Book-pigeons cannot dive out of a cloud to make the deer run for
    cover, nor clap their wings in thunderous applause of mast-laden
    woods. They know no urge of seasons; they feel no kiss of sun, no lash
    of wind and weather; they live forever by not living at all."
    Its interesting how a sense of loss has similar sentiments regardless of subject.
    Station Eleven keeps creeping up my to-read list!

  3. I am rooting for this novel to succeed incredibly because I think there's at least one other story to tell in this universe, and I deliberately slowed down for the final chapters; I so did not want this book to end.

  4. I can't go on enough about how much I enjoyed this book, it was SERIOUSLY that good!! No wonder there was a big star on the cover with the words "A BEA Buzz Book". I'm buzzing about wanting to read the next one!

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