Cover links to Goodreads
Genre: Dystopia, Science Fiction
Author: Emily St. John Mandel
One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time-from the actor’s early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as the Traveling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains – this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet.
*minor spoilers ahead 😉
The pace is relentless, the suspense is subtle but present. If your attention wanders, anything can happen, like, bam! in a second and you’ll be left wondering what’s going on. All through reading it I was trying to link past to present and tie the strings together. It’s sort of like a thriller where you try to follow the investigation, except this time, it’s COOKIES being murdered. And chocolate. Aka everything comfortable xD
If I had to describe this book in one word, it would be BEAUTIFUL. Everything in it summons a beautiful and aching picture. The scenery of a fallen world, the clockwork of the past and present of the characters, coming together before my eyes . Every little detail is meaningful, put there for a reason. In fact, this book brought to my attention the small details that go unnoticed, but are the stepping stones to what happens in the future. The writer masterfully weaves the thread of past, present and future, and underlines the impacts of a world turned dystopia on the human psyche.
One of my favorite things about this book is that reading it for the first time is like rereading it for the first time. You know how when you reread a book, you get to see all these little details you missed that give a tiny hint of the future ? This book, amazingly enough, does that on the first read.
*In addition, I love, love, LOVE the story of Dr. Eleven and Station Eleven. The symbolic meaning of it that hints of what happened to the world and what happened to the characters, and the beauty of the whole story, let alone the fact it was drawn way before the world’s collapse. *sigh*
Finally, this book takes a common setting, a dystopia, and displays it from a new angle. An angle where what’s most important is not the world in catastrophe, but what’s happening in the minds of the people in it. What’s more, A heavily featured theme in it is art, which is something people desperately need in such times, to remember what’s it like to live, instead of merely survive.
One small thing I wished I had seen more of is character depth of the Traveling Symphony members. Especially August, Kirsten, Sayid and Dieter. I’d have loved to see more of their relationship and dynamics.
All in all, this book is a new dystopian favorite of mine. I’m probably going to reread it in the future. Highly recommend it if you love a complex plot with a time-traveler-like POV, dystopias, and wonderful writing.
Favorite quotes: “ ‘We long only to go home,’ ” Kirsten said. This was from the first issue, Station Eleven. A face-off between Dr. Eleven and an adversary from the Undersea. “ ‘We dream of sunlight, we dream of walking on earth.’ ”
“I stood looking over my damaged home and tried to forget the sweetness of life on Earth.”