How long could you survive without the internet? Would you be able to live without electricity and vehicles for transport? Emily St John Mandel brings these topics to fruition within her fourth novel ‘Station Eleven’. The dystopian novel takes the popular technique named the ‘Rashomon Effect’ in film (narrating a story through various characters) and applies it directly to the several narrators throughout. We gain an insight on a pandemic that hits society through characters eyes, we read their thoughts and how they cope in retaliation to the world slowly coming to a standstill. Emily St John Mandel provides the reader not only with this perspective, but of the world before the apocalypse and the world after the apocalypse has occurred. Allowing the reader to differentiate between how the characters cope.
The novel follows a young child actor named Kristen from Toronto, who is only eight years old when a fictional swine flu pandemic, named the “Georgia Flu” quickly decimates a majority of the population on Earth. Throughout the novel, Mandel introduces us to several differing characters whose paths are all intertwined in some way. Another main character that is presented by Mandel is Arthur Leander, a vastly affluent film actor who shifts between three dejected marriages. Through Arthur, the reader is introduced to his son, Tyler who is stranded in the fictional city named ‘Severn’ for years after the epidemic, with his mother Elizabeth (Arthur’s second wife). Miranda Carroll- Arthur’s first wife- is eleven years younger than him and is portrayed as an artist creating a graphic novel named, Station Eleven. She ends up giving Arthur the finished copy of her graphic novel and he gives it to his wife and son. These little actions occur throughout the novel, exhibiting the ‘Butterfly Effect’ and its consequences eloquently.
Although the novel jumps from the past and the future constantly, the narrative throughout is clearly presented by Mandal. The relationships the characters make are well developed when the reader is introduced to a theatre troupe named the ‘Travelling Symphony’ later on in the novel. They spend their time roaming various settlements performing an array of Shakespeare plays.
The novel is marketed in the Science fiction/Post-apocalyptic section; however Emily St John Mandal herself doesn’t believe that it falls into this category because there aren’t any instances of fictional technology being used. Either way, Station Eleven unveils a story about the intricacies of human relationships, how disaster can bring an unlikely group of individuals together and the beauty of optimism.