My rating: 5 of 5 stars
We’re all going to die, but probably not almost all of us at once. We may be prepared for our own death, even if it comes suddenly, but not the sudden deaths of almost everyone we know. We all have personal failures that we can come to terms with during our lives or as we see death approaching — but how can we come to terms with the failure of so many deaths at once?
Emily St. John Mandel explores these questions in Station Eleven through intertwined lives and deaths that take place before and after a sudden flu kills 99.6% of the world’s population. Science fiction? Yes. A literary novel? Yes, and more literary than science fiction, more character than action. I love both kinds of novels, and I loved this.
For my tastes, the ending works a little too hard to tie a lot of loose ends together into a somewhat optimistic ending, but not too much work to weaken the book for me. The truth of the emotions withstand a hint of forced optimism. If our world ends, the fragments of art that survive might sustain us, and our new lives will give new meaning to the art that the artists never intended. Amid desolation, this can give us strength.