Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven is an unusual book. In its broadest outline, it’s basically an apocalypse novel (subgenre: superflu). But… it’s not really an apocalyse novel, nor even a post-apocalypse novel, for all that it shares elements of those genres.

What it really is, is one of those literary novels that tells a portrait of a handful of characters over the course of their lives—an anecdote from their childhood, key moments from relationships, quiet moments when they’re alone—and shows them through each other’s eyes as they interact with each other. And oh yeah, these character’s lives just so happen to span an apocalypse.

This works well; the apocalypse is a relatively quiet and unsurprising one (as such things go), but because the story is more about the people than the Event, there’s no frustration from not seeing more intricate details of post-apocalypse society or the immediate logistics of the apocalypse itself, in the way there would be if (say) S.M. Stirling had decided to skip over key elements in one of his apocalypse novels.

Recommended both for fans of quiet literary novels and fans of apocalypses, and I don’t think there’s another book I can say that about.


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