READ: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

I am so excited about this book. If you think that you don’t like dystopian books, this one will change your mind. I guarantee it. Go get this book.

Dystopian books make me appreciate my life even more tFullSizeRender-2han I already do. Right here, right now. We’re so lucky to have all of these things that we do. We may be in the Age of Anxiety, but in 1st world countries we have antibiotics, electricity, information at our finger tips, hot showers, Lasik eye surgery (life-changing), oranges all year round. It is pretty amazing that the world exists right now when there are so many ways that it might not.

Station Eleven skips around between a near future where a super flu with a 99.9% mortality rate sweeps over the world, the world right before the pandemic breaks out, and 20 years after the outbreak. It follows three different characters – an aging actor who has been married many times, a young Shakespearean actress, and a paparazzo turned paramedic – and the ways their lives overlap before, during, and after the flu pandemic.

The overarching theme of the novel is a quote from Star Trek: Voyager, “Survival is insufficient.” We need friendships, laughter, beauty, compassion. We need art, imagination, creativity. A little dose of Shakespeare does wonders for the spirit and the mind. Art in “Station Eleven” involves taking risks (group of traveling actors who travel the Great Lakes region to bring Shakespeare & music to the outposts that remain after the world has ended) and doing what you love out of genuine passion (The Shakespeare trope contrasts against the aging actor who has lost himself in celebrity).

At the center of the novel is the creation of a piece of art, the comic book Station Eleven, a labor of love and method of escape for a character. This piece of art parallels the post-apocalypic world that remains. Lonely, haunted by the past, and inescapable.

This book left me with creepy tingles. What we have right now won’t last. We have no idea what will happen in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years but we make plans as if we can control the future and often we don’t appreciate the simple comforts in our lives.  At one point in the book the following dialogue occurs between two characters:

“Are we supposed to believe that civilization has just come to an end?”

“Well,” Clarke offered, “it was always a little fragile, wouldn’t you say?”

The melancholy, contemplative feel of the novel has lingered with me. But overall, readers are left with a feeling that life is beautiful, the gift of memory is precious, and we go on in the face of horrible tragedy.

Read this book!

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Margaret Atwood has a new collection of short stories out – Stone Mattress: Nine Tales. I may be Atwood’s biggest fan. The Oryx and Crake Trilogy and “The Handmaiden’s Tale” are the most incredible pieces of speculative fiction I have ever read. She is an incredible prognosticator and a prolific writer. “The Robber Bride”, “Alias Grace”, “The Blind Assassin”…all must reads. I read the stories in “Stone Mattress” and laughed out loud several times. I like her novels more than anything else, but her latest collection of witty, sharp quick reads is a great addition to her long publication list.

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If you love music, check out the show Sonic Highways on HBO. It is a 8 episode series that follows the Foo Fighters as they travel to different cities, delve into the music of that city, and then write and record a song in each city. In Sound City Dave Grohl brilliantly captured music legends, and he continues that in this documentary series.

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