If Cormac McCarthy‘s The Road met television’s The Walking Dead, you’d have Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven—minus the grisly cannibalism and zombies. With the recent popularity of post-apocalyptic writing in books and on the screen, it would be hard to write that world with originality, but Mandel does so by focusing on the lives of the survivors by unravelling their connections before the disaster.
It is Year 20 after a pandemic has wiped out all but a few pockets of the human population, and we follow a troupe of traveling musicians and actors who perform Shakespeare for the various survivor settlements throughout the devastated United States. Mandel deftly guides us through time Before and After, and this reader was particularly enthralled by the author’s exploration of what survives: if the world would end tomorrow, does that book, that painting, that building that you’re working on really matter? That answer is, you never know, but isn’t it amazing to think that it could contribute to someone’s survival?
Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven (2014 National Book Award Finalist)