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Archive for the ‘Station Eleven’ Tag

Sky Watching   Leave a comment

PeterHeller
A few weeks ago I reviewed Peter Heller’s The Painter. That was  shortly after Station Eleven. While I enjoyed both books, I thought I’d wait before starting another work by Heller, and I certainly had no intention of being drawn into another novel about a post-apocalyptic world. Then I heard Heller talk. He shared his experiences as a freelance writer and told how he came to write fiction. He read some from The Painter and The Dog Stars. I really had no good excuse not to read the latter.

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It takes a little time adjusting to Heller’s stream of consciousness style with no quotation marks and single word sentences. It’s a terse yet fitting approach for Hig, a pilot who’s survived a flu pandemic, to tell his story. He lives with his dog, Jasper, and Bangley, a weapons-hoarder-ask-questions-later neighbor on an abandoned airfield northeast of Denver.

They must constantly be on alert from human predators. Hig is the least vigilant of the trio. What’s left of the world is not a friendly place. Yet, despite his best efforts, given the losses he’s faced, Hig is an optimist. A chance static-riddled radio transmission three years earlier from western Colorado has made him restless. Against Bangley’s better judgment, Hig needs to know what and, more importantly, who may still be out there.

His discovery is beautiful and gut-wrenching. Like Hig, the reader comes to appreciate Bangley. Although it hardly seems possible, as the story progresses Hig’s sensitivity and humanity gain greater significance.

The Dog Stars

Four Bookmarks
Alfred A. Knopf, 2012
320 pages

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Survival Modes   4 comments

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I’m usually not drawn to apocalyptic novels, but Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven is so much more than a foreboding tale about a small group of people who  survive a pandemic. It’s also about getting through the trials of what we might consider the normal elements of life: existence before the disaster.  She blends the backstory of the half dozen characters she masterfully introduces with their lives following the devastation; and it works!

The story follows the characters whose lives shared parallel paths with Arthur Leander, a famous actor, and which orbit around the fall of society. Unrelated to the flu that kills most of the world’s population, Arthur dies of a heart attack.  Nonetheless, he remains a substantial character as viewed by those who knew him: one of his ex-wives, his best friend, a young girl who watches him die and the man who tries to save him. Another ex-wife and Arthur’s son have important, albeit tangential, roles.  Each character is connected to Arthur, although they don’t all intersect with one another.

St. John Mandel creates a bleak, but not black and white picture, which is often the case in similarly-themed novels. Cormac McCarthy’s The Road comes to mind as a portrayal of a dismal post-catastrophe world. Sure, there is plenty of anarchy and death in Station Eleven, but somehow they don’t overshadow the power of friendship, love and art.

The author deftly illustrates that fear and loss exist before and after the collapse of civilization – as does hope.

http://www.emilymandel.com/bio.html

Station Eleven
Five Bookmarks
Alfred A. Knopf, 2014
352 pages