Some books are seeing a second life as many people remain cooped up indoors.
Among these is “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel. Published in 2014 and slated to be an HBO Max series this year or in 2021, the book has experienced a revival among readers due to its subject matter.
“Station Eleven” tells the story of characters coping with the aftermath of the Georgia Flu, a vicious type of SARS. The main characters are Arthur Leander, a middle-aged actor; Arthur’s first wife Miranda Carroll; and Kirsten Raymonde, a young woman who navigates her way through a new world after the pandemic.
The book is firmly in the post-apocalyptic genre. The Georgia Flu destroys civilization. Twenty years after the pandemic, North America is a sparsely populated collection of towns and villages that are each nearly cut off from the surrounding world.
Among the few threads connecting these towns is The Symphony, a traveling band of musicians and actors that performs plays and music from the days before the pandemic. Kirsten joins The Symphony and must contend with another wandering group — a cult that sees its members as a chosen people and the plague has God’s judgment on humankind. The cult is led by a man known as the prophet who terrorizes locals by killing and exiling townsfolk and taking young girls as his wives.
The book flips between Kirsten’s struggles in the post-plague world and the pre-plague life and career of Arthur, whose career and personal relationships are in decline. Miranda struggles with her marriage and pens a graphic novel, “Station Eleven,” which is about a group of people that live on a space station after escaping an alien invasion. Kirsten is one of the few people who have a copy of the novel after the pandemic.
Mandel’s writing is finely crafted and “Station Eleven” is definitely a page turner. HBO has rich material for a gripping show. The book expertly balances both the fantastical and relatable in telling a story about what it really means when one world passes to the next and the things that remain.