Station Eleven: an easy read

Station Eleven


The Big Read has just begun and there are about two more weeks of activities left surrounding the book “Station Eleven”.

The plot (slight spoilers ahead)

Our story starts out with Arthur, one of the main characters in the book, dying onstage of King Lear. Jeevan, a paparazzo turned EMT, runs onstage to try and save him, but his efforts seem to be in vain. Instead, while a cardiologist from the audience does CPR to try to revive Arthur, Jeevan goes to comfort Kirsten, a little girl who was acting as one of Lear’s daughters, and the main protagonist of the book.

After trying to revive Arthur, Jeevan receives a call from one of his friends, Hua, who works in a hospital. Hua tells him to leave town as quickly as he can, that there is an epidemic of epic proportions on the way. Jeevan decides to hole up in his brother’s apartment building with mass amounts of food instead.

Flash forward to the future: Twenty years after the outbreak, civilization is destroyed. Kirsten is travelling with a band of musicians and actors, the Travelling Symphony, and again acting in King Lear. Her troupe is there to preserve human culture, to not let people forget where they came from. They play Shakespeare because the people like it; they like to see “the best of humanity”. Upon the caravans is a Star Trek quote: “Survival is insufficient”.

Kirsten keeps Station Eleven comics on her, gifts from Arthur when she was young. They were written by his first wife, Miranda, and she treasures them.

Great readability and constant themes

The first thing I noticed about Station Eleven was how it sucked you in. If you are worried about the time commitment to the book, do not be. The read is smooth and easy, captivating and compelling.

The main characters, Kirsten, Miranda, and Arthur, are all multi-faceted and interesting. Kirsten is the main protagonist of the story and she values culture of all kinds, values anything that preserves her humanity.

Throughout the book there are stories of people clinging to culture in whatever form it takes. Before the collapse of civilization, Miranda throws herself into her work, creating Station Eleven (the comic) and Arthur wholeheartedly loves to act.

After the collapse, Kirsten inherits Arthur’s love for acting, playing in “high-brow” Shakespeare shows, while still collecting the “low-brow” media of comics, bringing Miranda and Arthur’s interests together in her life.

Kirsten’s best friend, August, collects TV guides, despite the lack of TV. Clarke, Arthur’s friend who escaped the collapse with Arthur’s second wife and son, creates a “Museum of Civilization” inside an old airport to preserve the history of the world he once knew.

Even by rejecting culture, the theme of culture still exists. Tyler, Arthur’s biological son, rejected the old world’s culture and tried to create his own, becoming a lecherous prophet. But still, he practises a religion that goes back thousands of years and even obsesses over the Station Eleven comics in the same way that Kirsten does. Culture affects every aspect of life, regardless of what the person wants.

Overall thoughts

“Station Eleven” was definitely one of the best books I have read all year and, though the library is out of free copies, I highly recommend going to find one at your local library or bookstore. Events will be going on until March 14th!


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