Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station ElevenStation Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Meh. Science fiction without the science.

This was hyped as a post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel and award winner. I found it rambling, pointless, and barely adequate as entertainment. The author used a large number of characters, with no obvious connection to each other, and proceeded to flip from pre-, post- and mid-apocalypse as she told their unconnected stories. It was extremely hard to follow. Time jumping like this is very fashionable right now, in movies as well as novels, but it makes for an unpleasant experience for the reader/viewer. Please just tell the story in chronological order.

I got the distinct impression that the author wanted to write some deep, philosophical novel but got shut down by her agent or publisher who told her that what sells is post-apocalyptic sci-fi, so she rewrote her novel to fit into that mold.

First, let’s talk about the science. There is none. There’s a flu pandemic that kills almost everyone. Okay, that’s a decent start. The classic Earth Abides and many other books have used that. But this happens in the modern day. After that, there is no electricity or gasoline. Why not? Hook a portable generator to a bicycle or a waterwheel and you have reliable electrical power. How about solar panels, windmills? You don’t need the whole grid. People could refine gasoline long before electricity, too. Survivors are mostly using crossbows. There would be thousands of times more guns left around than crossbows and they’re more effective. There would be plenty of ammunition left over, too. It’s a lot easier to make a bullet than a crossbow or arrow. None of the post-apocalyptic world makes any sense technologically. Okay, so the author wasn’t going for plausibility, but her intellectual laziness to do any science or technology research spoils the whole sci-fi part of it. It’s mostly a novel about actors and show business. The story lines collide rather than merge at the end.

This would be acceptable if the story itself was enrapturing or the character development and writing style were riveting, or even if the author had some deep insight to impart about the nature of human existence and civilization. These were all lacking or clunky and unimpressive in my opinion. This book is now on the best seller lists and I am befuddled as to why.

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