I didn’t really know what to expect going into this. I knew that Cannonball peeps (and other people I know) had raved about it, so I assumed it was going to be good. And it still wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. (I need to stop going into things with expectations.)
Station Eleven has a linear story that’s been cut up and rearranged with one character being the lynchpin that holds it all together. We start with a Toronto production of King Lear, in which the actor playing the title role (Arthur Leander) has a heart attack and dies onstage. That evening, an extremely fast and deadly virus known as the Georgia Flu spreads and kills 99.99% of the world’s population. We jump back in time as far back as 30 years to Arthur’s past and forward in time to 20 years after the outbreak of the flu and Arthur’s death. We go back to follow Miranda, Arthur’s first wife and the creator of the graphic novels of Dr. Eleven. Jeevan is present at the time of Arthur’s death and tries to save his life, although it is not the first time he has met the actor. Clarke is Arthur’s friend, although we seem to spend the least amount of time with him. And Kirsten is a child actor in the play, traveling the new world 20 years later as an actor.
First off, this was a little awkward to read in the emergence of the coronavirus. (Note – I finished the book and wrote this review in the beginning of February, where COVID-19 was just starting, and Wuhan had just got into quarantine. Now a month and a half later I’m expecting the announcement tomorrow that my state will be sheltering in place, so it’s far more real now.)
Looking back at it, I don’t think I would want to be one of the survivors. I think I’d rather have the flu take me and be done with it than try to survive in the apocalyptic world. I wouldn’t really be suited to a life of violence and uncertainty. Although with my luck I would be one of the survivors, and that would suck. In the world described, surviving is hard. Of the people the disease left, a good portion of survivors would have died due to other reasons, like malnutrition or contamination or something like that. In a situation like this, one of the best places to hole up would be a library. There would be books on survival techniques and instructions on how to recreate things that were lost, in addition to years worth of reading material to keep your mind occupied. (Well, you’d have to break in. All the libraries are closed now.)
But unlike in Station Eleven, this shall pass, and most of us will be able to go back to our lives the way they were before. But we will remember the fear, and the panic. My friends and I were talking, and one brought up that we’re living through a massive historic event right now. Someone else’s response was “I expected a war, not a plague.”
Wash your hands.