Set in Canada and the Northern United States, Station Eleven focusses on the lives of several people, all with a link to a Hollywood actor called Arthur Leander (and including Arthur himself), before and after the world is struck by “Georgia Flu”. The flu pandemic is the worst ever seen, wiping out most of the world’s population and leaving us without electricity, running water and all the mod cons to which we have become used in modern society. However Station Eleven isn’t your typical future dystopian novel as it is far more about its character’s inner-lives than their survival stories. We meet Jeevan right at the start, he is a former paparazzo turned paramedic who rushes on stage to try and help Arthur who has a heart attack while playing King Lear. Then there is Kirsten who we meet as an adult in the post-flu world but had been a child actress playing one of Lear’s daughters during the production and is now part of the “Travelling Symphony” which tours around now isolated communities playing music and performing Shakespeare. We also follow Miranda, Arthur’s first wife, who is reluctant to embrace the Hollywood lifestyle and instead retreats into her own world creating the comic books from which the book gets its title. Other sections are devoted to Clark, Arthur’s university friend and then there is Arthur himself.
As mentioned above, Station Eleven is, to me anyway, quite different from other post-apocalyptic books I have read because they usually focus on dramatic stories of how the world ended and the horrible things the survivors have been forced to do to keep on living. There is, of course, some of this, but it is handled in a quiet, understated way and instead we are treated to reflections on how they have lived and are living now.