Monday, December 29, 2014

Book Review - Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel


We heard a glowing review of this book on our local NPR station.   M decided to buy a hard cover copy of the book to have something interesting to read while on Christmas break.  I'm on break too and wanted to do some pleasure reading as well.  Unfortunately, I know how taking the time to sit still and read usually goes with me, I usually find cleaning, repairing, or remodeling projects to do, and I don't get around to reading.

Still, the premise of the book sounded interesting enough, and maybe I would actually take the time to read it.  The premise is a lethal flu virus wipes out 99% of the human population on Earth.  It's set in the current time.  It follows the story of a famous actor, and people connected to him.  The story jumps around in time from the actor's early life to later in his life, and from before the flu and up to 20 years after the collapse of human civilization.  

Well, I did read the whole book in less than 24 hours.  That right there should tell you a lot.  It was a quick, easy read.  It was interesting enough to reel me in, and keep me turning the pages.  I could easily imagine the characters and the events in the smoothly flowing narrative.  Okay, there's the good part.

Now for what I didn't like.  The author skipped around a lot, in different times, and with various character's lives and histories.  Sometimes the jump was seamless and logical, sometimes it didn't make sense and felt like the author was using the device as a crutch.  

Another thing I didn't like, and I'll try to explain this without being too specific and spoiling the story, was that the author spent a good bit of time building this one character and the character's backstory, creating this key player, powerful, tough to beat, only to snuff the character out very easily, and that was unsatisfying.  It felt like the author was trying to wrap up the story and had to resolve this character's story line, and just did it, without preamble.  It was very unsatisfying.  

The last complaint, there was a major thing that occurred near the end of the book.  It was never investigated, explained, or resolved in the story.  I don't know if the author is planning a sequel to this book, but that would be the only reason I would leave this gaping hole at the end of the story.

Overall it was a quick and enjoyable read, but I don't think the lavish praise the radio gave it was fully justified.  

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