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Staff Book Review: Station 11 by Emily St.John Mandel

September 24, 2020

This book review of Station 11 was written by Eli Millette, Youth Services Assistant from our Bainbridge Branch. Find all Staff Book Reviews here.

On its face, Station 11 is about a flu-like pandemic and how it completely destroys civilization as we know it (No, it is not nonfiction. Not yet, anyways). The book bounces between a slew of characters as we learn about what their lives were like before the collapse and what happened to them after. There is adventure, a psychotic villain called “the Prophet” and a main character who likes to throw knives.

In other words: on it’s face, Station 11 is your average apocalyptic thriller that only stands out because of its uncanny parallels to our current situation.

However, the reality of Station 11 is much deeper. We don’t simply learn about how the main characters fight and struggle to survive. Through their internal monologue we gain insights into how surviving an apocalypse changes what it means to be human. For every section of the book that focuses on thrilling adventures we get another that dives into what kind of psychological impact this event has on these characters we grow to love.

That’s the other beautiful part about this book; we do grow to truly love the characters. They were written in such an empathetic way it was hard not to fall in love. Even “the Prophet”, which by all accounts is the villain of the story, has a quiet depth that makes it hard not to feel bad for him.

It is really this thread of humanity that kept me invested. Yes, the whole doomsday-collapse-end-of-the-world element was good for a quick thrill, but watching these characters thinking and feeling and being human was much more interesting. I got to see what it means to be human at its rawest level.

In a weird way, reading this book during a pandemic was therapeutic. This book reminds us that underneath the layer of anxiety and fear surrounding our current pandemic there is a hidden depth of humanity. After all is said and done, the stories about what it meant to be alive during this time will hopefully be mirror the stories of Station 11 – stories about how even in the worst of times we can still find ways to be human.

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