Station ElevenMandel, Emily St John
Who would have thought it would all fall apart so quickly? One minute, it's life as per usual then literally overnight it's lights out. Moving between their pre-pandemic lives and their post-pandemic realities, this story focuses on a disparate group of people connected to Arthur Leander who is performing King Lear on the night the Georgia Flu hits North America. Centre stage, twenty years on, is the Travelling Symphony, a troupe of musicians and actors who tour the remaining pockets of population performing Shakespearean works and classical music.
Both calm and convincing, this elegantly written novel is the rarest of beasts, a dystopian story of hope that reminds us what is best about our world.
After a dynamic discussion, our group described this book as "a cleverly constructed, character linking, complex novel".
A divisive read, some loved it, some hated it. It was hoped it would be a more 'sci-fi' read but less sci and more about relationships and a bit of the 'butterfly' effect.
We found it an enjoyable, interesting read made more plausible due to the current world 'crisis' we find ourselves in right now (coronavirus, climate change, war, unstable political situations, gang violence). The writing draws you in to the story. We discussed the challenges some of us faced during the early part of the coronavirus and lock downs, how each household coped, our fears and the fears we held for loved ones that we couldn't get to physically see and touch. We also touched on the positive things we personally experienced.
A couple of members opted not to read this book because of its disturbing parallels to a possible reality with coronavirus and climate warming etc. Some of those who did read it really enjoyed it as good fiction writing. A thought that came out of our discussion about the human condition was our need to make the most of what we've got.
Very topical read which most enjoyed. A little hard to follow at times. Thought provoking and well done.
Enjoyed by almost all. Well-written and terrifying in current circumstances!
This book was very topical as it arrived just as we learned of the coronovirus pandemic, so we all took a more personal interest in it. Very well-written, it engaged us , though a couple of our readers complained of the brutality that occurred now and then, but most of us thought it was realistic. Much discussion ensued on a variety of topics such as personal interaction, classical arts and traditional values, individual skills, religion, and ongoing change, survival versus manners etc etc. A very thought provoking read. Recommended!
Many in our group wouldn't usually try science fiction and were pleasantly surprised by this book. Easy and thought provoking book to ease groups into a different genre. Would recommend to other groups.
On the whole we enjoyed this book while more or less agreeing that it is not one we will remember for long. It was two stories; Arthur's and Kirsten's and the idea of going from Kirsten, mainly in the present, to Arthur in the past, was clever. We decided that we could have picked a few holes in the possibility of living 20 years after the disastrous flu, but it was easier, and more enjoyable, to ignore them.
Much discussion about the credibility of the situation and areas which we thought unlikely (eg. no electricity for 20 years). It sparked some interesting ideas about how we think we would cope, and what we would miss.
Do not be put off by the idea that this is 'sci-fi', as it is much more than this. Enjoyed by most.
We had mixed feelings about this. Some really loved it while others didn't like it at all. It did provoke a lot of discussion about experiences during the earthquakes, and also how quickly a prolonged catastrophe could change our way of life.
Although few in our group enjoy sci-fi or 'post-apocalyptic' writing - most really enjoyed this. Discussion revolved around the clever writing and 'construction' of the book, and the likelihood of NZ suffering some devastating event.....and its aftermath!
A very successful choice. The group enjoyed this book more than any we had chosen for a long time. It engaged our attention from the opening pages, and held it. It is well-written and well constructed. Some members, knowing it had an apocalyptic setting, were apprehensive it would be grim ( like 'The Road'). They all found it wasn't like that - particularly because of the author's wise decision to switch back frequently to the story of the characters before the catastrophe. We thoroughly recommend this book to other groups.
Upon asking the group whether they enjoyed the book half of them liked it, including 3 who never read Science Fiction. The rest didn't really enjoy it, including a Science Fiction fan. However a very good discussion came out of the questions including how many people would be left in our town if this actually happened. As a result of the discussion, members of the group who hadn't finished the book asked to keep it for a few more days. They felt the discussion had helped them understand how the different elements of the story came together in the end.