Station Eleven is a 2014 novel by Emily St. John Mandel. It is Mandel's fourth novel. The novel takes place in the Great Lakes region after a fictional swine flu pandemic, known as the "Georgia Flu", has devastated the world, killing most of the population. It won the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 2015.
|Author||Emily St. John Mandel|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
During a production of King Lear at the Elgin Theatre in Toronto, Jeevan watches as the actor playing Lear, Arthur Leander, has a heart attack. Since he has begun training as a paramedic, Jeevan tries to resuscitate Arthur but is unsuccessful. Instead, he comforts one of the child actors in the production, Kirsten. After leaving the play Jeevan goes for a walk in the snow and receives a call from one of his doctor friends. This friend warns him to get out of the city as a mysterious Georgian Flu is spreading rapidly and will soon become a full-blown pandemic. Jeevan loads up on supplies and goes to stay with his brother. Many of the actors, actresses, and others that had gathered to mourn Arthur's death die within three weeks of the beginning epidemic.
Twenty years later, Kirsten Raymonde is part of a nomadic group of actors and musicians known as the Travelling Symphony. Kirsten, who was eight at the time of outbreak, can remember little of her life before Year Zero, but clings to a two-volume set of graphic novels given to her by Arthur before his death, called Dr. Eleven. The troupe operates on a two-year cycle traveling around the Great Lakes region, and during this time, Kirsten scavenges abandoned homes looking for old tabloid magazines for traces of Arthur. After returning to a small town where they left their pregnant friend, Charlie, and her husband, Jeremy, the troupe is disturbed to find that not only are their friends missing but the town is under the control of the mysterious prophet, who rapes young girls whom he claims as his "wives". The troupe quickly leaves and is determined to go off route to the Museum of Civilization, which is actually a former airport, where they believe they might find their missing friends. However, en route, they discover a young stowaway who left the town as she was promised to the prophet as his bride. Shortly after, members of the troupe begin to disappear until finally the entire troupe is gone, leaving only Kirsten and her friend August. Frightened, they continue on to the Museum hoping to be reunited with others.
Unbeknownst to Kirsten, the graphic novel Dr. Eleven was written by Arthur's first wife, Miranda. Fourteen years before the collapse of civilization, Miranda left an abusive relationship with an artist and married Arthur. However, as Arthur's fame hit its peak Miranda realized he was having an affair with a blonde woman who would become his second wife, Elizabeth. The night that Miranda discovers the affair she walks out of her home and asks the paparazzo outside if he has a cigarette. The paparazzo turns out to be Jeevan. Years later, when Jeevan is trying to reinvent himself as an entertainment journalist, Arthur gives him the exclusive that he is leaving Elizabeth and his young child to be with Lydia Marks, the co-star of his new movie. Jeevan reflects on this while he and his brother Frank are locked in Frank's apartment waiting for the epidemic to run its course. After a while, they realize that no one is coming to save them. Frank, a paraplegic, commits suicide so Jeevan doesn't feel responsible for him. Jeevan embarks on a journey south and eventually finds a new settlement where he marries and becomes the town doctor.
In Year Zero, Clark, one of Arthur's friends, is the one who informs Elizabeth that Arthur is dead. Clark, Elizabeth and Elizabeth's son, Tyler, happen to be on the same flight from New York City to Toronto to attend Arthur's funeral when it is redirected to the fictional Severn City Airport due to the epidemic. Clark ends up resettling in the airport post-pandemic and becomes the "curator" of the Museum of Civilization, where he gathers artifacts such as iPhones and laptop computers. While most of the airport survivors adapt to their new life, Elizabeth and Tyler embrace religious zealotry, believing that the epidemic happened for a reason and spared those who were good. They finally leave in Year Two with a religious cult.
In the present, Kirsten and August meet a group of the prophet's men along with Sayid, one of the members of their troupe. They manage to kill the men and free Sayid, who informs them that one of their friends, Dieter, was killed and that the hostage that the prophet's men took to replace Dieter managed to escape and warn the troupe, explaining how Kirsten and August were unable to find them. Frightened, Kirsten, August, and Sayid leave for Severn City Airport. Kirsten, however, is discovered by the prophet himself. Just before the prophet is about to kill her, he refers to the "Undersea," a place from the Dr. Eleven comics. Kirsten quotes lines from Dr. Eleven, distracting the prophet long enough that one of his younger sentries, shoots and kills him before taking his own life. Kirsten and the rest continue on to the Museum of Civilization where they are reunited with Charlie, Jeremy and the rest of the troupe. Clark, who has stayed at the museum for twenty years, realizes who Kirsten is, her attachment to Arthur, and that the Prophet is the adult Tyler. Clark shows Kirsten from the watch tower of the airport that there is a town to the south that uses electricity, showing that civilization is beginning to take root again.
Five weeks later, Kirsten leaves with the theatre troupe for the south. She leaves one volume of Dr. Eleven with Clark, who begins to read it and recognizes a scene in the graphic novel that is borrowed from a dinner party which he, Arthur and Miranda once attended.
- Kirsten Raymonde – A former child actor from Toronto who is eight when the Georgian flu destroys her world. Initially she and her brother are the only survivors in her family but as they travel he dies too. She joins the theatre troupe as a teenager and becomes obsessed with actor Arthur Leander, whose death she witnessed as a child.
- Arthur Leander – A wildly successful film actor originally from the fictional Delano Island in British Columbia. Despite his success, Arthur is shiftless and unhappy and marries three times. He dies onstage of a heart attack portraying King Lear in a Toronto theatre at age 51 the night the pandemic takes hold of North America.
- Jeevan Chaudhary – A former paparazzo, turned entertainment journalist, turned EMT, whose life keeps intersecting with Leander's at key moments.
- Frank Chaudhary – Jeevan's paraplegic brother, a former combat reporter wounded in Afghanistan, now a ghostwriter who lives a life of solitude in his apartment.
- Miranda Carroll – Arthur's first wife who is eleven years younger than him. She is both a proficient business woman, and an artist who is obsessed with creating her graphic novel, Station Eleven, about Dr. Eleven, a man who lives on a space station shaped like a planet that evacuated when aliens descended. Shortly before Arthur's death, Miranda gives him copies of her finally completed graphic novel which Arthur later gives to Kirsten and his son, Tyler. Mandel has said this is the character of her creation she most identifies with.
- Clark Thompson – Arthur's British best friend whom he met while they were struggling actors who later works as a corporate businessman and then after the collapse of civilization reinvents himself as a curator to a museum dedicated to obsolete objects.
- Tyler Leander – The son of Arthur and his second wife Elizabeth. He grows up in Jerusalem and is stranded in an airport in the fictional city of Severn for two years after the epidemic. He and his mother eventually leave with a religious cult and he grows up to be the religious leader known as the Prophet.
Although many publications classified the novel as science fiction, Mandel herself does not believe that the work belongs to that genre, as the novel does not include any instances of fictional technology. Mandel has stated that the issue of labeling her work science fiction (as opposed to literary fiction) has followed her through all her novels. Mandel's early work has been classified as crime fiction, and she has stated she consciously chose to avoid overtones of mystery and crime in this work in order to avoid being "pigeonholed" as a mystery novelist. Station Eleven might also be classified as "theatre-fiction", which Graham Wolfe defines as "novels and stories that engage in concrete and sustained ways with theatre as artistic practice and industry".
On October 18, 2019, it was announced that Station Eleven would be adapted into a 10-episode miniseries that will premiere on HBO Max. Hiro Murai is set to direct, with Patrick Somerville as showrunner and writer. They will both also serve as executive producers alongside Scott Steindorff, Scott Delman, and Dylan Russell. The miniseries will star Mackenzie Davis as Kirsten and Himesh Patel as Jeevan. Gael García Bernal and David Wilmot have also been cast in undisclosed roles.
The novel won the Arthur C. Clarke Award in May 2015, beating novels including The Girl with All the Gifts and Memory of Water. The committee highlighted the novel's focus on the survival of human culture after an apocalypse, as opposed to the survival of humanity itself. The novel was also a finalist for the National Book Award, ultimately losing to Phil Klay's short story cycle Redeployment. It was also a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award, as well as the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction.
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- St. John Mandel, Emily (15 October 2014). "Great piece. I actually don't think of Station Eleven as sci-fi, but am fully prepared to concede that I may be alone in this..." Twitter / Emily St. John Mandel. Retrieved 20 July 2015.
- Wolfe, Graham. Theatre-Fiction in Britain from Henry James to Doris Lessing: Writing in the Wings. Routledge, 2020. 2.
- "Best-Seller 'Station Eleven' Acquired by 'Jane Got a Gun' Producer". The Hollywood Reporter. 2015-02-10. Retrieved 2015-06-15.
- Andreeva, Nellie. "Mackenzie Davis & Himesh Patel To Star In 'Station Eleven' HBO Max Limited Series". Deadline. Retrieved 1 November 2019.
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- PEN/Faulkner Award. "2015". Retrieved 20 July 2015.
- "Emily St. John Mandel wins 2015 Toronto Book Award". Toronto Star, October 15, 2015.