I Read Emily St. John Mandel’s ‘Station Eleven’.

steve cuocci
3 min readApr 27, 2024

This book is one that I added to my collection early this year with some birthday money. I had heard such great stuff about the television series that I wanted to get my mind around the words first and then see how they ended up translating to the screen afterward. I hadn’t heard any specifics about it, and vaguely surmised that it was post-”event”, post-”apocalyptic”, so I was eager to see about it.

This book is written through a bunch of different characters and a bunch of different time periods. There are lots of flashbacks and perspective shifts. The way that the author brings timelines together and illustrates the Venn diagrams where events happen at the same time, using the two separate happenings as timekeepers is a great little device.

I thought throughout the book, there was a depth to some of the characters that I wanted to know more about. I think the straddling of the climactic event horizon was so well done, and it fleshed out some of the characters far more than I would have expected. The glimpses we got into the lives of Kirsten (who I’d say is the main character), Arthur (a pivotal figure in the lives of many of these characters) and Miranda (possibly the most interesting of them all) are all written very well. They show a lot of the writer’s ability to build small ‘villages of the mind’ in which these people live and work and play, regardless of the events of the rest of the book. To be honest, the most advanced parts of the story are ultimately very shallow compared to the ways that many of these characters lived up until those points and the development of those characters fall a little flat, knowing how fleshed out they could have been given more time. The focus goes out in almost too many directions at some point, giving us lots to work with, but in the wrong places. It almost reminds me of a D&D player taking weeks giving the exposition on the backstory of the character they rolled, but not really getting too heavy into the game itself once the gang gets together to play.

It feels like the lore is richer than the main story.

This was a good read, overall. I definitely can say that I recommend it if you’re curious and have seen ads about the show. I think there are likely other stories that do this a bit better (I actually got some Last of Us vibes from it), but there is nothing wrong with adding another choice to the genre. I feel like the show came out on the heels of our very own pandemic, which must have been such uncanny timing to release it. Despite the storytelling being a little flat, a little light, I think there was a lot to enjoy about the book and frankly once I sat down with it and was reading it, its momentum made it tough to put down. I think I got through it in about three and a half sittings, all in all. It really does set up for a great television portrayal which I’m excited to get into!