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Station Eleven
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Adult Fiction Buddy Reads > Station Eleven BR Starting 28th January 2017

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Sully  (lorlorsully) | 160 comments Mod
Join us for a Buddy Read of Station Eleven, starting Saturday, 28th January 2017.

An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization's collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.

One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur's chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.

Twenty years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten's arm is a line from Star Trek: "Because survival is insufficient." But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave.

Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful, elegiac novel is rife with beauty. As Arthur falls in and out of love, as Jeevan watches the newscasters say their final good-byes, and as Kirsten finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the prophet, we see the strange twists of fate that connect them all. A novel of art, memory, and ambition, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.

Emily (emilythebooknerd) | 127 comments Up to Part 2: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

I am liking this so far. Not really sure where it’s going or which characters are going to survive and thus I should be concentrating on (hadn’t read the synopsis recently, but just did, so now I have a better idea), but I’m enjoying the ride so far. (Hopefully the next section will get a more definite direction.) It is very well written and definitely different from anything I’ve read before- basically a literary fiction take on the end of the world as we know it. But it doesn’t seem to take itself far too seriously (that’s often my problem with a lot of true literary fiction).

I read King Lear in High School, but it seems that I do not remember it at all. I read the Wikipedia synopsis- seems that particular play is the epitome of a lot of the things I didn’t like about Shakespeare, such as meandering plots and everyone dying at the end. I’m wondering if my lack of Shakespeare knowledge is going to be a big detriment for this book- if there are going to be a lot of parallels between the plot and King Lear, for example. Hopefully not. I did love Hamlet, and really should try reading one of Shakespeare’s plays again (we concentrated so much on the tragedies in school that I would enjoy reading one of his lighter plays), but I was never a big Shakespeare lover. I did see a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream a few years ago, so maybe I’ll remember some of that.

I am enjoying thinking about the question the book poses regarding “What would you do in Jeevan’s situation?” (Not just what should you do, but what would really be your reaction?) Panic? Stick your head in the sand? Hole up and wait for it to pass? Run? How would you collect your loved ones and avoid everyone else? What would be the most essential items to buy?
I’ve always thought that if any sort of major apocalyptic disaster were to occur, it would be important to get to a library and take all the paper books on survival, basic medical procedures, things like water purification, even gardening and farming, etc.. The Internet and electricity are going to be some of the first things to go, and there would be a lot of things you would need to learn in order to survive. I’d probably die pretty quickly though, TBH. ;) Medications, particularly antibiotics, would also be the most essential thing to stock up on to my mind, after water and canned food.
Also, what things that we take for granted would you miss the most? For me: easy access to lots of books and new books, chocolate, pets, some aspects of the Internet (like Wikipedia and Goodreads- other social media I wouldn’t miss so much), email and texting, airline travel, hot running water, cars, the list goes on and on. Things would be incredibly tough- it’s hard to imagine.

Sully  (lorlorsully) | 160 comments Mod
Up to Chapter 4 (still in section 1) 9%

I am liking it as well so far. It's hard to peg what exactly about the prose is so great but it just feels so elegant (except perhaps the dialogue, but you don't really expect it to be in a current time setting).

So I looked through the section titles and noticed that a lot of them have to do with transportation - starship, airplanes, terminal, station. So I've noticed a bit of a transportation motif so far in the few chapters I've read:

'It was more like a terminal, he thought, a train station or an airport, everyone passing quickly through' (Loc 128).

I just realized this quote - which describes the theater stage - actually covers all but the starship in the section titles. Now I'm wondering if that's going to play a part down the road...

I also noticed this quote: '... streetcar that floated like a ship out of the night' (Loc 292)

I love the imaginary. But this is my favorite line so far:

'All the magic of the storm had left him, and the happiness he'd felt a moment earlier was fading. The night was dark and filled with movement...' (Loc 232). Though the tone is terribly sad, it's very poetic and strangely relatable.

I didn't read much of the synopsis, so I was really proud of myself for pegging the setting as Toronto from the street names (got it for Yonge Street) before they mentioned Toronto Hospital. It made me proud of my limited travels so far =)

I'm not a big Shakespeare fan either. I can't remember if I've read Midsummer Night's Dream. I may have read The Tempest. He had enough and I've read so few I can't tell them apart (colormarking the sonnets in high school and having to memorize one kind of ruined him for me).

I went to a post-apocalyptic workshop at my writing seminar last month and we actually mentioned the first thing most of us would do was go to the library and do the exact same thing! I've watched some Bear Grylls and we watch Alaska: The Last Frontier, but I definitely don't think we are prepared for the apocalypse yet. Maybe once I get some more hiking under my belt this year (hopefully!) =)

I love writing post-apocalyptic fiction and I have a WWIII novel I'm working on, so I think I kind of have an idea of what I might do in Jeevan's sitatuion, but then you add in the limitation of Frank's wheelchair and it throws my whole plan into chaos. So still a very good mind game. I love that his first thought is of his brother (even over his girlfriend). I always seem to appreciate sibling relationship stories more than romances.

I think - apart from the death and the fear of death, etc - I might enjoy certain aspects of the apocalypse - mainly no internet, social media, telephones. I've always been a naturalist/hermit at heart (though I would admittedly miss Netflix for a while). But I think as long as I had a solar panel to charge my Kindle, I have more eBooks than I'll ever read lol. As long as I had my family and Bucky (my dog), I think I'd be alright. The zombie apocalypse is a different story though. At that point, I'd just give myself over to be shot (guns are one thing I would stock up on as well. We used to joke we were ready for the zombies because our roommate - who had the bedroom right at the front of the apartment - had a dozen or so guns and rifles - the cat used to sleep on his ammo boxes lol). Don't want that stress of everyone I knowing trying to eat my brains lol. I think the one thing I would miss the most is running water. I really do enjoy reading and relaxing with a glass of wine in a bubble bath at the end of a stressful day.

Sully  (lorlorsully) | 160 comments Mod
Up to Part 2:

If I'd known how short the rest of the chapters were, I would have finished yesterday before I posted. I don't have a whole lot more to say, but I did want to mention Miranda's scene as it felt so important to the story. In particular, I loved this line:

'So this is how it ends, she thought, when the call was over, and she was soothed by the banality of it.' (Loc 505).

Arthur's death is such a great juxtaposition to the epidemic facing the rest of the world, even at the same instant as the play. While Arthur's death was banal, the epidemic is anything but. I just loved the way St. John Mandel set up the start of the apocalypse with these stark differences.

message 5: by Emily (last edited Jan 30, 2017 04:36PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Emily (emilythebooknerd) | 127 comments Up to Part 3: I Prefer You With A Crown (pg. 70, 20%)

I didn’t mean to read quite this far without commenting again, but I guess I got sucked in. As you said, this book is quite elegant/eloquent- it flows really well, making it easy to read. The dialogue does leave a little to be desired, but as you said, it’s hard to make contemporary speech patterns particularly articulate.

I think you were right on the money with the travel theme. For starters, the apocalypse would eliminate almost all forms of travel and communication, which would make communities and individuals really isolated. A lot of that final chapter in part one listing all the things that were lost dealt with travel- trains, planes, spacecraft. That chapter with Miranda also really highlights the differences before and after- before the collapse of civilization, she’s jetting off to the other side of the world and still getting phone calls and news from home. Then as we see in the second section, (view spoiler)

I also agree on the excellent juxtaposition of Arthur’s death, rather an every-day occurrence, with the collapse of society. I definitely noticed that but wasn’t quite sure how to put it into words.

Great minds think alike with the getting to a library plan- if there’s ever an apocalypse, guess I’ll have to hurry to beat out the other book lovers ;)

I also really enjoy sibling relationships in books- although I think my favorite are really close friendships that sometimes almost reach a sibling-like state. So I really like the “Threadsister/ Threadfamily” element of Truthwitch, for example. Because I think a person’s family can be made up just as much by those friends the person finds and really connects with as by blood relations.
So I did like that Jeevan’s first thought was to get to his disabled brother. Although I did feel like he was a little callous toward his girlfriend- I was wondering since she wasn’t feeling well if she was sick already.

I wished for some more practical concrete information in this second section about some aspects of what this new world is like and how people, and the Traveling Symphony in particular, survive. What percentage of people did die from the flu and resulting chaos? What do the survivors do for food, clean water, etc.? Does the Symphony get paid in food and other essentials for their performances? Otherwise, what do they eat? Maybe I missed something, but I’m always curious about the details in these post-apocalyptic settings.
Also, I would think that (view spoiler)

I found it interesting that this author thinks that people would crave the classics- like Shakespeare- in a post-apocalyptic setting, rather than other types of plays. I feel like I would be craving something new and original that I hadn’t seen before instead. (I would definitely be breaking into abandoned houses or libraries in search of new books to read…) What do you think? Shakespeare does seem to have lasted amazingly well through the centuries. I think for starters, he just stole some very compelling stories from other sources, but the themes he explores are also pretty timeless.

I found it a little bit hard to keep all the characters straight in this section (probably partially since half of them aren’t called by their names but by their instruments), but I think I have the hang of it now. I’m surprised by (view spoiler)

I liked the start of Chapter 10: (view spoiler)

What you said about the zombie apocalypse- yeah, there are definite some post-apocalyptic worlds where I wouldn’t want to have survived. I completely agree with “Because survival is insufficient.” And if the world was too harsh to allow any leeway for things like a Traveling Symphony or still being able to read the occasional book, too difficult to appreciate any beauty in life, then… And having children in any post-disaster world would be really tough (not that you would necessarily have much of a choice, since there wouldn’t be birth control).

I’m quite curious how the comic book, “Dr. Eleven” is going to come into play. (Obviously it will be important, given the book's name.) I have a guess on who created them. But did (view spoiler)

Sully  (lorlorsully) | 160 comments Mod
Up to I Prefer You with a Crown (21%)

Our timing worked out well today! =)

There were travel metaphors and allusions galore in part II, but their 'flight' (Loc 996) from the town was my favorite. The narrative has felt a sorrow towards air travel in particular it seems (along with motorized cars), so I loved the multilayers of this simple wording.

I've felt the second part wasn't quite as eloquent as the first. It feels a lot more like the narrative tries to get into the mind of the characters more and the POV seems to shift some (I think there's even a few lines in first person that stuck out). But other than that I'm still enjoying it a lot.

Close friendships are great to explore in stories as well. My pet peeve is the guy and girl friendship that always has to develop into something of a romantic inclination, even if it is one sided. It's hard to find a good story with a guy and a gal as just BFFs.

Speaking of friendships, I liked the friendship of Kirsten and her separated friend. You only get to see it from one side, but that makes it even more fascinating in this case I think. I hope this friendship keeps popping up and isn't just the plot point for this particular section.

The biggests underdevelopment with post apocalyptic fiction is (1) what caused the fallout and (2) full development of the world in the aftermath. I liked the mention of the guy who tried to get on the internet by using the kinetic energy of the stationary bike (this weekend, my hubby mused about making his own invention like this to charge his cell phone - which he uses as a music player - while he spins on my bike).

In history, there's an abundance of cases of great innovations happening in two completely different places independently of each other at almost the same time (one of the nerdy history facts I absolutely love). I think the same would happen in this type of world. There might be some development 20 years down the road, but my sense is the human race is an endangered species, so while minds are innovating, the technology isn't traveling or spreading because most people stay where they are in the safety of their numbers in their "towns".

Your example about the glasses is a great point though. While I can see how food would be hard to come by (how does the Traveling Symphony feed themselves? Do they trade their art performance for food? They certainly don't stay in place long enough to grow anything. How do they find clean water reliably, etc.) There would be plenty of stuff to savage, but food and water would be difficult I'd imagine. I hope the author gives detail on this important survival tactic later on.

I think people would want plays based on hope (just as the people flock to the prophet who speaks of hope and redemption, the art of hope and the future would be alluring). Shakespeare is rather depressing in my opinion. Trying to survive the end of the world, Romeo and Juliet would be about the last thing I'd want to see (though Gil may had a point of picking Midsummer Night's Dream for the fairies. The magic of fantasy would be appealing too). This question you pose comes up in Y: The Last Man as well. I wish I could remember better the types of plays they perform, but it's been a while since I read the series.

That quote you used reminded me so much of when I used to travel with the race team. It really can make you haggard. I remember a particular trip where we road in the team van for two weeks across five states working 16 hour days and driving everywhere. A race team is like your family, but when you're spending every day together (including meals, hotels, etc.), you start looking forward to getting home a lot lol. I related so much with that paragraph.

I highlighted that quote too! And as you spoke about beauty, I marked this line: 'What was lost in the collapse: almost everything, almost everyone, but there is still such beauty.' (Loc 866) Love it so much.

I highlighted a lot about Dr. Eleven (it made me think of Doctor Who). I did not, what was the dog's name? Man, I hated the prophet. His character was an embodiment of so many things that upset me. I loved the reference of "A change of management" (Loc 829) when they discussed how different the town was since their last visit.

One last line that felt sadly relevant in current times: "This is one of those places where you don't notice everyone's dropping dead around you till you've already drunk the poisoned wine." (Loc 953)

Sully  (lorlorsully) | 160 comments Mod
Up to Chapter 15 (27%)

I started out this section thinking we are getting way too far into backstory and losing track of the real story at hand. To some extent, I still feel this sentiment is true. On the other hand, Station Eleven. And while I'm not all that invested in Miranda yet, I can definitely relate to her (and I'm falling in love with (view spoiler)).

The POV still throws me for a loop when it randomly switches to first person. It doesn't always feel like inner thought, and it isn't quite... organic. For example: 'Yes, it was beautiful. It was the most beautiful place I have ever seen. It was gorgeous and claustrophobic. I loved it and I always wanted to escape.' (Loc 1083).

To me, it seems like the narrative is breaking POV in the middle of a paragraph. So far, one of my few beefs with the narration so far.

I also connect a bit with Arthur's character, but it's hard to connect with him truly since you know he isn't even in this post apocalyptic world (though I'm starting to wonder where the true story lies - in the present or in the past).

I love most things to do with Station Eleven, but I think this is my favorite quote to do with the graphic novel so far: 'They are always waiting, the people of the Undersea. They spend all their lives waiting for their lives to begin.' (Loc 1287)

The quote that really connected me to Miranda was:

(view spoiler) I think every artist/writer can relate to this point a little. I definitely can. This quote as well: 'She knows there are traps everywhere that can make her cry, she knows the way she dies a little every time someone asks her for changes and she doesn't give it to them means that she's too soft for this world or perhaps just for this city, she feels so small here.' (Loc 1332). A mother of a run on sentence, but a beautiful sentiment.

Emily (emilythebooknerd) | 127 comments Sorry I haven’t posted- things got a little crazy. My mom tweaked her back and it went into spasm so badly that she could hardly move (fortunately not a common occurrence), so I needed to help her quite a bit the last few days. She’s doing largely better now.

Up to Part 4: The Starship (pg. 118, 35%)

This is what I had written before I saw your most recent post of up to 27% (spoilers are for what happens later in the section, though): I have to admit that I’m a little confounded by this last section (Part 3)- I don’t really understand how it fits with the other two, at least yet. Obviously there are elements (like the comics and the paperweight) and characters that connect the three sections we’ve read so far, but the themes, mood, and style seem a little disconnected (although I would say isolation and travel did continue as themes throughout this one). Maybe it’s just a little jarring going from apocalypse to post-apocalypse back to pre-apocalypse- the setting and day to day lives of people are so completely different between Part 2 and Part 3. Not that this part wasn’t still beautifully written, and (view spoiler) Maybe the point was to contrast the grit and fight to survive of Part 2 with the glitter and drama of Part 3.
I guess what I took from that contrast is a message on how in our current world we (represented by the character of Arthur) take what we have for granted and thus make our lives worse off than they need to be.
So maybe there were messages in there, using juxtaposition again like between Arthur’s death and society’s imminent collapse in Part 1, but it still seemed like a pretty big disconnect- like two entirely different stories. I am lost as to where the plot is going from here, but I have great hopes that it will all end up coming together brilliantly.

Basically, I agree with you, although as you say, this section did really get into the comics and thus the title. From the section names, I’m thinking that the narrative might keep switching between time lines. (We might even get back to Jeevan’s during-the-apocalypse storyline, since it didn’t seem to really be wrapped up at the end of Part 1.) At this point, it feels a little like the author had several different story ideas and combined them into one. Which could turn out really cool or a mess. Given the skill displayed so far, I’m betting on cool.

Hmmm… I’ll have to pay more attention to the first-person POV changes. From what I remember, they do seem a little out of sync, but I’ve liked some of the insights into characters that they have given us.

Station Eleven the graphic novels do seem really neat- I would totally read them!

That waiting quote about the people in the undersea was a powerful one. I think most people feel that way, like they’re waiting for their lives to begin, at least occasionally, including me. And some people never take any significant action and so really are always waiting, which is sad, as life is short.

I find it fascinating that you relate to Arthur. What did you find relatable about him? I found a lot of general human failings in him (selfishness, shallowness, need for fame and attention, etc.) and thus found him difficult to like. (view spoiler) I related much more to Miranda. Speaking of, I just read an interview with St. John Mandel ( (I was wondering if Delano Island was real, turns out that it’s a fictionalized version of where she grew up) and Miranda is her fictional character with whom she most identifies.
Another interesting quote from the interview, when asked why she wrote a post-apocalyptic story: “Partly because I like post-apocalyptic novels, also I wanted to write a love letter to the world in which we presently find ourselves. Obviously there’s a great deal about this present moment in history that’s absolutely horrific, but we’re surrounded by a level of technology and infrastructure that at any other point in human history would have seemed miraculous.
We take these things for granted, but it’s remarkable… Of course, one way to consider something is by its absence so I set the book largely in a damaged future in order to consider the modern world with some distance. It’s a love letter in the form of a requiem.”
That certainly comes across several times in this section, like when (view spoiler)

There are some major run on sentences- like (view spoiler) but the author really makes them work. I liked the sentiment in that quote you talk about as well.

What do you think is the deeper significance of the name of the section: “I prefer you with a crown”? I don’t really understand that one, although (view spoiler)

What are your thoughts, as a writer, on (view spoiler)

I feel like theres some symbolism going on with the moon- several of the key lines of Midsummer’s Night Dream that were in the last section speak of the moon (“Ill meet by moonlight, proud Titania.”), the two moons in the sky of the “Dr. Eleven” comics, (view spoiler)
Actually, looking back, it might not just be the moon but light in general as a symbolic, thematic, and mood-enhancing element. For example, there is no sun on Station Eleven. I’ll pay attention reading forward.

The discussion (view spoiler)

Some quotes I loved:
(view spoiler)

Sully  (lorlorsully) | 160 comments Mod
Up to Chapter 16 (33%)

No worries, I've fallen a little behind as this has turned out to be a hectic long weekend on this end as well.

I have to admit, now that I've read Chapter 15, I don't relate to him as much, particularly now that we know (view spoiler).

And I'm on the fence with Miranda now. There are a LOT of things I relate with her on, but there were one or two key lines that kind of put me off on her personality. First, my favorite line that I can relate to 300%:

'These are not her people. She is marooned on a strange planet. The best she can do is pretend to be unflappable when she isn't.'

With my social anxiety, this is how I feel in crowded places (not just parties where I don't know anyone). She is the lone island, or the lone person on Station Eleven, in her own life, which is incredible sad. Which makes it more real for me is that she's almost the exact same age as me in this point of her life. I can't imagine ending up the way she did with the turn of events in her life.

This quote, however, really didn't impress me to her character: 'in the next version of her life, she decides, she will be entirely independent.'

Perhaps I am interpreting it wrong, but why wait until the next version of her life? Life is what you make of it. As we can tell from how quickly the Georgia Virus killed the vast majority of people in this world, life can be short and end unexpectedly. If she isn't happy with her life, she should at least try to fix it. Instead of (view spoiler). It's a minor detail to her character in the grand scheme of things, but this one line really struck a nerve with me.

Oh yeah, the paperweight! I didn't even realize that's the one that's in the backpack. Good catch! I wonder how Kirsten and Miranda are linked. Searching back through my book, it seems like (view spoiler).

That's a good point as well about the comparison between the worlds in Part 2 and Part 3.

I marked that quote from Dr. Eleven as well. And that's for sharing the information about the motivation behind her writing the novel. It definitely shows throughout the story so far, so she's going a great job of what she set out to write.

I wasn't sure if that section title references something to Shakespeare that I missed. I thought it was odd, but still haven't puzzled it out yet.

I'm wondering if the two moons might reflect Miranda's life and her choices. Like the quotes about the day job (most artists gripe about it, but she loved her day job). Her previous relationship versus her relationship with Arthur. Her simple life of being with a movie star versus working for a living (like she mentions to Jeevan (he doth reappear!)). The two sides of Arthur's personality (before fame and after).

As you mention about Station Eleven and the moon, I think I recall that it doesn't revolve on its axis, so half the world is always in dark and half is always in light.

I marked the quote to the dog too!

I thought her conversation with Elizabeth was really interesting, because on one hand she says she doesn't live life like she's following a script, but I linked that back to the quote about independence in her next lifetime, like she doesn't think she has the power in this lifetime.

I don't think I reached the part under the spoiler for my opinion as a writer on something, but I'll try my best to remember to come back to it once I catch up =)

Emily (emilythebooknerd) | 127 comments Regarding Arthur, (view spoiler)

I think most people feel like they are "marooned on a strange planet" on occasion. I certainly am not always at ease in all social settings, especially if I'm not feeling my best. I'm really sorry that you feel that way so often, though!

I feel like the theme of isolation in this novel is a timely one. Not only is it one that most people can relate to on some level, but I feel like we are both less and more isolated in the modern world. On the one hand, there's a lot of ways to constantly interact, on the other, I think a lot of those are pretty lacking in deeper meaning and can even get in the way. For example, some of my friends are on their phones a lot when I'm with them, and it's worse in my younger brother's age groups, which doesn't foster conversation and closeness. It can leave me feeling a bit adrift. Would a less technological world leave us feeling more or less isolated? It's an interesting question. Not that we can or should put the genie back in the bottle, but I think learning moderation in online/social media time and trying to actually be with the people they are with at the time would make a lot of people our age happier.

Yeah, I'm not really sure how the paperweight makes it from Miranda to Kirsten, but I was assuming it was the same one as it is described the same way. A mystery for us to discover! ;)

You make a good point that the whole crown thing could be something Shakespearean going over our heads.

Good thoughts on the two moons- Miranda's life does have many before and after type aspects. There's also the before and after the collapse in this book, of course- like the before and after of the lives of those on Station Eleven, first on Earth and then on the space station.

Sully  (lorlorsully) | 160 comments Mod
I was trying to find the quote that made me relate to Arthur but alas I did not mark it. It was definitely the aging Arthur, right before his passing. So I wonder if he became less of a diva in his later years. His dinner with his old friend was terrible. Just terrible. His behavior is kind of how I imagine some famous people though. And I loved this line from that part: 'Thinking about the terrible gulf of years between eighteen and fifty' (Loc 1700). While I'm not still close friends with any of my childhood friends, some of my closest friends I have known since that eighteen year mark. Some of my closest friendships from high school have already fallen victim to this type of personality change, but other remain very strong. It's fascinating how people change over the years, and how you just discover different sides of their personality that you never knew before.

To answer your previous question about Miranda (view spoiler)

I have noticed the exact same thing of isolation with the invention of technology along the lines of texting, social media, etc. I was listening to one of my podcasts and the caster told about his experience with this at bars. He used to love going to the bar and striking up a conversation with the person sitting next to him. He met so many interesting people with fascinating stories. He says these days, though, when he goes everyone is just sitting, drinking, and socializing on their phones. When he does try to strike up a conversation, it startles people and they find him a bit strange that he would try to talk to him. I do my best to keep my phone in my pocket unless I'm actively using it for something important (I don't classify Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr/etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. as important) and I don't mind letting a half an hour pass in between answering texts. I try to socialize with the world around me as much as possible when I'm immersed in it (when I went to the Grand Canyon, I couldn't believe how many people had their faces shoved into phones or stuck behind cameras and tablets. I felt like the only person truly experiencing the moment). But it is nice to catch up with people geographically challenged from you (I usually do this while suffering through my spinning exercise lol).

(I apologize for all the grammar errors. I haven't slept much since Wednesday so my brain is a little frazzled this week)

Sully  (lorlorsully) | 160 comments Mod
Up to Chapter 25 (46%)

I am dying to know the story behind her tattoo! It's only been mentioned a few times, but it feels like it carries such a great significance from the way the author teases it.

This quote was remarkably sad and yet entirely relatable: 'She had never entirely let go of the notion that if she reached far enough with her thoughts she might find someone waiting, that if two people were to cast their thoughts outward at the same moment they might somehow meet in the middle.' (Loc 1783)

In chapter 22, I loved how she used the symbolism of a plane as a metaphor for hope. Travel is such an important theme in this story, and it was just a great line. I also liked the mention of a starship in the poetry, continuing the motif. (speaking of Starships, have you by any chance heard of the band called Starset? They just released a new album entitled Vessels. I am obsessed. It's rock music, but with space and science undertones. Love it)

This quote was a perfect ending for chapter 23: 'Hell is the absence of the people you long for.' Do you agree? I tend to. The thought of homesteading and not having neighbors for 30 minutes in every direction greatly appeals to me, but the thought of doing it without my family is a terrifying thought.

I'm curious to see what becomes of the (view spoiler). And while the group was walking around and the one tested the light switch, I couldn't help but think of green energy. If we weren't so dependent on fossil fuel energy and really pushed for green energy (and the states removed the law that makes it illegal to live off the grid), it could be a very different post-apocalyptic world.

Emily (emilythebooknerd) | 127 comments Up to Chapter 26 (pg. 159, 47%)

I am finding the whole (view spoiler)

As you commented on, we have gotten two descriptions of hell in this book: “Hell is other people.” and “Hell is the absence of the people you long for.” (pg. 144, 43%) I definitely think the latter is extremely true, but the former certainly seems true sometimes also. I like being around other people enough that I like living in a city (well the suburbs)- I don’t think I’d do well in a small town or middle of nowhere. I would say hell for me is something like being trapped and in pain… What is it for you?

I didn’t realize that the “because survival is insufficient” quote was from Star Trek, so I found that scene at the very beginning of this section very funny. And this quote was excellent: “The tattoo argument had lost all of its sting over the years and had become something like a familiar room where they met.” (pg. 119, 35%)

I feel like some of the details regarding the post-apocalyptic setting are off, like Mandel needed to do a bit more research. I thought this quote was powerful, “We stand it because we were younger than you were when everything ended, Kirsten thought, but not young enough to remember nothing at all. Because there isn’t much time left, because all the roofs are collapsing now and soon none of the old buildings will be safe. Because we are always looking for the former world, before all the traces of the former world are gone.” (pg. 130, 38%) However, would most buildings and houses really be falling down and getting unsafe already after only 20 years? That seems to underestimate current construction.
And I’m surprised that none of the towns have rigged up any solar panels, since there certainly are some around, even if not nearly as many as we should be using.

I thought the start of this section has done a good job of exploring the desolation and horrible sense of loss and grief that living in a post-apocalyptic world would engender. Like Dieter having constantly looked for airplanes for years, hoping that somewhere civilization had survived. I hadn’t realized all the symbolism involved there- but you’re right, that was a great use of the travel motif.
I think it might be better to have never know the world before, if you had to live in the post-apocalyptic one.
I feel so bad for Kirsten not being able to remember her parents. I can’t imagine that- and yet, at the same time, I don’t have the best memory and don’t know how I would even describe my parents’ faces now, so I would probably forget them too. That’s a depressing thought.

As intended, I’m also definitely curious about (view spoiler)
It’s also interesting that Kirsten thinks Alexandra is a “younger” 15-year-old than her. I keep feeling like kids and teenagers in the current world are so much older and more worldly (and usually not in a good way) than I was.

Chapter 25 was interesting in that (view spoiler)
I shouldn't suggest there is nothing to relate to regarding Arthur. The fact that in Part 3 he's just kind of bumbling through life without really knowing what he's doing- doesn't make me respect him, but I can relate to that at times. And I could definitely relate on several levels to (view spoiler)
Several of my best friends I have known since elementary school- when I think about it, it’s amazing that our friendships have stayed strong, though I also sometimes definitely feel that gulf. It is cool how I keep discovering more aspects of their personalities, even though I think their core stays the same.

Exactly my thoughts about isolation and technology. It is an amazing tool, but a lot of people use it to excess.

Great quote about Kirsten casting her thoughts out. Very relatable.

I hadn’t heard of Starset- listened to a little clip, and they’re good. I’ll have to check them out more.

Sully  (lorlorsully) | 160 comments Mod
Up to Chapter 26 (pg 159)

I'm wondering if the (view spoiler).

Hell for me would be in a room where everyone is having conversations with each other all around me indefinitely. I can stand it for short bursts of time, and I don't mine having one or two conversations in the background, but when they grow in number and it becomes difficult to separate the auditory from them, my brain goes a little haywire. I think that would be my personal version of Chinese water torture.

I've never seen any of the Star Trek tv shows, so the quote was also lost on me in its reference. I definitely like it though.

I think construction by itself would hold up, but perhaps mother nature might take its toll on it after twenty years to some extent. I'm thinking mainly in the respect of natural disasters. Tornadoes, hurricanes, lightning strikes, severe storms... all of them would help degrade a building without maintenance after the incident. Have you seen this video before?

It's a drone flying over the town near Chernobyl. I think Mandel could have just used it as a template. It's remained untouched for almost 30 years (so a little longer than in this world, but not by much).

I agree that, if placed in this world, I would prefer to never have known the world before.

I can relate to the quote about a "younger" 15-year-old. My brother was definitely a younger 15 than I ever was. As an older sibling with parents who worked 70+ hours per week regularly, I learned to tend for myself at a younger age than I probably should have had to. I matured much faster than most of the kids I grew up with and was surrounded by. I agree with the usually not in a good way portion of your statement lol. I feel like people anymore have less and less common sense (as Neil deGrasse Tyson says, common sense is not so common anymore).

Sully  (lorlorsully) | 160 comments Mod
Up to Part 6: The Airplanes (58%)

This last section was filled to the brim with quotes I highlighted so I will try to trim them down.

I'd never even thought of this, but this quote was part hysterical and part nail on the head: 'everyone knows when you've got a terrible marriage, it's like having bad breath, you get close enough to a person and it's obvious.' (Loc 2413)

The whole section of Clark interviewing the girl was beautiful. I really felt like the author knows humanity on another level with some of the quotes Dahlia gives. Here's another one from her that I loved:

'adulthood's full of ghosts... I'm talking about these people who've ended up in one life instead of another and they are just so disappointed. Do you know what I mean? They've done what's expected of them. They want to do something different but it's impossible now, there's a mortgage, kids, whatever, they're trapped." (Loc 2422)

The father of one of the kids I used to babysit warned me of this when I was in high school. Though he phrased it differently, it was the same sentiment. When you get your first decent paying job straight out of high school/college, you think 'How am I ever going to spend all this money?' Then you get married and/or (worse yet) have kids. And though you always promised yourself you wouldn't stay in that job forever since you don't particularly enjoy it, they keep giving you raises/promoting you, and you end up staying. And then one day you look back and wonder what happens. I try my best not to let myself or my husband fall into this pitfall. We run a tight budget and always try to live beneath our means so we never get trapped in that vicious cycle, but I can see how easily it happens all the time. People end up living to work instead of working to live.

And the end, where Clark thinks 'it's an awful thing to appear in someone else's report, he saw that now, it's an awful thing to be the target.' (Loc 2447). With all the craziness going on with the press right now - and even more so during the election cycle - and with social media on the rise and cyber bullying becoming the new standard, this quote is so powerful. As my mother always taught me: Do onto others as you would have done onto you. It's a lot easier to dish it out than take it, and people don't realize the impact of these things they so easily type and send out to the masses.

When Jeevan is talking to Arthur, this quote felt so profound: "Gradually, and then suddenly." (Loc 2482) It's an oxymoron in itself and yet makes complete sense. It also comes around to the theme of time and how it morphs/is relative for different characters and at different times.

What respect I had for older Arthur I lost during this flashback. The fact that (view spoiler)

I loved how the two different narratives on the different timelines/characters were so beautifully interwoven throughout the Toronto part of the book. While it wasn't as profound as the previous part, it felt masterful. And I loved Ben's sarcastic line about being the luckiest man alive for being alive. I think it comes back to the way the author defines hell. When everyone you love is gone, as you thankful to be alive still or are you living in a personal hell?

Have you read World War Z? I feel some similar tones between the two novels. When they mention that almost everyone alive is heading south in this novel, it made me think of World War Z. In WWZ, everyone is heading north for the very reason that everyone heads south in this novel.

Sully  (lorlorsully) | 160 comments Mod
Up to Chapter 47 (81%)

Sorry I fell off the wagon with the buddy read. I haven't given up on it, but I haven't had much time for reading lately. Some notes/musing on the last two sections:

"None of the older Symphony members knew much about science, which was frankly maddening given how much time these people had had to look things up on the Internet before the world ended." (Loc 2882). I love this quote because it's so relevant to how I feel about people in today's society. It's a golden age of technology and science and discovery, but most of us (and I have to admit I fall victim to the same practices more often than I would like to admit) spend our time on social media and kitten videos and memes, etc. instead of catching up on the scientific news around us.

"... but [Toronto] occupied the same geographical space as a city that now seemed much smaller to her..." (Loc 2967). I've been to Toronto for a long work weekend, and this quote made me laugh in irony due to my own personal experiences. Toronto is a huge city. While it felt smaller to Miranda, Toronto suffocated me with its tall building and narrows streets. Like New York City, I don't think I'd ever get used to such a place, or ever think it's small. But I'm a country girl, so it's a different personality perspective as well.

I liked this quote about Station Eleven: "The Undersea was limbo. She spent long hours sketching lives played out in underground rooms." (Loc 3108)

When we catch up with (view spoiler) at the airport, I found it interesting that the planes were repurposed into living quarters. I've teased a number of ideas for post-apocalyptic novels, and for one of my zombie ideas I thought about this same idea of living on airplanes as they are relatively easy "buildings" to control access to.

"... in those first days it was still inconceivable that civilization might not come back from this at all." (Loc 3471). I don't think we're at a dire point with climate change yet (I'm not the hen running around screaming the sky is falling), but I could see how we would reach that tipping point of global change where it's almost impossible to readjust what we've done. I felt like this quote would apply then as well. People resist change and many tend to just ignore it, so I found a lot of truth in this sentiment.

I liked how St. John Mandel mentioned solar panels finally as a source for energy that would still work once the power plants all stopped. I do think she might have missed a key point that I feel is always overlooked in these situations - once all the people are gone, what is keeping the plants for essentially blowing up/melting down from improper use? I doubt the last operators took the time to shut the systems down before they died. Of course, I'm probably simplifying the numerous countermeasures companies build into these plants to help prevent disaster.

"'That kind of insanity's contagious.'" (Loc 3800) I feel the truth in this sentiment a lot recently too.

Emily (emilythebooknerd) | 127 comments I am so sorry- still struggling to be productive with a lot of pain. Don’t worry about falling off the wagon- I obviously did too. I’ll work hard to catch up to you this week.

Up to Part 6: The Airplanes (pg. 198, 57%)

I liked the whole interview between Dahlia and Clark and Clark’s epiphany as well. Although I don’t feel like I could relate to it as much personally- due to my own struggles, certain adult things, like, say, a mortgage or the drudgery of a daily job, are outside my realm of experience. I can see some of her comments starting to apply to some of my friends and acquaintances, though. It was definitely an insightful take on some of the pitfalls of current society, on how many of us don’t necessarily take advantage of everything this world has to offer, don’t take the time or allow ourselves to be moved or inspired or awed.
That ghost quote was particularly powerful and shows how crucial and wonderful it is to find a job that you find fulfilling. And the importance of following your dreams at our age and seizing opportunities as they come. From what I know of you, I feel like you have a good grip on this- I admire you for making the time for your writing and giving that a genuine shot now, for example, so you don’t wonder “what if” later.

How much do you think people can truly change? I agree with Dahlia that the “perfectibility of the individual” (pg. 161, 48%) is a fantasy, but I wonder about lasting change/improvement. It seems to me that most big changes in a person’s personality are the result of some pretty major, life, or at least viewpoint, changing event or experience. I hope that people can effectively change themselves for the better to some degree through willpower, but I also think some traits can be too ingrained.

Dear V again makes me more curious about Victoria- what (view spoiler)

Clark’s comments about being a target made me think about the benefits and horrible drawbacks of being a mind reader (the friend who was staying with me and I had an X-men movie marathon ;)). Would you really want to know everyone’s real opinions of you? On the one hand, that could lead to some serious self-knowledge and a more objective view of yourself (plus knowing who your true friends were). But mostly it would be really awful to know what flaws others saw in you.
Trolls drive me nuts. I never put anything out there in public comments that I would be embarrassed of everyone knowing I said, but so many people use the anonymity as an excuse to give voice to their worst natures.

The way the human brain perceives time is so interesting. Certain days/weeks fly by and some seem to take forever (and usually inversely to how you want them to). That “Gradually, and then suddenly.” line I really liked too.

Arthur was a total coward in that interview with Jeevan- not even willing to face up to the consequences of his choices.
Several things in this section made me consider fame and why so many people seek it. Because it rarely seems to make those that achieve it truly happy, from what I have seen. Arthur Leander doesn’t really seem happy as a result of his fame, from what he says to Jeevan. Yes, people like Arthur are remembered and have a disproportional impact on others, as we see in this book, with Jeevan and others circling Arthur like satellites during his life and Kirsten remembering him more than her own parents and searching for clues about him after his death. But how Arthur is remembered and how he impacts these people is not necessarily positive. It’s not necessarily negative either, it just is, if that makes sense. I guess if I’m going to be remembered or have an impact, I’m ok with it being more specific and limited, but positive.

Jeevan’s brother, Frank, was an interesting character. He both (view spoiler)

The end of this section was rather grim. For some reason I’m wondering if Kirsten is going to end up having to kill Jeevan somehow, although that would be rather a stretch as far as coincidences go. I don’t see a happy ending for Jeevan here, certainly.
It was masterful, the weaving of the different threads through this section, although it left me feeling a little defeated, but maybe that was the point of this part. For one thing, I can’t imagine just wandering without some sort of plan or destination in mind. Kirsten and her brother, not being adults, I can see doing that, but I would hope I’d have it together a bit more than Jeevan in that situation (he had weeks to plan and prepare, after all).
Plus, yes, there was Ben’s brief appearance and story. I think a version of hell for me would be having to take care of all my loved ones while they died and not able to do anything to help, so I would certainly not be feeling lucky in his situation.

Do you think it’s true that “You can get used to anything.” (pg. 195, 57%)? I’m not sure about ANYTHING. I think Kirsten is probably right that it would be easier in some ways for the children to adjust. And interesting to think of memory as a hinderance to adaptation and mental survival.

I can’t quite decide what I think about the whole “light inside the refrigerator” nostalgia/metaphor that the section ended with. It seems a bit much, a little too artistic and pretentious, to go on about the little lights inside refrigerators, but maybe that’s the point: we take all of that kind of thing for granted.

This is kind of a tangent, but this book has made me realize that I don’t really understand how the Internet exists/ works. I certainly know how to use it, but I don’t have any idea of the nuts and bolts of how it runs. Do you? Does anyone? It’s made me curious- are there people who’s job it is to keep it running or is it all self-sufficient? This may be a very uninformed question- but are there servers around in different places from which it runs or does it manage to link all the servers of different websites without any physical presence itself? How it all works is very nebulous in my mind.
On a somewhat related note, I also liked this quote: “We bemoaned the impersonality of the modern world, but that was a lie, it seemed to him; it had never been impersonal at all. There had always been a massive delicate infrastructure of people, all of them working unnoticed around us, and when people stop going to work, the entire operation grinds to a halt.” (pg. 178, 52%) It really is true in the modern world, how amazing it is that by everyone playing their little part, this whole civilization exists and things function.

I haven’t read World War Z. Zombies tend to give me nightmares, but you told me that if I ever decided to try that genre, World War Z was a good one.

Emily (emilythebooknerd) | 127 comments Up to Part 7: The Terminal (pg. 230, 67%)

Not sure I have much to say about this section. Things are starting to come together. I’m pretty sure I now know who the Prophet is. It will be interesting to see what Kirsten and August discover when they make it to the Severn City airport. I really hope they at least find the Symphony.
This section could have been pretty grim too, but I found the writing, especially at the end when (view spoiler) to be so beautiful that it wasn’t grim for me.

I loved Kirsten and August discussing alternate universes. It’s both familiar because it is certainly something I have pondered as well (it’s nice to think there might be a world where I never became ill) and unfamiliar in that it is this lifeline for them to imagine better worlds than their own. I thought it was a bit strange that none of the older Symphony members could even tell Kirsten that the theory of multiple universes was a legitimate scientific theory. I don’t have a great amount of scientific knowledge, and I certainly don’t understand the logistics of the theory, but I feel like it’s one of which most people have heard- it’s captured a lot of people’s imaginations and thus has made it’s way into popular culture, for one thing. That said, I also loved the quote: “None of the older Symphony members knew much about science, which was frankly maddening given how much time these people had had to look things up on the Internet before the world ended.” I feel like I would probably have the same view on this if I was Kirsten, and yet, we in today’s world take the accessibility of knowledge for granted and aren’t as good about educating ourselves as we should be, as you said. (My family has always been pretty good about this, actually; when I was little, before smartphones and Wikipedia, we had a set of encyclopedias that we were always getting out to look things up in during dinner (some people who came to dinner thought we were pretty weird ;)). And on my recent trips to National Parks and such without cell service, what I missed most was being able to search for answers and information about nature and what we were seeing. But there is so much to know about and remember.)

Two other quotes I liked:
-“he had an idea- too sentimental to speak aloud and he knew none of his divorced friends would ever own up to it- that something must linger, a half-life of marriage, some sense memory of love even if obviously not the thing itself. He thought these people must mean something to one another, even if they didn’t like one another anymore.” (pg. 219, 64%) I think this must usually be true too; at least I know, due to my experiences with exes, that it would be true for me.
-“She was thinking about the way she’d always taken for granted that the world had certain people in it, either central to her days or unseen and infrequently thought of. How without any one of these people the world is a subtly but unmistakably altered place, the dial turned just one or two degrees.” (pg. 225, 66%)

That quote about Station Eleven and limbo caught my attention too- does Miranda feel like she is living in limbo, I wonder, “clinging to the hope that the world [she] remembered could be restored”?

Sully  (lorlorsully) | 160 comments Mod
Up to Chapter 50 (87%)

Sorry it's taking me so long to get through this novel. I really enjoy it, but I've been so crazy busy this year I haven't had much time for reading at all. It's a weird feeling since I'm used to reading a LOT more!

I agree completely with what you are saying on change. I think change is possible, but there is usually a catalyst. I don't think someone can forcefully get another individual to change unless they are willing to (which is why I detest when people go into a relationship thinking they'll be able to change their partner. You certainly shouldn't expect change, especially not from someone else for your own whim).

Victoria's involvement in the story thus far reminds me a lot of those revenge sites where ex's can post humiliating/revealing videos of their ex. I have a hard time understanding how anyone would be able to do that to another people, especially someone they cared about. But that is why I always try to be cautious of photos I take/videos I record/things I say and write. The sad thing it, sometimes you just never know!

I would hate being a mind reader. I like to pretend that I don't care what people think about me (and with strangers, I think it's almost true), but I'm constantly working on improving my self esteem and I think being about to read people's minds, to know every negative thought - fleeting or not - would make me huddle in the bathroom and eat ice cream by the quart. Mint chocolate chip, yum!

I love Frank's character. Even though his story was such a small plot point, it resonated with me. And I think, in the same situation, I would have made the same decision as Frank.

I agree, not sure sure about getting used to ANYTHING. My hubby just finished the Unbroken audiobook (I've been trying to get him to read it forever), so we rewatched the movie last week. I think that's a good example of a situation you don't ever get used to - being a POW and being tortured (and everything he went through before that) - mentally and/or physically - day in and day out. I think you can maybe adapt to some extent to perhaps anything to try to survive, but you wouldn't necessarily get used to it.

I think for me it would be something more like a Kindle I would focus on. Or a bedside lamp. Or digital clock. Not something like a refrigerator lamp. But I see why she used it. What do you think your item you'd notice would be?

I cannot confess to being a know-it-all about the internet, but I do know that the internet is a "virtual" location created by the connection of different servers all over the global and that websites/data is found by targeting IPs. I haven't had a chance to read the whole article yet, but if you are interest I consulted one of my favorite websites, How Stuff Works:

But yeah, as we both pointed out in our lack of knowledge, it's crazy how much technology we used everyday that we don't even understand how it works. I always say my engineering degree didn't teach me engineering, but it taught me how to think and how to explore the world around me so that I have a better understanding of what I interact with each day. Of course I'm not perfect, I'll never have enough time to explore everything, but I really do appreciate that love of learning I gained while pursuing my degree. The one kicker that always tickles me is when people say how we should cut back NASA funding and science grants, etc. as we don't see much tangible use for it in our own lives. People don't understand that their GPS and their phone calls ping off location satellites that NASA helped launch into lower Earth orbit. They use it everyday and most would be lost without it!

I stand by that affirmation =) It really wasn't that scary and was a great exploration into human psychology. I do remember that now that you mentioned it though.

I had no idea who the Preacher was, but it makes perfect sense. It all just feels coincidental to me a bit though. The author focused on these characters the whole time because they were important, but following them for so many years and then realizing why you followed them feels a little cheap to me. I'm not explaining it right (I haven't slept well/much in about a week now lol), but I hope that makes sense.

I would be willing to bet if I asked a handful of the guys I work with about the multiverse theory, they would have no idea what I was even talking about. Sadly, I don't think the author is that far off track, though you would hope that ONE of them had an inkling. Anyone who's seen a MIB movie should be able to tell you something about it lol. The most interesting thing I learned about current theories right now is some scientists believe that perhaps dark matter (all that stuff in the universe - the other 95% out there that we can't see/measure) is actually our interaction with the other universes in the multiverse around us. Think like the glitches in the Matrix/the deja vu.

That's an awesome story about the encyclapedias. We didn't have that, but that would have fit right in our home. We did have a HUGE dictionary we dubbed "Big Bertha" that we were always looking up spellings and definitions in though.

Sully  (lorlorsully) | 160 comments Mod

I finished a couple of days ago and was going to give myself time to reflect, but I actually didn't have much of a chance to think about it. Still, overall, I really enjoyed it. On one of my writing podcasts this week they discussed literary fiction and genre fiction and how the two are very rarely one in the same. I thought St. John Mandel did an excellent job with this literary science fiction novel.

One of the few things that struck out to me what how, in this world where so few people survived, it seemed convenient and unlikely that so many people who knew each other before the pandemic would survive. We had, how many? Five? Or more. At least five I think. That just seemed a little farfetched to me. But other than that, I can't nitpick too much. I really did enjoy it.

I also thought the ending could have been a little better had some of the last scenes been switched around. I really like novels that come full circle, especially nonlinear ones. I would have loved it if Arthur's death had been the final scene. But I understand why she went the other way. A finale of (view spoiler).

Emily (emilythebooknerd) | 127 comments I am going to get through this book! I am going to get through this book! I just have so much to say in my comments and then I get distracted by other books… But one last push!
I started writing these comments like a week ago and just never ended up finishing them, bad Emily ;) But here they finally are!

Up to Part 8: The Prophet (pg. 282, 83%)

I liked learning more about what happened to people between the pandemic and the 20 years later storyline. I got the feeling again, though, that this section wasn’t overly realistic as far as details relating to survival and could have used some research. For example, those would have to be some very plentiful and easy-to-hunt deer to keep 300 people in the Severn City airport comfortably fed, especially during the winters. I think those in the airport would have faced many more challenges to survival than the author described, including some lean years while they figured out how to provide themselves with enough food. Like one thing Mandel never talks about is the cold, which would be an issue in Michigan in the winter in an unheated airport with tons of windows. But I get that she is focused in this book more on the question of how a person would feel mentally and emotionally in such a situation than on how they would survive physically.
I would also have been interested in how a social or governing structure developed among the people of the airport- what rules did they follow and how were they enforced? This is something Mandel touches on only very briefly when talking about the rape that occurs. I’m sure this would not have been the only conflict between citizens of the airport that needed resolving. Did a leader arise naturally or did they somehow decide on one? How did they organize everyone as a workforce and ensure that the essential tasks were accomplished? (Thinking that this would just happen of its own accord if there were enough people doesn’t make sense to me.)

I don’t know why, but for some reason, finding out that (view spoiler)

So regarding Tyler- (view spoiler)

I thought that discussion between (view spoiler) was really sad. This was one of those instances where I wanted to yell at the characters in a book. In my very definite opinion, of corse they should be teaching children about the world before because they want the children to take the first steps to rebuilding some kind of civilization, even if it is many generations in the future and even if it is different from the one humans had built before the apocalypse. I would want my children to know what was possible, so they would try to relearn the science and skills that were lost and recreate ways to do things that currently seemed impossible. I would hope that if our civilization ever falls to pieces like is shown in this book, humans will eventually be innovative enough to rebuild. I wouldn’t want our descendants merely surviving for forever.

I got my mom to start this book yesterday, and so far she’s definitely like “How are people not further along on rebuilding after 20 years?” I think she’s somewhat overly optimistic, but she was saying that she thinks someone would have managed to produce a small amount of oil/gas in Texas by that point to get things moving again. I think it would be a slower, requiring more building from the ground up, but I still think people and society in this book really stagnated after the collapse. In her opinion, the book would make more sense if something had caused civilization to self-destruct from the inside or some condition of life on Earth had changed, like the climate changing in a way that made it much harder to grow food. I can see her reasoning and do think the author didn’t think things through enough. My mom might be a bit too pragmatic to quite get this book, we’ll see.
Update: I don’t know if my mom’s going to end up getting through the book- I knew the genre would be a bit of a stretch for her (she mostly reads historical fiction and usually dislikes fantasy, for example), but she’s quite a worrier, so the apocalyptic aspect of the book is disturbing her quite a bit/making her brain churn about how she would protect everyone, especially, I’m guessing, my two brothers who live in other states at the moment. I can see being disturbed by the apocalyptic books that are more of a warning about what could happen if humanity doesn’t change its course in some way, I just don’t read this book that way. I tried to explain the “love letter to our current civilization” idea to her, but I’m not sure it’s made a difference ;)

An airplane might be a very good place to live if we’re overrun with zombies- they are obviously very self-contained, good point.

I definitely share your fears regarding global warming. I read something (although I can’t for the life of me remember where or how legitimate it was) about how humans are wired to live to some degree in denial all the time because otherwise fear and anxiety about the threats that constantly surround us (especially in pre-civilization times) would overwhelm us and keep us from being able to act and live. This serves us well in terms of things like allowing us to not be worried about car crashes on our daily commute (although I personally struggle with anxiety regarding car travel), but I think this tendency towards denial is terrifying in its implications for the direction we’re heading in as a civilization, especially with global warming.

I totally feel you as well with the “contagious insanity” going around.

Yes- people can change, but THEY have to want to, for starters, not just have a significant other who wants them to.

Wow- I had actually not heard about such sites. That’s horrible! I certainly understand being hurt by an ex, but the depths to which people will sink…

Exactly about being a mind-reader- it’s hard enough to have decent self-esteem as it is!

I think my iPad is probably what I would focus on, since it’s the device I’m most attached to. Plus maybe light fixtures themselves, like pretty chandeliers that would be useless without electricity.

I will check out that article on the Internet when I have the chance, thanks! That’s a cool site!

I have always had a love of learning, which has helped sustain me through everything with my illness, I think. The world is an amazing place and there is so much to explore and learn from it. I have more interest in the humanities than in regular science, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the latter and want to expand my knowledge about it as well.

I totally understand what you mean about (view spoiler)

That’s really interesting about the black matter theory- I should look into that further. I really need to fix a gapping hole in my understanding of popular culture and movies by actually watching The Matrix…

Sounds like your family and mine would get along well! “Big Bertha” made me laugh :)

Emily (emilythebooknerd) | 127 comments Finished

Well, that took me way longer than it should have, but I quite enjoyed it. Insightful and beautiful writing, even if the development of the post-apocalyptic world was a bit lacking and could have used some more detail and research. I agree that it was great to see a literary novel that was also a genre novel and that the two were combined well.

I thought Part 8 was very well executed. (view spoiler)
However, I don’t really understand why the last part, Part 9, was necessary at all. It did bring things back to (view spoiler)

Very true, about all these people connected to Arthur not only surviving but ending up in a relatively small area. Definitely too much coincidence.

My mom is continuing to read some. I don’t know if (view spoiler) She used “world building” in a sentence herself when talking about this book today (as in she’s struggling with the book because of its inadequate world building)- I’m very proud that she’s picking up some literary terms and meanings ;) I think given the ending, the limited scope of the world building is largely intentional, though. It shows how much the world has shrunk for those who survived, without communication or easy travel. However, there could definitely have been greater DEPTH of world building, as in more detail about the small section of the world the characters do know about, if that makes sense. (For example, it bugs me that we don’t ever really have it explained how the Symphony gets enough food to survive, etc.)

message 23: by Sully (last edited Mar 21, 2017 03:00PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sully  (lorlorsully) | 160 comments Mod
I had the EXACT SAME thoughts about the hunting the deer situation. Especially since they are still living off the same mode of survival 20 years after the collapse. I felt like they should have figured out farming or something (which might be one reason to head a little further south to more agriculturally inclined areas).

I agree about Jeevan too. After (view spoiler)

I saw the airplane on the tarmac as the (view spoiler)

I think St. John Mandel picked a pandemic because it was the easiest way to decimate the population (though it did seem to happen SUPER fast) and collapse the society. Climate change, global warming, famine, the extinction of bees, etc. would all have a longer ripple effect. She kind of went for the shock factor here so that she could connect the same characters. But I do believe it causes you to suspend some disbelief for the setting.

I heard the same thing about denial. I think mine was from the StarTalk Radio podcast that Neil deGrasse Tyson (my superhero) runs.

The Matrix isn't all that great lol. I feel like I'm more of a letdown for not reading Dune yet (it popped up in two podcasts in the last two weeks again).

I agree with everything in your last paragraph of your last post. Take the Symphony food as you mentioned. I think they said something once about eating wild rabbit on the road. And I read that and kind of laughed and was like "And?!?!?! What else?" Especially since Mandel puts a huge emphasis on the fact that they find a house that hasn't been raided yet. And I know canned foods last a while, but twenty years? That seems like a stretch.

Emily (emilythebooknerd) | 127 comments Exactly- they would have to figure out what worked well in their region, but would definitely need to grow some food in addition. At least at the end, they mention them having a few cows at the airport, but farm animals would be very useful too.

That's a good point about the airplane of ghosts. I see why (view spoiler)

Yes, the pandemic was a good tool for the story, but as you said, took out some of the believability.

Maybe you were the one who told me that about denial! That's definitely possible.

Yeah- canned food would have been useful for a few years, but 20 years is stretching it a bit... And people can't survive on just meat.

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