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February 2017: Quirky > Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel - 5 Stars (Favorite)

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message 1: by Charlie (new)

Charlie  Ravioli (charlie_ravioli) | 393 comments On one level this is a book about a pandemic that kills 99% of the population, a post-plague band of survivors (The Traveling Symphony) that roam the countryside to perform Shakespeare and classical music, and the unknown, interwoven lives of a handful of characters both pre and post SuperFlu.

On another level, I think this book is a cautionary tale about how the world can burn itself out to the brink of extinction as a result of civilization "surviving" thru unenlightened lives. I thought this was a perfect mix of two other favorite books, "The Imperfectionists" and "A Visit From The Goon Squad".

The book opens with an epigraph lamenting "that the planet moves toward darkness" and that "(t)here is too much world." I contend that the opposite of "too much world" is "too little humanity" and that the end result and literal epitome of "too little humanity" is a post apocalyptic wasteland.

The motto of the Traveling Symphony is "Survival is insufficient", which is attributed to an episode of Star Trek: Voyager, but for me has more of its roots in Thoreau's observation that “(t)he mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation". An enlightened life is one that lives within but also above this world that is "too much". It is an existence rooted in cultivating the mind and spirit to attain knowledge and insight. It is a life that is cultural, aware, broad-minded and always seeking to develop. It is a being that ventures for a purpose higher than mere existence (or survival). Such enlightenment is often attributed to the Arts be it music, painting, writing or acting but can also be found in science, nature, and wellness.

I have a friend who once asked me "why do you think you read so much"? This person also off-handedly asked me once when I was caught up in a work related vortex "tell me about the book you're reading now"? This is a very wise person that knows that I read for both enjoyment but also for enlightenment and that I can let the world become "too much" if I stop reading and lose my connection and context.

I am reading Alexander Hamilton (along with a group of other PBT members...in a way, now that I think of it, PBT is its own little Traveling Symphony). Hamilton, much like his contemporaries, came of age on the heels of the Age of Enlightenment and "fit the type of the self-improving autodidact" that embodied the "aristocratic ideal of the versatile man conversant in every area of knowledge," from philosophy to economics to politics. I think there is something to this type of life and how Hamilton's and that of the other Founding Fathers' is the basis of our modern world. I think it is hard to argue that "there is too much world" in our current age which again is why I found Station Eleven to be more of clarion call than a quirky, science fiction tale.

This book is a new favorite for me. It reminds me of the importance to strive for enlightenment beyond this "world".


message 2: by Jgrace (new)

Jgrace | 2673 comments Terrific review, Charlie. I couldn't agree with you more.


message 3: by Ladyslott (new)

Ladyslott | 1880 comments Great review Charlie! I too loved this book.


message 4: by Regina Lindsey (new)

Regina Lindsey | 1005 comments Great review. It's beginning to look like we have similar tastes. I love your PBT analogy.


message 5: by Karin (last edited Feb 07, 2017 11:34AM) (new)

Karin | 6806 comments IMO Station Eleven, which was a 4 star read for me, is NOT scifi at all, since there is no science involved--and certainly any smidgeon is not central to the story. It's more post-apocalyptic. However, some people have a far broader definition of scifi :)

While there were things I didn't like about it, and a few unbelievable things, I liked the Traveling Symphony and found it very plausible. Travelling players existed for a Very Long Time before modern entertainment. (one of the totally unbelievable things was finding a 20 year old bottle of shampoo that could still be used, but that was a smaller one). She did do some very believable things, but not all, although I liked the book and may well read more by her.

However, given that this book is only set in one area, it could be that some of the things I found unbelievable were limited to that one area and not everywhere. Also, there were some serious dystopian/post-apocatyptic stereotypical things, but then some refreshingly realistic things often lacking in the devastating-disease-wipes-out-most-of-the-human-race books (some of which are scifi, some of which aren't).

But then, fiction like this is to make a statement and doesn't have to be totally realistic and one hundred percent believable, it's just that I have a few pet peeves (don't we all???) that aren't everyone's.


message 6: by Becky C (new)

Becky C | 108 comments Fantastic review. Adding to the ever-growing tbr...


message 7: by Michael (last edited Feb 12, 2017 06:55PM) (new)

Michael (mike999) | 569 comments Lovely review, Charlie, a model for how to use reading as a lens tto see how to live meaningfully. I didn't know what to make of the story-within-the-story as represented by the fantasy comic adventure, an element still fermenting in my mind.


message 8: by Karin (last edited Feb 13, 2017 09:03AM) (new)

Karin | 6806 comments Michael wrote: "Lovely review, Charlie, a model for how to use reading as a lens tto see how to live meaningfully. I didn't know what to make of the story-within-the-story as represented by the fantasy comic adven..."

I really liked the story-within-the-story, and it was extremely relevant to the overall story on several levels.


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