‘Station Eleven’ Book Review

As of writing this review, millions of people across the globe are sheltering in place. Many have lost their jobs and humanity is united in fear and hopelessness. It is nearly impossible to find something to be happy about. Yet, in the midst of all the chaos, confusion and despair Emily St John manages to entertain and offer hope. In Station Eleven, she talks about a pandemic whose scale and devastating impacts mirror what the globe is grappling with today. This book is not for the faint hearted. It is for resilient spirits that can find reasons to smile and hope even in the face of the bleakest and most trying adversity.

Station Eleven Summary

Station Eleven describes an apocalyptic viral pandemic that devastates humanity. Hundreds of millions die and the few survivors are tasked with the mandate of re-establishing civilization.  Jeevan, a young actor who performs as part of a troupe is the main character in this novel. Over a years-long period, the novel tracks Jeevan’s experiences. The novel begins by describing Jeevan’s first encounter with the highly contagious Georgian flu which leaves death and untold suffering in its wake. It then proceeds to explore Jeevan’s quest for normalcy.

While Jeevan is the main character in St. John’s Station Eleven, he is certainly not the only one. As they read on, audiences are introduced to numerous other characters who are also grappling with the outcomes of the Georgian flu pandemic. One of these characters is Clark, a young man who joins Jeevan in looking for normalcy. He finds some version of this normalcy in a fictional town where he serves as a museum curator. The book concludes without informing readers whether humanity was able to repair the damage that the pandemic had caused. 

The good in Station Eleven

First off, it is important to make it clear that Station Eleven may not be the right book for all readers at this time. Currently, individuals are frightened and are desperate in their search for hope. This book does not offer much. Instead, it is scary, crude and raw. Perhaps these qualities are what make it so intriguing. Station Eleven confronts a real issue in such a human way. It explores the fears and anxieties of individuals who have lost their families and communities whose lives have been wiped out. The real approach that the book adopts is truly effective.

Before sitting down to write Station Eleven, St John must have carried out rigorous research. The amount of effort that went into the development of the book is evident in the technical details and the accuracy of the information that St John offers. For example, he describes the symptoms that those infected with the Georgian flu exhibit. These details show that the book is not a mere work of fiction. It respects the intelligence of readers enough to feed them accurate and verifiable information. 

How it depicts the daily struggles that humans endure is yet another issue that Station Eleven does perfectly. For example, the book indicates that even in the midst of pandemics, humans grapple with such other problems as death and marital infidelity. Basically, St John demonstrates that even in the face of serious crises like pandemics, normal human experiences continue. Essentially, the book highlights the supremacy and resilience of the human spirit. This spirit is tremendously strong and formidable that it continues to power life even during the darkest moments.

One would expect that given the heftiness of the pandemic that constitutes the focus of St John’s book, she would be tempted to highlight the ugly side of humans. St John resists this temptation. For example, usually, when pandemics strike, looting and the rise of dystopian governments are witnessed. These events do not erupt in St John’s universe. Instead of presenting humans as destructive and selfish individuals, St John portrays the characters in Station Eleven as resourceful, innovative, and resilient. These characters echo the millions of people today who continue to hold out hope and have maintained their sobriety. 

The focus on individual stories adds to the appeal of Station Eleven. While it is true that the whole of humanity is decimated by the Georgian flu, St John does not give too much attention to the collective pain that the entire world experiences. Instead, she places individual struggles at the center of this book. Each of the characters in Station Eleven have their own unique problems and perspectives. These differences combine to convey the message that such crises as pandemics can be so devastating that they unite the whole of humanity in sorrow and anguish.

How art can be used to elevate human spirits and reinvigorate individuals who are on the brink of losing hope is another matter that Station Eleven uses to set itself apart. This novel depicts art as an effective antidote that could hold the key to helping humanity recover in the wake of pandemics and other serious crisis. The book’s celebration of the role that art plays is important as it reminds readers to develop deeper appreciation for artists who strive to deliver hope and awaken dying spirits. 

The main takeaway from Station Eleven is that no hardship is so unbearable that it can totally eliminate hope. The book indicates that humans possess the capacity to withstand even the most daunting hardship. Having witnessed death and survived unimaginable pain, Jeevan and Kirsten, two of the most important characters in the novel manage to retain their positivity. They can provide lessons to those who are worried about their jobs, health and futures. It is clear that St John sought to use the book as a tool for lifting spirits and restoring hope. 

The not so good and the outright bad

One of the things that readers may not like about Station Eleven is that it does not take health crises seriously. For example, the book does not offer sufficient detail about the human cost of the Georgian flu. It does not describe hospitals overwhelmed by the large number of patients who have developed this flu and whose lives are in serious danger. Moreover, the book fails to give adequate weight to the economic impacts of the flu pandemic. The absence of these details erodes the impact of the book and could alienate some readers, particularly those who have witnessed the effects of pandemics first hand.

St John makes the job of reviewers daunting. Many reviewers love it when books offer them a lot to complain about. St John does not allow them to experience this pleasure as they review her book. The mistakes are so minor and forgivable that any reviewer who dwells on them is simply being petty and unprofessional. The many things that St John gets right are enough to distract readers from the few blunders that she commits.

Final Thought

In closing, St John packages a serious topic in an approachable and unintimidating fabric. Her book is so well structured and put together that even the laziest readers will have an easy time. However, while it does not demand much physical effort, the book requires tremendous moral and emotional fortitude. It is best suited for readers looking to build their tenacity and resilience and those who wish to have their faith in the strength of the human spirit renewed. 

‘The Bone Clocks’ Review

To many readers, David Mitchell is no stranger. He has authored numerous books that have captivated audiences across the globe. It is therefore little wonder that The Bone Clocks, one of his latest creation has been greeted with such anticipation and excitement. Mitchell manages to assure readers that their trust and confidence in him is well placed. Combining multiple perspectives with inspired storytelling, he shows why he remains the king of fiction.

The Bone Clocks Synopsis

As is the case with most of his other works, Mitchell structures The Bone Clocks into multiple chapters. In each chapter, he focuses on a particular component of the book’s main character, Holly. The book is primarily set in 1984 Kent, England. Here, Mitchell leads readers through the experiences of Holly, a stubborn and rebellious teenager. Special attention is given to Holly’s discovery of her boyfriend’s unfaithfulness and her decision to flee from her home. Mitchell places Holly in charge of telling her own stories. This is an effective technique as readers are able to get an inside look into the mind of a teenager.

While Holly’s experiences form the focus of The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell, the author still manages to introduce other characters into the narrative. He does this by allowing these characters to replace Holly in narrating her struggles. For example, Hugo Lamb, one of Holly’s love interests is assigned the job of telling readers about Holly’s life and his interactions with her. Crispin Hershey, a man experiencing career decline also joins Lamb in speaking about Holly. The use of different voices helps to add depth to what would otherwise be a linear and boring novel.

Readers should brace for confusion. As can be seen in some of his other creations, he adopts a rather complex style that some readers may find to be inappropriate and ineffective. However, most readers will agree with Mitchell that his style helps to elevate his storytelling. In the fifth chapter of the book, Mitchell abandons the approach that he uses in the previous chapters. Here, even as the book makes some mention of Holly’s life, attention shifts to a different universe inhabited by immortals. Again, those wishing to read the book should expect this book to leave them feeling confused and even dazed. 

Why readers struggle to put the book down

It is difficult to find flaws in The Bone Clocks. This is not to say that the novel has no shortcomings. Mitchell’s storytelling is so excellent that it distracts from the few mistakes and limitations. One of the many strengths that readers will notice is that the book is vastly different from any that they have read. As opposed to other books which are rather predictable and lack courage, Mitchell’s book is bold and distinct. This boldness can particularly be seen in the structure. Mitchell took a serious risk when he decided to adopt the structure that the book uses.

The fact that he creates room for multiple voices is another issue that helps Mitchell to win over readers who may struggle to accept his work. Apart from Holly, the books main character, The Bone Clocks also allocates sufficient space to other characters who guide readers through Holly’s experiences while providing readers with first-row seats into deeply personal performances. Readers are particularly likely to be drawn to Hershey as his hardships echo those of readers who have also struggled with job insecurity and financial challenges.

How Mitchell introduces supernatural elements into the book without damaging its relatability and reality is another reason why this book is nearly impossible to put down. Usually, fiction writers go too far by conjuring characters and events that are simply unreal. Mitchell is different. He exercises tremendous restraint in ensuring that the narratives, developments, and events as well as the characters in the novel echo the actual human experience. The fact that the book echoes reality certainly makes it relatable.

Mitchell demonstrates that he is not afraid to confront subjects that other writers are either too incompetent or frightened to address. For example, in The Bone Clocks, he explores and develops such themes as the human struggle for self-interest in a world that threatens survival. This theme is indeed weighty and it suggests that Mitchell recognizes that hi fictional works serve purposes that extend beyond entertainment. The Bone Clocks also functions as a platform for engaging readers about serious ethical questions.  

Mitchell knew full well that combining reality with fantasy would upset some of his readers. This must be why he ensured that the real and relatable elements of the book are not overshadowed by the fantasy. The balance between the two styles is indeed remarkably. It highlights Mitchell’s expertise, experience, and enviably innovative spirit. He offers lessons to other writers who seek to make their creations more diverse but are afraid of alienating some of their readers. The Bone Clocks is an ideal case study for innovation and courage in literature.

One could argue that Mitchell is a selfish and self-promoting writer. These traits are evident in the type of characters that he chose to include in The Bone Clocks. Some of these characters are from his earlier works. While it is true that these characters point to Mitchell’s self-promoting tendencies, it should be understood that they also help to breath coherence and unity in the various works. Basically, thanks to these characters, Mitchell is able to lead readers from the universe in one book to that in another. 

Things that David failed to get right

As has been made clear above, The Bone Clocks book possesses so many strengths that other books in the same genre will struggle to compete. However, there are some problems that dent the book’s appeal. One of these problems is that the book is difficult to classify. This difficulty arises from Mitchell’s decision to include elements from both fantasy and reality. There are readers who will certainly complete that the book’s complexity makes it bloated and impossible to take seriously.

Another shortcoming that could see Mitchell lose fans is that The Bone Clocks book is that it is rather outlandish and appears to try too hard. Essentially, it is as though Mitchell feared that his very reputation hinged on the success of this book. To safeguard his image, he decided to throw all he had at his readers. This strategy backfires because it leaves readers feeling overwhelmed and confused. The failure of this approach confirms the commonly held belief that in many cases, less is more. Mitchell should have held back some more. 

To read or not to read? 

At the end of any review, one has to issue a judgment regarding whether the book in question is worth a read. Mitchell’s book is not for everyone. In fact, only a few readers will appreciate it. Mitchell must have known that his book would struggle to find an audience. However, he manages to secure a loyal and enthusiastic audience. The Bone Clocks is exhilarating, tremendously fun and unbelievably engaging. This reviewer strongly encourages those who are yet to read it to do so and prepare to be transported to a different world.