Emily St John Mandel’s Station Eleven

Station ElevenIn Station Eleven, 99% of the population has been wiped out by the Georgian Flu. Towns and cities have been deserted, as people set out to escape the flu, which spread quickly and without mercy throughout densely populated areas. Instead, settlements have sprung up wherever people ended up when they ran out of fuel – around petrol stations or fast food restaurants – or at hotels or defunct airport lounges.
It starts with the death of Arthur Leander, who collapses on stage whilst performing King Lear at a Toronto theatre, just days before the collapse. Arthur dies in the old world, but the lives of people who knew him wind throughout the past and the present. From his ex-wives to the young child actress playing a walk-on part in Lear, he is the glue that holds the novel together.

Twenty years in the future, the national grid is down. The survivors have no electricity. Even if they can discover ways to generate their own power, the internet is down. Modern communication methods no longer exist. Kirsten, the child who once performed in King Lear, is now part of the Travelling Symphony, travelling the country performing plays by Shakespeare. They offer people much needed and wanted entertainment as they rebuild their lives again from scratch. But when travelling through one settlement, it becomes clear that something is wrong. The symphony is threatened, and has to pull together and rely on all their wits to avoid falling into the clutches of the dangerous self-proclaimed ‘Prophet’.

In the past, Arthur’s first wife, Miranda, struggles to cope with the pressures of life of Hollywood, while Elizabeth, his second, takes her young son to live halfway around the world. Arthur’s college friend, Clark, remembers the person that he used to be. Arthur’s death is a catalyst that throws them all back together.

But the backbone of this story isn’t about the plague itself, and it’s not really about the symphony’s altercation with the Prophet, which provides just a loose framework and structure for the novel. There are no huge battles for supplies or survival. Instead, this book is about how people adapt and change as a result of events that have changed the world beyond recognition. It’s about the relationships that people form and the search for answers behind a natural disaster. Continue reading

‘A Lovely Way to Burn’ by Louise Welsh

A Lovely Way to BurnAny regular readers of my blog will know that I have a thing for dystopian fiction. I also love a good crime novel. Louise Welsh’s new novel, ‘A Lovely Way to Burn’, is a mash up of these two genres and so was always going to be hit in my book.

Stevie Flint is horrified when she discovers the dead body of her boyfriend, Simon. But having reported it to the police, she’s immediately struck down by a debilitating flu-like illness. When she recovers, she emerges to find that people across the country are being struck down by a mysterious, and in most cases fatal, sickness known as the ‘sweats’. It soon becomes clear that people are dying in droves – and there’s nothing that the doctors can do.

Despite everything that’s going on, Stevie is determined to find out what happened to Simon – and when she finds a package addressed to her hidden in Simon’s flat, she is convinced there’s more to the story. Continue reading