My first ever audiobook! I know I’m so late to the party here – I remember hearing Stephen Fry’s Harry Potter audiobooks in my friend’s dad’s car when we were teenagers – but what can I say, I like to let ideas grow on me. James does most of his “reading” via audiobook, but a lot of the snippets I’ve heard have put me off because his picks tend to be from the fantasy and sci fi genres, and the voice actors seem to me to get a bit carried away with giving the characters different and OTT voices.
When I bought the Station Eleven Kindle edition on Amazon though, there was an offer to add the audio version for only an extra £1 or 2. I listened to the sample, and lo and behold, the guy seemed to just be reading the story! Hurrah! I really enjoyed both the novel itself and the audiobook experience – I’ve been converted.
Station Eleven is a dystopian novel, set both during and 20 years after the collapse of civilisation, brought about by a deadly flu virus. The book flits back and forth between these two timelines, several characters, and a few different locations. To begin with, this made it feel like a series of random, snapshot scenes, and when I was around halfway or even two thirds of the way through, James asked me how I was finding it, and I said it was good, but that there wasn’t really much of a plot. At that point, it reminded me of the musical Cats – I loved the songs and the costumes, but I came out of the theatre disappointed because I felt like they’d just set the scene and not much else.
In Station Eleven though, piece by piece, the characters’ stories intertwine, and momentum starts to build. Because the book keeps going back to the same events – not only from different characters’ perspectives, but also the same characters experiencing them real time, remembering them later, and talking to others about them – it gives the impression that nothing new is happening, and I think that was compounded in the audiobook by the calm narration. This is no bad thing though, as it made the later parts of the book feel all the more dramatic, when the pace accelerates, and I was surprised and satisfied by the last few pieces in the puzzle.
The book is certainly a slow burner, but as a result the characters are very well fleshed out, and I felt like I knew and understood them by the end. Emily St John Mandel also paints a thorough picture of life, both as we know it, and how it could be if most of the human race were suddenly wiped out. It was refreshing to find a post-apocalyptic story with no zombies – one of the characters even mentions this at one point!
A perfect autumn read – curl up with this one on a rainy day and let it take you away.
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