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Editorial Reviews

The Travelling Symphony, a group of musicians and actors, wander what remains of Planet Earth after a global pandemic has decimated the population, performing musical acts and Shakespearean skits for pockets of survivors who have managed to rebuild. Life has slowly settled into some semblance of normalcy — but with a new danger rising, any illusion of safety is soon shattered. 

Told through the voice of multiple characters (each performed with distinction by narrator Jack Hawkins), Station Eleven is a twisting novel that jumps back and forth from the early days of the outbreak to the crumbled aftermath. It’s a stark, brilliantly crafted post-apocalyptic tale that is both adored by fans and celebrated by critics, evidenced by its 2015 Arthur C. Clarke Award win.

Publisher's Summary

Winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award 2015

Day one: The Georgia Flu explodes over the surface of the Earth like a neutron bomb. News reports put the mortality rate at over 99%.

Week Two: Civilization has crumbled.

Year Twenty: A band of actors and musicians called the Travelling Symphony move through their territories performing concerts and Shakespeare to the settlements that have grown up there. Twenty years after the pandemic, life feels relatively safe. But now a new danger looms, and it threatens the hopeful world every survivor has tried to rebuild.

Moving backwards and forwards in time, from the glittering years just before the collapse to the strange and altered world that exists twenty years after, Station Eleven charts the unexpected twists of fate that connect six people: famous actor Arthur Leander; Jeevan, a bystander warned about the flu just in time; Arthur's first wife, Miranda; Arthur's oldest friend, Clark; Kirsten, an actress with the Travelling Symphony; and the mysterious and self-proclaimed 'prophet'.

Emily St. John Mandel was born in Canada and studied dance at The School of Toronto Dance Theatre. She is the author of the novels Last Night in Montreal, The Singer's Gun, The Lola Quartet, and Station Eleven and is a staff writer for The Millions. She is married and lives in New York.

©2014 Emily St. John Mandel (P)2014 Audible Studios

What listeners say about Station Eleven

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Good book if you dont think about it too much

It focuses on the characters rather than the post apocalypse. It sets them up quite well, but the payoff isnt that great.

There are some things that dont make sense (lack of electricity for 20 years), but it can easily be ignored.

6 people found this helpful

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Brilliant

So well written and such great character , and not about the end of the world but so much more , full of life’s overlapping , wish it hadn’t ended .

2 people found this helpful

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Surprisingly good

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It kept a nice pace and the character development was really good. I don’t normally enjoy this type of book but found the writing was great and enjoyed the characters and how it all tied together. The focus wasn’t on the actual apocalyptic event rather the aftermath for people. Loved it. Give it a burl

2 people found this helpful

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This story draws you in.

I read this book first and then downloaded the audio book a few months later. The narrator’s Canadian accent changed my perception of characters and events for the better and I was able to appreciate the story in a different way. I love the understated nature of the writer’s post apocalyptic world. The threats and dangers are there, but there’s a sense of hope that if civilisation ended, we might just find enough common humanity to form communities and reasons to live. I also loved the time jumps back and forth to slowly reveal stories. The interconnected plots felt realistic and never too contrived. I’d recommend this book to anyone.

2 people found this helpful

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I listen to this book a second time

I have recommended it to lots of other people loved every second of it. Got even more out of it the 2nd reading

2 people found this helpful

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fantastic, emotional, intense

Station Eleven was a fantastic read/listen. The jumps around in time and place can be disorienting, and there are some characters that seem to bare no relevance to the story, and one character that was not well enough explained to be believable. Overall, though, I loved it. The detail, the writing, the intensity... One of, if not the best tale of the end of the world as we know it.

1 person found this helpful

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disappointing

First, it was near impossible to get past the narration. voice actor uses same inflection for all women and children, making them sound like they have a brain disorder. Broke immersion of the book everytime. As for the story, it hints at something interesting but ultimately missed the mark. there are so many characters and the time line changes so much it's difficult to keep track of what's relevant. I also found the main protagonist very anti climatic. Hints at an interesting world with an underlying message i just couldn't get interested in.

1 person found this helpful

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Undeniably good

This post plauge world is full of life and vivid characters that you can't help but love. A band of travelling performers and a past that is still so fresh but the world is different and there are new challenges to face. I haven't read a book so wonderfully gripping in so long. Jack Hawkins voice is smooth and easy to listen to and I'm a little in love. Interconnected through a past and a present these characters feel so real that I when I resurfaced, my eyes wet from tears, I felt like I had lost friends by finishing. Utterly brilliant writing.

1 person found this helpful

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wonderful words

a romantic account of the end of civilization, beautifully written and lovely crafted. but as a boringly practical person I found that myself asking "where are all the solar panels?!"

1 person found this helpful

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Excellent

Fantastic tale, some reviews said it was hard to follow but I didn’t have any trouble at all. It’s a good human story, no flash & bang just real reactions which makes it believable. All over, just a great listen

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  • Miss
  • 05-08-2019

Couldn’t stop listening…!

This was a fantastic listen! A wonderful idea, a fantastic cast of characters, absorbing, completely gripping and yet also moving and powerful. Highly recommended!

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  • Felix Andrews
  • 26-09-2018

Masterpiece

A most thoughtful and yet gripping account of civilisation collapse. Told from several intertwined perspectives. This will stay with me.

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  • Naomi
  • 03-04-2016

Loved it

If you could sum up Station Eleven in three words, what would they be?

Compelling and thought provoking

Any additional comments?

I really enjoyed it and will probably listen again at some stage.

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  • Jonathan
  • 19-01-2015

Dullest apocalypse ever

Nothing new here from post outbreak reimaginings of recent films. I'm disappointed with this esp as it made top ten lists of 2014.

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  • P. M. Bromilow
  • 04-11-2019

Well written but annoying boring

Well written but annoyingly boring. Can't understand why this made so many best book lists. It's not engaging, and after finishing it I don't understand why I should have read it. The good is the visualisation of the world. It really paints a picture for the reader, and this I can't fault. The bad are the characters. The majority are flimsy characters - nothing to get your teeth into, and so you feel no connections to any of them. The "meh" is the story. In a beautiful world, with flimsy characters, you have a story that doesn't seem to go anywhere. It's what I'd call a pedestrian story - some love this style so they can swim in the words and imagery, but others (like me) need a stronger driving narrative to a tale. Not for me, sorry.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Rosalynde
  • 20-07-2015

Not just another dystopian novel

Would you listen to Station Eleven again? Why?

Yes. It was well narrated and very well written.

What other book might you compare Station Eleven to, and why?

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. Perhaps because I read them back to back but it's another novel that transcends the genre by being character driven, therefore appeals to people who may not be fans of science fiction.

Any additional comments?

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Although the premise is a dystopian science fiction novel, Station Eleven is a character driven plot. The book switches back and forth between several narrators, both before and after society crumbles due to the onset of a massive flu epidemic. The characters’ lives all intertwine in some way or another, some straight away, others not until the climax of the book, but all their lives seem to have been affected by the movie star Arthur Leander, whose death marks the beginning of each of their journeys. The dystopian element of the book provides a background upon which each individual is shaped, rather than being the driving force of the plot, so if you’re not a fan of science fiction or dystopia, it really doesn’t matter because this is a book about people and how their lives interconnect in a world without modern connections.

11 people found this helpful

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  • Simon
  • 10-10-2017

Can't Quite Tune Into Station Eleven

I see I'm in the minority on this one! And I can see why people really liked it because it's clever, a little sophisticated and it's refreshing that the apocalypse - in this case a deadly flu - wasn't the main attraction. Instead it's used as a vehicle to engineer a quite unique past and present combination for the characters.

My problem was that I bought into the post-apocalypse story line in a big way but not the in-depth rendition of the characters in the normal world prior. That just didn't interest me at all. So, I ended up getting a much smaller dose of the part I was interested in.

All a matter of taste of course and I do very much see why others liked the book so much but the Hollywood Lives aspect of the plot was not something I could relate to. I wouldn't want to put people off because it's clever and a little original - I just wanted more of the Symphony and less of the overture.

16 people found this helpful

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  • Norma Miles
  • 09-09-2015

A life, remembered, is a series of photographs....

It all starts with a single death, that of an aging, but much revered, actor, on stage during his performance of King Lear.it was a stroke or heart attack - natural causes, anyway. But behind the scenes a pandemic is growing, within weeks weeping away almost the entire population of the world. We are spared the gruesome telling of the deaths. Instead, the author weaves an intricate tapestry of lives before and after the depopulation event of people who at some point touched that of the actor, some intimately and others for only a few moments.
This is an apocalyptic story like no other I have read. No zombies for a start. And almost without the graphic scenes of violence such a book would leave us to expect. Instead it is full of tensions, excitement, memories, friendships and fears of losing ones much loved. Of survival, too, and of hopes, dreams and a comic book. Because survival alone is not enough.
This is a book which makes us aware of what we have and what could all be lost, what we value most, what we leave undone. And how, even in the worst of situations not only can still more be taken away but that there is also hope and comfort in the little things so easily overlooked in this, our present world of plenty.

A wonderful book, beautifully written, skilfully crafted and achingly memorable, all perfectly narrated by Jack Hawkins. As with the novel, I cannot praise his performance more highly.

28 people found this helpful

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  • C. Griffiths
  • 16-12-2019

Not my usual genre...but I was gripped immediately

What a book!! What an imagination the author has...I will definitely be listening to this one again!! Listened during a long car journey a few weeks ago now and it's still in my head...and that almost never happens. The narration is superb, the story intricate, pleasantly demanding and engaging, and the characters drew me in to a genre and scenario I'd not been interested in before... It's a 'what would happen if....' story that's potentially all too real and the impact difficult to fathom...yet the author and narrator have combined to deliver a remarkably engaging story. Highly recommend.

2 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Phil
  • 15-12-2019

Awful narration

Couldn’t listen more than three chapters. What on earth are those attempted accents all about? Shame as the story seemed good.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Miss H L Jones
  • 16-05-2017

A refreshing change for the genre

I enjoyed this book from start to finish. The intertwining tales of the characters all had depth and emotion. It does not run chronologically, part flash backs and jumps through each character or groups but I never felt lost as can often happen with the format. The novel flowed beautifully. I particularly enjoyed that it delves into human behaviour & emotion, the light & dark sides of people and made me think a lot about regret. The human condition is undoubtedly flawed but this book left me feeling more positive for the unknown future & how there are more goodies than baddies out there! And no zombies!! Great narration too, pitch perfect throughout.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Andy
  • 03-12-2016

What if...

Any additional comments?

Have just finished this a minute ago, and feel compelled to write my first review on here: Deep sigh; deep thoughts; it will stay with me a long while... This story and the narration have rendered me wistful and reflective. I am sad to say goodbye to this book. Survival is definitely not enough...The title and the thought of a post-apolcalyptic sci-fi story made me hesitate at first: Don't judge a book by its title! I'm so glad I ignored my hesitations and listened to this wonderful story - in two days! (My house is immaculate!) The title of course becomes clear in time and is completely fitting.Thoroughly recommended, will leave you thinking...what if...

14 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • kellyeleven
  • 30-12-2014

Well written but ultimately falls flat

The story describes life both before and after the georgia flu - a virus that wipes out life as we know it. This is where my opinion divides. The author describes modern life and all its trappings well, and I could really feel the fear of watching the world descend into chaos and then emptiness.

In contrast to this, the characters in the post apocalyptic story never really drew me in. The running themes that link the old and new world seem promising at first, but in the end it all just fizzles out.

14 people found this helpful

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  • mr
  • 28-03-2016

Intelligent Sci Fi really well told.

Firstly - it's a great story. It is a really fresh feeling Sci Fi with an engrossing female lead. It also has to be mentioned how good the narrator is. It might sound strange that I man is narrating a book with a female lead but it works very well.

6 people found this helpful

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