When it comes to books, timing really can be everything. I checked out Emily St. John Mendel's Station Eleven just before the holidays and read a page or two, but at the time it didn't quite grab me. Life was hectic, I was trying to finish a stack of other year-end reads, and somehow reading about a troupe of traveling actors in a post-Apocalyptic world wasn't working for me. So back it went unread. I've read numerous reviews and all of them good, but nothing would persuade me to go back and check it out again. Until it made the Baileys Longlist. It's weird what might be the impetus to pick up a book, and it's funny how a second try can be magical.
There are lots of books on that Longlist that appeal to me and I plan on getting my hands on a few of those that appeal the most. Station Eleven was just convenient. It happened to be (which sort of surprised me--maybe it is Fate?) on the shelves at my library. Knowing I wanted to try and read a few books from the list, it was nearest at hand.
So, timing. I read the first chapter. And then the next. And then the last line of chapter two floored me just a little. And that was it. I had to keep going. Eagerly. It's still early days in the story but I don't want to put the book down, which is a dilemma since I am in the midst of a number of really good books and a couple are within reach of those last pages. Now it is a juggling act. This book for the gym and this one for lunch and the bus and maybe if I finish here quickly I can read a few more pages before bedtime.
Whatever didn't catch my attention the first time around has faded from memory. Everything is just falling into place in just the right way now. The opening scene shows the death of an actor (on stage no less) on the very night that divides now from after. One of the men in the audience rushes in to help try and save the man. For him it is that moment when he discovers, after a rambling decade of unsatisfying and ungratifying work, that this is what he wants to do. He wants to help people. That same night a good friend who is an ER doctor calls to warn him about the Georgia flu, which has been brought to Toronto from Russia on a plane. And now everyone is dying.
Flash forward twenty years. A young girl who was acting in a small role in that same play is now in that traveling troupe of actors. The world is so very different than when she was only eight.
And that is where I am in the story. Two threads going. I was caught up in Jeevan's world and now it has moved to Kirsten's. It's the same world, but I don't know how it is all going to come together, and that is what is making me want to turn those pages fast and furiously. I have a couple of teasers to share with you. What is it about Dystopian fiction that is both so terrifying and yet equally as intriguing to think about. You wonder how close we are to just this sort of Society (at the same time thinking no, surely it couldn't happen, and please don't let it happen). But the reader wants to be part of that world, if only just for a little while, in the pages of a book, and at arm's length.
It is freaky to think about and St. John Mendel certainly creates a vivid picture of the world.
"No more diving into pools of chlorinated water lit green from below. No more ball games played out under floodlights. No more porch lights with moths fluttering on summer nights. No more trains running under the surface of cities on the dazzling power of the electric third rail. No more cities. No more films, except rarely, except with a generator drowning out half the dialogue, and only then for the first little while until the fuel for the generators ran out, because automobile gas goes stale after two or three years. Aviation gas lasts longer, but it was difficult to come by."
* * *
"There was the flu that exploded like a neutron bomb over the surface of the earth and the shock of the collapse that followed, the first unspeakable years when everyone was traveling, before everyone caught on that there was no place they could walk to where life continued as it had before and settled wherever they could, clustered close together for safety in truck stops and former restaurants and old motels."
If every book on the Baileys Longlist is as attention grabbing, I am going to have lots of titles to add to my wishlist! I think I have already mentioned that I ordered a couple of the titles to add to the two I have on hand, and have requested a few more from the library. I always have lots to read, and now I have even more. If only I could have more time in which to read them all.