Artwork from Station Eleven by Nathan Burton Design here
Cries of ‘Peak Dystopia! have resounded in the YA world for some time now, but in the literary world dystopian novels keep on coming.
Chang-rae Lee’s On Such a Full Sea, the forthcoming Michel Faber’s Book of Strange New Things (a pastor sojourns on an alien planet colonised due to impending global collapse) and notably Emily St John Mandel’s Station Eleven which has garnered deserved praise. Set in a post-apocalyptic, near-future America where 99% of the population have died of flu, the Travelling Symphony roam the Mid-West performing Shakespeare. This slow meditative novel weaves between dystopian present and peak Western capitalism to chronicle several lives. Possibly the most charming aspect is the limited edition comic book written by one of the characters which survives the apocalypse and assumes an importance central to the plot’s final, gripping climax–also called Station Eleven.
But take this elegiac passage where the author writes an incomplete list of things we’ll come to miss in post-apocalyptic times: pools, cities, cinemas, plane flights, pharmaceuticals, people taking photos at concerts and here–
No more Internet. No more social media, no more scrolling through litanies of dreams and nervous hopes and photographs of lunches, cries for help and expressions of contentment and relationship statues updates….
Doesn’t this in some sense sound like heaven?
Which makes me wonder if some of the dystopian/post-apocalyptic attraction is not merely survivalist wonderings but a yearning for a simpler past–in the same way as steampunk–whether the writer intended it so or not. After all who wouldn’t want to be a Shakespearian actress and expert knife thrower, like Kirsten, a protagonist in Station Eleven. Beats a cubicle job, anyhow.
Dark Societies: In Conversation with
Emily St John Mandel, Sarah Lotz
Monday, 29 September 2014, 6:30PM
Tickets £5/£3 Waterstones Cardholders and Post-Apocalyptic Book Club members available in store, via 02078512400 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Post-Apocalyptic Book Club and Waterstones Piccadilly are pleased to present Sarah Lotz and Emily St John Mandel. Join us in finding out why these authors are fascinated by the collapse of civilisation and what horrors lie in dystopian landscapes as they discuss their novels, the soon to be released Station Eleven (Mandel) and the chilling The Three (Lotz).
For lovers of all things YA/dystopian/post-apocalypticwith bonus travelling players I recommend the crazily excellent Maddigan’s Quest by the wonderful Margaret Mahy.