Tag: Maddaddam series

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel

Posted October 24, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction, Speculative Fiction / 0 Comments

Station Eleven by Emily St John MandelTitle: Station Eleven (Goodreads)
Author: Emily St John Mandel
Published: Pan Macmillan, 2014
Pages: 333
Genres: Literary Fiction, Speculative Fiction
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Emily St John Mandel’s new novel Station Eleven begins with a performance of King Lear; everything was going smoothly until the lead actor Arthur Leander dies on stage. A new strand of the flu known as the Georgia Flu sweeps the world. It “exploded like a neutron bomb over the surface of the earth” and wiped out 99% of humanity. This all happens in the first 30 pages, the rest of the novel focuses on a group of performers known as The Travelling Symphony, who travel America putting on Shakespeare plays to those surviving colonies.

The post-apocalyptic novel has been a popular topic over the past few years. There are millions of YA novels on the topic and in the world of literary fiction it books like The Road by Cormac McCarthy, The Passage by Justin Cronin and the Maddaddam series by Margaret Atwood dominate. Recently I have read some post-apocalyptic novels that have failed to satisfy me in the way that books like The Road by Cormac McCarthy had in the past. Both California by Edan Lepucki and On Such a Full Sea by Chang-rae Lee had potential but just did not get there. Luckily Emily St John Mandel was there to restore my faith in the literary post-apocalyptic genre.

What I look for in a post-apocalyptic can be difficult to pin point. I want a dark but glittering novel that is both intelligent and audacious. It needs to do something that is different so it will be set apart from others. Station Eleven did this for me; this is not a novel about the aftermath of a global pandemic, this is about the power and importance of art. Not so much the survival of art but the importance it plays on a more personal level.

Mandel wrote a roving novel that follows a group of people struggling with life in a desolate time. This is a stylistic and complex novel told in a non-linear way to explore both the present struggles like the rarity of food and water and the disappearance of all technology. This is an exploration into individuals rather than a collective destiny. Each character has their own story to tell and the non-linear format allows their backstory to be told. They are struggling with memories, loss, nostalgia, solitude and yearning from some stability.

Canadian author Emily St John Mandel is one of those authors that receives high praises for her novels but still manages to fly mostly under-the-radar. I hate to use this term, but with all the praise from other authors she comes across as a ‘writer for writers’. Based on my experience of her writing from Station Eleven this a sad situation, her skills deserve to be realised by the reading public.

I am glad I picked up this novel; I was a little hesitant but I had heard so much about Emily St John Mandel that I just had to find out for myself. To begin with the story of Shakespearian actors was what made this different but I soon found the haunting and complex plot  full of subtleties that worked in the books favour. I am still hesitant of all the new post-apocalyptic novels to come but now I know not to overlook Emily St John Mandel in the future.


California by Edan Lepucki

Posted October 11, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Speculative Fiction / 0 Comments

California by Edan LepuckiTitle: California (Goodreads)
Author: Edan Lepucki
Narrator: Emma Galvin
Published: Hachette, 2014
Pages: 320
Genres: Speculative Fiction
My Copy: Audiobook

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Cal and Frida is living in the middle of the 21st century, however it wasn’t the future we expected. Cities have crumbled, the internet has died and technology is worthless. Leaving city life behind, they now have to live in the wilderness, struggling to survive. Isolation and hardship are all new experiences; they live in fear of an uncertain future. A future that now consists of giving birth and raising a child in this post-apocalyptic world.

The post-apocalyptic back drop has been hugely popular lately and it isn’t just young adult fiction. Many literary fiction authors have tried their hand at the genre, giving them a unique world to explore real life issues. I’m thinking of great books like The Road by Cormac McCarthy, Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart, The Passage by Justin Cronin and the Maddaddam series by Margaret Atwood. Edan Lepucki’s California sets out to join the ranks of the great with this overly ambitious first novel.

I will be honest, the only reason I picked up California was because of the promotion that appeared on The Colbert Report a while ago. The novel had enough to peak my interest but I had great difficulty getting a copy where I lived. Ironically I finally settled on getting the book through Audible to listen to. The premise of the novel was great; the idea of a world returning to the dark ages offered some interesting ideas. While we are never sure, the novel does allude to global warming as the underlining cause of this post-apocalyptic world.

I expected this novel to be the slow burn that The Road provided, building the characters and struggle while exploring the intended themes. However, I think this book burned a little too slowly, the flame went out halfway through and it turned into more of a chore to get through. Sure, the notions of communities, eco-terrorism and climate change were explored but for me it felt like I was being beaten over my head every chance they got. The book wanted to show off how smart and witty it was but, like many things that try to do this, the delivery never matched the intent.

California moved so slowly that as a reader, I was trapped in the wilderness of nothingness and I didn’t think I could escape. This was a real pity, everything seemed to start off so well; there was a plot arc and themes all set up and ready for execution. Somewhere on the way I feel like the author got a little lost and the readers were just following to her struggle to get back on track. I might come down hard on this novel; it isn’t too bad, there is a lot of potential and could have been a great book. For me it just didn’t work and wasn’t paced properly, I’m sure some people enjoyed it