The curtains are up. The play is on. An actor in the centrestage. Sudden collapse and subsequent death. Flurry, movement, paparazzo, publicity, gossip, whispers, and the start of apocalypse for the unsuspecting humans. The numbers fall like nine pins and there’s devastation like never seen before. The houses are all there but husks of dead people in them, there are airplanes and generators and power plants and kiosks and computers and of course, factories… but no one to work these marvels of the modern world. One moment it is all there and suddenly, it isn’t. Because the people aren’t there.
Kudos Mandel for imagining such a world, for such a thing can happen through any number of means these days. Only, imagining may not be the right word for it. I should use fear for imagination here. Somehow, we fear the worst when a loved one doesn’t answer the phone for a while. We fear that we might lose all we have and imagine ways through which it might happen.
Station Eleven, in that sense, creates little novelty. What’s interesting is that the destruction is not of the natural or physical kind. The destruction is of the humankind. When such a thing happens, chaos descends upon the world and then chaos reigns. The narrative is not for you if you delight in the beauty of the language. The good bit is that the plot comes through. The loose ends are tied up.
There is a silken thread of relevance connecting all the main characters, which makes it possible to really stick with the story when the descriptions and the background gets repetitive. It’s a small world before the apocalypse. After, it has shrunk still.
Finally, and I don’t mean to be giving away the clues, but well, there’s a Prophet in the story. The only part where I felt as cautious as I felt disappointed, given the times we live in. He has more than three wives, wants to acquire more, and repopulate the earth with his luminous progeny. That part is where I inserted a dog-eared mental bookmark, yellowed and frayed at the edges… only to realize I didn’t need it that much. The story doesn’t amount to anything political, which is a relief. It’s just a story. With a story within – Station Eleven. It is the story that ultimately brings the two ends of the story together.
The Good triumphs over the Evil
All is well with the drastically downsized and monumentally dysfunctional world.
The lines I loved,: she knows the way she dies a little every time someone asks her for change and she doesn’t give it to them means that she’s too soft for this world or perhaps just for this city, she feels so small here.
(Rung a bell with me ‘coz at times when on the other side of the till, I’ve found myself incapable of letting go of the change)
Well, there’s another passage that struck a chord particularly in relation to the now somewhat muted phenomenon of Indian politicians and other big wigs claiming that current (read Western) scientific achievements are nothing but inferior form of technology to what We – the big We – had in Ancient India. Surgery, transplants, airplanes, you name it!
This one from Station Eleven is an apt reprise:
There was a school here now, in Concourse C. Like educated children everywhere, the children in the airport school memorized abstractions: the airplanes outside once flew through the air. You could use an airplane to travel to the other side of the world, but – the schoolteacher was a man who’d had frequent-flyer status on two airlines – when you were on an airplane you had to turn off your electronic devices…
They were told about the Internet, how it was everywhere and connected everything, how it was us.
They were shown maps and globes, the lines of the borders that the internet had transcended. That was Chicago. That was Detroit.
The children understood the dots on the maps – here – but even the teenagers were confused by the lines. There had been countries, and borders. It was hard to explain.
Kinda’ like our own Station Eleven! haha..
Anyway… it’s a ** on ***** for this book!