What is it about the breakdown of modern society that I am drawn to? The reality is that life would be infinitely harder for those in industrialized countries who survive. But I find reading about them oddly appealing. Before I go any further, I am not talking about political dystopia, like The Handmaid’s Tale, that is just scary from all angles. But Atwood’s MaddAddam dystopia with fantastic creatures and a planet trying to heal itself is so fascinating to me. Similarly, Eden Lepucki’s California was fascinating if not as well written as Atwood. And vintage R.C. Sheriff’s tale of the moon smashing into Earth in The Hopkin’s Manuscript, or John Wyndham’s equally vintage The Day of the Triffids.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Much to the surprise of the social media universe, I loved, loved, loved this book. Twenty years after a global flu pandemic wipes out something like 99% of the population we follow a troupe of musicians and actors who traverse western Michigan performing for small, isolated settlements. (Extra credit points if you can figure out the pun in that sentence.) I’ve seen some reviewers say that Mandel doesn’t break any new ground in this genre and some other niggling complaints about the book, but I liked the milieu enough to not care if those things are true.
In particular I love the flashbacks to the time when the pandemic strikes and I especially loved to read the bits about how society as we know it came to an end. The end of planes, the end of electricity, the end of communications, the end of gas–apparently it goes stale after a few years. All fascinating stuff. As much as I love air travel, I love the idea of a sky with no planes. I may get in trouble for saying this, but in the days following 9/11/2001, the gorgeous fall days in Ithaca, New York were enhanced by a silent sky.
I know I would probably not survive, and if I did would probably be miserable, but I am so drawn to the romanticized world of the planet reverting to nature.
I will admit that there were lots of connections between characters who in reality would probably never have met up again. But, I am the kind of person who really likes closure so as unrealistic as some of those connections may have been, I liked how they tied somethings up with a bow.
What other dystopian novels should I read?