Monday, January 18, 2016

Shakespeare And The End Of The World

Hello Readers, how's it going?  I just finished a very interesting book and then spent the next week trying to figure out how to ramble about it.  The book was recommended by my baby sis and she had a hard time trying to describe to me, but assured me I would enjoy it so I'm glad I wasn't the only one having a hard time trying to define it.  The book is Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel and here is my best attempt at talking about this (at least to me) indefinable book.  As always SPOILERS AHEAD!
Ok, here we go.  The structure of this book is fairly non-linear with the story jumping back and forth between numerous times and places so it makes it a bit difficult to sum up in the same style as the book so I'm just gonna do this bare bones and suggest you read it your self to truly get the flavor of it.  We start at one of my favorite places, the theatre, wear the acclaimed movie star Arthur Leander is performing as the title character in Shakespeare's King Lear.  On this night, Arthur dies on stage from a heart attacked, which is witnessed by Kirsten Raymonde, a young child actress.  This night is also what becomes known as the first night of a horrific flu virus dubbed the Georgia Flu that ends up decimating over 99% of the human population.  What we see next is the various stories connecting people both past and present.  The two characters of Arthur Raymonde and Kirsten Raymonde seem to be the center points in which the story revolves, but this does not mean every story features them...this is getting more confusing then it really is.  We read the back and forth story of Arthur and the people he comes in contact with including Miranda, who becomes his first wife.  Miranda is also responsible for writing and illustrating a graphic novel called Station Eleven, about a space station gone wrong and a warring population.  This graphic novel shows up in many places through out the story and is in it's entirety help by Kirsten after the world ends.  We also read about Arthur's other wives and his one son Tyler who is still very young at the time of his father's death and the Georgia Flu pandemic.  The readers get to follow Kirsten after the fall of the world as she lives and works with the Traveling Symphony, a group of survivors who travel in a caravan performing music and Shakespeare plays, attempting to keep the arts and beauty alive in a world that is focused on survival.  The group encounters a man who calls himself a prophet who's violent ways of getting what he wants threatens every survivor his group interacts with.  Another story is the founding of the Museum of Civilization in the airport that was the final landing place of many survivors, stranding them and forcing them to start a new life there.  We also find that Arthur's son Tyler was part of that group and it is he who grew up to be the prophet.  This all comes to some sort of ending when the prophet kidnaps a few members of the Traveling Symphony to use as trade and Kirsten kills him.  They all end up at the airport housing the Museum of Civilization and we assume life continues.
I think what I love best about this book is it's indescribable nature, it is a mix of everyday life, memoir, history, dystopia, end of the world, fine arts, religious, medical, redemption, tragedy, family, and so many more things.  I have mostly seen it classified as science fiction...but I'm not sure why.  I guess the "futuristic" pieces of it could speak to science fiction, and the graphic novel that pops up as a unifying thread in the story is defiantly science fiction...but the story itself is not.  I feel it is one of those wonderful works that does not fit into any one genre, instead giving us a glimpse of a time and place through the use of contrasting the new with the old and showing us in pieces how the characters and the world got to where it was in the book.  Alright, in case you haven't figured it out the only real way you are gonna know anything of substance about this book is to read it.  I will now attempt to convey what spoke to me in this book.  My favorite part was of course the weaving of Shakespeare through out the whole book.  It starts with a wonderful depiction of traditional theatre, with glimpses behind the scenes and continues with the Traveling Symphony using it to help keep people human. My love of theatre was kept to happy levels with this book.  I also very much enjoyed the Station Eleven parts of the book.  I loved the glimpses of the story within a story and the description of the art work makes me wish it was real so I could read it.  The style of the writing was wonderful and easy to follow with the potential to get pretentious or overly sappy, but the author kept a strict hand on the sentiment and ended up with great flow.  Arg...I'm not doing a very good job here.  Hmmm.  Ok think of this as a cake with many layers and the cake itself is the foundation the main story is written about and where the author always goes back to.  The frosting is the main characters who's history and future is touched on, and all then their are the bits and pieces of chocolate, nuts and fruit scattered through out to add texture and flavor and that is probably the closest I can get to describe this book.  I give it 8 out of 10 glass paper weights and recommend it for any body who wants to read something different and thought provoking, but is not to pretentious or esoteric for every day reading. Everybody please, please, please read this and come back and discuss it with me!!!!  Happy Reading Everybody!

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