Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel

51-qQ2TbIPL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

It is no surprise that I enjoy reading dystopian fiction. I like it for many reasons, but mostly I enjoy reading what other people think of humanity. You can tell how positive or negative they feel by the world they create when the world as we know it ends.

This novel reminds me a lot of The Stand by Stephen King. The Georgia Flu has taken out 99% of the population. (Capt. Tripps or Project Blue – a man-made super flu – killed off 99% of the population) Society must put itself back together. Instead of having a good/evil that puts the society that is left in two camps. It follows the more likely Glenn Bateman theory of a bunch of little societies popping up and being led by different forms of government. From Socialism to Dictators and everything in between. The way we can experience this, is by following the Traveling Symphony. The members of the group preform Shakespeare plays and play music while traveling around the mostly deserted landscape that used to be America. For 20 years they have done this, but of course, the good people aren’t the only ones that survived and as such, they run into problems trying to find some friends of theirs.

The whole novel sweeps back and forth through landscapes and over time, from before the flu to the present, going from one character to another and bringing the reader into a world where everything is gone. The internet, modern medicine, TV, cold food from the fridge, cooking on a stove, going to drive through for food, flying across great distances, getting in your car and traveling hundreds of miles in only few hours. Families, friends, jobs, useless degrees all gone in the blink of an eye and what remains is only what we are. Musicians, doctors, mothers, fathers, electricians, trying to find ways to find meaning in the new normal.

I think what I enjoyed most about this book was the other reason I like dystopian novels. I feel like most of humanity (not all) is stuck in rut. We live each day going about our business with very little thought to our futures, or even our present. We work, we sleep, we eat, we repeat and for what? Is that living? Or just existing. Two parts of the book stick out for me that make me feel like the author feels the same way. There was a monolog in the middle where a woman is describing her boss and she describes him as: “High-Functioning Sleepwalker” Deep. Because I look around and see a whole lot of “high-functioning sleepwalkers” every day. The second reason is a recurring phrase: “Because survival is insufficient” which is apparently originally from Star Trek. Again – isn’t it true? Just because you are alive doesn’t mean you are living.

Another thing that stuck with me is the way she would make you think about morality – one minute here, the next gone. There was one reflection where one of the characters was remembering making snow ice cream with his mother and brother. “Frank standing on a stool on his wondrously functional pre-Libya legs, the bullet that would sever his spinal cord still twenty-five years away but already approaching” again – deep. Thinking about it makes you think about your life, what events have shaped where you are and what events are still to come.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, even if it took me a long time to read it. I would highly recommend this to anyway one wants to read as good dystopian novel.

 

NK3 – Michael Tolkin

91TEsJCHAXL

Every now and then you read a book that reminds you that why you will never become an author. This is one of them. It isn’t so much that the book was amazing or beyond compare, it is simply because the writing was so clever. The character development was non-existent, but the language, the scenery and the overall tone of the book sucked you in. I read the book in two days. After reading it,  couldn’t begin to describe why people should read it, or what I just read even. I just knew that it was a good book and scary in the way that it almost seems plausible.

Not too long from now North Korea develops a virus that wipes out human memory. Everything. Complete blank state. Everything you were, everyone you knew, every memory you cherished gone. Not only that but it did something to our inhibitions and emotions. For example, sex and being naked is completely normal. People have orgy’s in the streets. In some ways, I found this liberating. Imagine if we cast aside our societies view of normal or polite and were more free. People wore what they wanted without regard to “girl clothes” or “boy clothes” , a biker in his former life wore a sexy nurse custom for example. It was that part of the book that I was most drawn to. There was a certain peacefulness to the ignorant bliss they all shared.

The way people spoke to each other was really why the book was so good. He created a way of speaking that never faltered through the entire book. It was almost like a bunch of four year old children babbling and making decisions, so if you can imagine four year old running the world…that would give you and accurate description of the language. There were levels of people, those who, in the early stages of the virus, were rehabilitated, those who sort of got rehabilitated, and those who never did, then there were those who were beyond any sort of help. The first wave of people were people who had some usefulness about them. Electricians, doctors, mechanics, pilots, farmers, etc. They created a place and put a wall up that kept out the people who weren’t verified. (in other words people who had no useful skills in the new world.) No matter what level of rehabilitation people received, no one could remember anything since the virus.

Because none of them have any memory of the way things were, they run the world much like a four year old with all the candy they can eat would. Wine, drugs, and food run freely with no regard as to how more will be made. This spells disaster when, four years after the virus they realize that at some point, the party has to end.

I feel like I am doing a poor job of explaining this novel – but I will say, anyone who loves dystopian novels, interesting writing, or new concepts will probably enjoy this book.