Book Review: Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven cover

Title: Station Eleven
Author: Emily St. John Mandel
ISBN: 9780385353304
Pages: 320
Release Date: September 9, 2014
Publisher: Knopf
Genre: Literary Fiction, Dystopian/Post-apocalyptic
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary:

One night, a performance: Arthur Leander, a once-famous actor, dies of a heart attack on stage during a production of King Lear. That same night, a mysterious illness begins to sweep the nation, sparing few and changing the nature of the world as we know it.

Snapshot Review:

A beautifully written novel that focuses on the end of civilization through the prism of intricately constructed characters, Station Eleven provokes deep questions while telling a mesmerizing and timely story.

Full Review:

I know what you’re thinking. “That summary . . . isn’t really a summary.” And you’d be right—are Arthur’s death and the sickness connected? Where did this illness come from? And who tells the story, if the only person I name in the summary dies at the beginning of the book? These are all very good questions, but I’m not going to give you the answers. Station Eleven is a book that’s best read without foreknowledge of the events that occur in the novel; when I picked it up, all I knew was that it was about some sort of plague, and that’s why I was able to revel in it as much as I did.

The storyline of Station Eleven is eerily prescient with what is happening in the world with the Ebola virus right now. Yes, of course I know they aren’t the same thing, but it feels as though contagion has been at the back (or front) of our minds for awhile now, which makes this novel both timely and extra creepy. The book isn’t about the downfall of civilization as much as it’s about the people experiencing it, and those left behind after everything goes quiet. It’s a character-driven novel that jumps through time, telling a slowly unfolding interconnected story through the eyes of very different people.

Mandel takes time with her characters in Station Eleven. As the novel travels back and forth through time, telling parts of the story before you can fully see the whole, it’s important to have an emotional connection to the characters. The author does this expertly, making the reader invested in each and every narrator of this book and beyond. The gorgeous writing also helps to really pull the reader into the narrative, ensuring that they are hooked on the story, and when the connections start to surface, it’s both satisfying and rewarding.

Station Eleven is Emily St. John Mandel’s major publisher debut (she’s written three books with a smaller press, all of which I’ve read and loved), and it’s been getting a lot of well-deserved buzz. This is a novel I’m going to be recommending left and right in the coming weeks and months; not only is Mandel an incredible writer, but her characters are so expertly crafted that it’s difficult to believe that they don’t exist somewhere, sometime. I can’t heap enough praise on this novel, and only hope you’ll take my word for it and buy this as soon as possible.

Other books by Emily Mandel:

Last Night in Montreal
The Lola Quartet
The Singer’s Gun

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Book Review: World of Trouble – Ben H. Winters

World of Trouble cover

Title: World of Trouble
Author: Ben H. Winters
ISBN: 9781594746857
Pages: 320
Release Date: July 15, 2014
Publisher: Quirk Books
Genre: Dystopian/Post-apocalyptic
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary:

The asteroid that is going to end life on the planet earth is just days away from impact, and Hank has left his sanctuary in the woods, where he was going to meet the end with his friends, for one reason: He wants to find his sister and see her one last time before they both die. Hank travels halfway across the country on foot tracking her down, and finally begins to catch up with her. Is her plan to save all of humanity real, and if so, can Hank help make it happen before it’s too late?

Snapshot Review:

A gripping conclusion to what has been a unique and satisfying trilogy, World of Trouble features another exciting mystery and a main character who exists far beyond the pages of this book.

Full Review:

World of Trouble is the third and final novel in The Last Policeman trilogy featuring (now former) Detective Hank Palace, a good man just trying to do his job even though the end of the world is upon them. Throughout the trilogy, readers see society breaking down bit by bit. Now, in the final book, most traces of civilization are gone. There’s no power, no running water, and people are killing each other over the supplies that are left. It’s a frightening, if realistic, portrayal of what would actually happen in this situation, and Winters writes it well.

Hank is the last bastion of hope in a world gone mad in World of Trouble. He knows he probably won’t find his sister, but he also knows that he will die trying if he has to. He’s a great character, one who has been pushed to his limits over the course of the trilogy, but he never stops being a good person or trying his best to do the right thing. So many people have given up and are at war with the world, and Hank is the one who is still trying despite everything, showing who he truly is. It could be cheesy, but instead, it’s inspiring.

Each of these novels in The Last Policeman trilogy centers on a mystery that Hank must solve, and World of Trouble is no different. The mystery is intriguing and will keep readers guessing, even as they dread the outcome of the book. They know it can end one of two ways: either the world is saved or it is not. Winters wraps up his trilogy incredibly well. It’s a beautiful, satisfying ending, one that’s fitting for the books.

If you’re looking for well-written and unique mystery novels, then The Last PolicemanCountdown City, and World of Trouble are absolutely perfect choices. Winters features great character development, gripping individual storylines, and an overarching narrative in which nothing less than the fate of the world is at stake. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this trilogy and am so looking forward to seeing what Winters does next.

Other books by Ben H. Winters:

The Last Policeman

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Book Review: Prototype – M.D. Waters

prototype cover

Title: Prototype
Author: M.D. Waters
ISBN: 9780525954248
Pages: 384
Release Date: July 24, 2014
Publisher: Dutton
Genre:  Dystopian
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary:

In this follow-up to Archetype, Emma is on the run now that she’s learned the truth about herself, Declan, and the world she lives in. She’s on the hunt for her parents, trying to create a new life for herself, but Declan isn’t finished with her. His actions put Emma in danger once again, and she’s forced to seek protection from the last person in the world she wants to see—Noah. As Emma tries to make amends for who she is and what she’s done, she must also confront the difficult realities of her situation and find a way to be at peace, once and for all.

Snapshot Review:

Emma’s back in Prototype, and she’s a very different person than she was at the beginning of Archetype. She’s learned a lot of difficult things about herself and those around her, and dealt with a lot of pain. It’s interesting to see how these experiences have shaped Emma and made her a stronger, wiser person. She still sets herself apart with her awkward speech, but in other areas she seems more natural and at ease, even if she feels more insecure than ever on the inside. The balance between romance, character development, and action is done very well in this exciting novel; readers will root for Emma to find happiness as much as they want to understand the truth about what’s happening. Waters has crafted an excellent followup to Archetype; it provides closure for Emma, while still keeping options open for a sequel. Readers who enjoy gripping dystopian stories should absolutely pick this series up.

Other books by M.D. Waters:

Archetype

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Book Review: California – Edan Lepucki

California coverTitle: California
Author: Edan Lepucki
ISBN: 9780316250818
Pages: 400
Release Date: July 8, 2014
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Genre:  Dystopian
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Summary:

Frida lives with her husband Cal in a house out in the woods, away from civilization. After the world as they knew it collapsed, they were lucky to find a peaceful place to live. But now, Frida is pregnant, and she doesn’t feel secure in the home they’ve made for themselves. She convinces Cal that it’s time to find out what’s beyond their little enclave, even if it means sacrificing their tranquil lives.

Snapshot Review:

California is a book that’s gotten a lot of hype, and I can’t say that my raised expectations served me well with this novel. That’s not to say it’s bad by any means; I raced through it, eager to discover what was beyond every page. The secrets and lies took me on a twisty ride, and I was eager to discover what was at the core of California. However, as I turned the last pages, I found had issues with the book. For one, I didn’t really connect with any of the characters; each of them seemed selfish to me, unwilling to confide in or work with the other characters. What’s more, the revelations in the book just seemed lackluster. I always thought there was something slightly more sinister around every corner, and what ended up being the truth didn’t exactly satisfy me.

That being said, if you’re tired of the ridiculous lengths dystopian books seem to go to these days to shock readers, then California might be exactly the novel you’re seeking. In some ways, I appreciated the fact that it didn’t try to go too far; it’s a more realistic depiction than most I’ve seen. If you enjoy novels of this sort, it’s worth seeking out. If you don’t, then it’s still worth the read, just because some of the issues that bothered me do set it apart from other books in the genre.

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Book Review: The Girl with All the Gifts – M.R. Carey

the girl with all the gifts cover

Title: The Girl with All the Gifts Author: M.R. Carey ISBN: 9780316278157 Pages: 416 Release Date: June 10, 2014 Publisher: Orbit Books Genre:  Dystopian/Postapocalyptic Source: Publisher Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Summary: Melanie is a little girl who lives in a cell. In order to leave her cell for classes each day, Sergeant keeps his gun on her while […]

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Book Review: The Immortal Crown – Richelle Mead

The Immortal Crown cover

Title: The Immortal Crown Author: Richelle Mead ISBN: 9780525953692 Pages: 432 Release Date: May 29, 2014 Publisher: Dutton Genre:  Dystopian Source: Publisher Rating: 4 out of 5 Summary: After the events of Gameboard of the Gods, Justin March and Mae Koskinen have returned to their normal life: he, investigating dangerous religions for his government, and she protecting him. But when Justin is […]

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Book Review: Bird Box – Josh Malerman

Bird Box cover

Title: Bird Box Author: Josh Malerman ISBN: 9780062259653 Pages: 272 Release Date: May 13, 2014 Publisher: Ecco Genre: Post-Apocalyptic/Dystopian Source: Publisher Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Summary: It’s been 5 years since the world ended, 5 years that Malorie hasn’t looked outside or ventured out there without a blindfold. But today, she’s decided it’s time to move. […]

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Book Review: Archetype – M.D. Waters

Archetype cover

Title: Archetype Author: M.D. Waters ISBN: 9780525954231 Pages: 384 Release Date: February 6, 2014 Publisher: Dutton Genre: Dystopian Source: Publisher Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Summary: Emma wakes up in a room with no memory of who she is or how she got there. She’s told that she was in an accident, and her beloved husband […]

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