Emily St. John Mandel
It has been a long time since someone bought me a book not on a wish list. If they all end up being as good as this one I might start asking for surprise books. That is what this book was a complete surprise. My wife bought it and give it to me in the car on the way out of town, I had read almost 100 pages before we got to our destination. It has been a few days now since I finished reading it and I cannot stop thinking about the story and the characters.
This story is told in many parts, and is really many stories that come together like streams then flow apart again. The main part of the story is set in year 20, that is 20 years after the Georgia Flu wipes out an estimated 99% of the world's population in a very short time. Because of the lack of manpower, within days services start failing. Water, hydro, the internet all stop working. Civilization has crumbled. The Travelling Symphony work a territory traveling and putting on Shakespeare plays and performing concerts. One of the towns they have frequented is 'under new management' and their fortunes have taken a turn for the worse.
The story is told back and forth across time. Sometimes stories pre collapse, and sometimes people remembering stuff pre year 20. The main stories follow some key characters, world famous actor Arthur Leadner, Jeevan a paramedic in training the night the flu hits who tries to save Arthur on stage in Toronto. Miranda who was Arthur's first wife and the author of the graphic novels Station Eleven, Clark, who is Arthur's oldest friend and Kristen who is with the Traveling Symphony, and in the time before as a child was on stage with Arthur, and the strange 'prophet' of the light.
This story is amazing on a few levels, first it is a post-apocalyptic story that showcases lives, before during and after the collapse of all we know. Second the characters are wonderfully written. Years ago I head Madeleine L'Engle speak and she mentioned that her characters were alive and real to her, and often she got insights to what they were up to now. I wish we could know some of that for these characters, where are they in year 25, what are they up to, what successes and what failures have they faced. I keep thinking about them and their world and wondering what happens next. That is a sign of a great fiction novel, it entertains, it makes you think, and you keep coming back to it.
A few years back Emily's earlier book The Singer's Gun ended up in my to be read pile and I just never seemed to get around to it. That was my loss. With how much I enjoyed this book I know I will be reading Emily's three other novels soon! This book was a thrilling read and I highly recommend it!
Books by Emily St. John Mandel:
The Lola Quartet
The Singer's Gun
Last Night in Montreal