STATION ELEVEN, BY EMILY ST. JOHN MANDEL
Another one from the Goodreads "best science fiction of 2014" list. Coincidentally (or maybe not?), another miss. I'm now determined to stop taking recommendations from sites' lists.
Synopsis: An aging actor dies. In the next day, a pandemic spreads and kills most of the population of the world. Many years later, a group of artists, known as the Travelling Symphony, travels around the remains of civilization performing Shakespeare for the survivors.
Overall enjoyment: One of my biggest peeves when it comes to books about diseases, and something that happened in this book, is when the author tries to make the disease seem more scary by making it move too fast, so it has a very short incubation period. In this case, she specifically stated that the Georgia Flu had an incubation period of only three to four hours. A disease with an incubation period that short DOESN'T SPREAD. It could take over a city, it might take over a country (if they are absurdly over-populated, with the population insanely packed into a single place, and criminally negligent with emergency measures), but it will never take over the world. On top of that, the book was SO BORING. I kept forcing myself to go back to it, and it still took me a while to read because I kept falling asleep every time I tried. I don't recommend it.
Plot: There isn't one. In the first half of the book, nothing happens. Then, right in the middle of it a few things happen, which are promptly abandoned for more nothings to happen. Then, near the end, there is a huge anti-climax, when the things that happened in the middle of the book are resolved Deus-ex-machina style and the dramatic moment is ruined by being stretched out way longer than acceptable. After that, about 50 more pages of nothing happening, and the end.
Characters: I couldn't find it in myself to care about any of them. They're all haphazard, their personalities and motivations seem unclear. But that may be because they have no motivation, since they do nothing.
World/setting: The dystopia she describes takes some suspension of belief. For some reason, for instance, none of the characters described in the book have the brilliant notion to read a book and try to find out how they could improve their lives by fixing some of the luxuries that existed before the collapse; 20 years after the pandemic and everyone is still living off foraging. Plus, she keeps saying that the world is a lot more dangerous, and that it changes people, but all of her characters are suicidally reluctant to engage in violence.
Writing style: So over-dramatic. In the chapters after the pandemic, in every five sentences, one will be about how "things were before". In the chapters before the pandemic, the same thing will happen, but about how little time this lifestyle will last. "The last orange", "five days before the collapse", "his last breakfast", "the last flight". She repeats herself and drags things out so much it seems she's testing the reader's patience. I found myself skimming through the words, trying to get to the end.
Representation: There is one gay man. I can't remember if there are any POC in it, I don't think there were, but maybe that was one of the things I skimmed over.
Political correctness: Not too bad. Could be better, of course, but then, so many things in this book could have been better.
I should probably add that I'm not sure if this book was really as boring as it seemed to me, or if I'm so stressed out right now that I've become too intolerant. I really don't think that is the problem here, I tried really hard to get some enjoyment out of this book. There just wasn't any.
Up next: Doc, by Mary Doria Russell