I don’t usually do book recommendations with this space, but I feel compelled.

Let’s start at the end…

My wife and I are currently watching Station Eleven on HBO Max. It is a ten-episode series based on the 2014 book by Emily St. John Mandel. The book did well but it wasn’t exactly a runaway hit along the lines of Gone Girl or Where the Crawdads Sing.

Regardless, I loved it. In fact, it was probably one of my top five favorite books at the time (likely at least still in the top ten today).

Cover of “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel

Before we get too deep into this, let me tell you a bit about the book. It’s adult fiction and centers around a terrible flu outbreak (I know, I know).

The timeline jumps around from “present day” to twenty years in the future. It’s at times bleak, at others inspiring. At the center of it all is this graphic novel, also titled Station Eleven, that binds many of the characters together.

A bit meta, but it works.

When I initially heard HBO was making a mini-series I was conflicted. Part of me was excited to relive this story. Another part of me dreaded it being done poorly or deviating too far from the book. I’m sure any passionate reader can relate.

Rarely does a film (or show) do the book justice. To provide a glimpse into my angst, I paused the show just seconds into the opening scene of episode one and said, “I don’t know if I can do this.” That is how
much I love this book.

I ultimately got over my trepidations and I’m glad I did. The show is a gem! The casting, sets, attention to detail, score…the whole thing, wonderful.

Granted, it’s been roughly seven years since I read the book so I’m likely not picking up on all the “liberties” HBO took with the series, but the tone and interconnectedness of the characters carries through from the novel.

That’s probably what I loved so much Station Eleven when I read it. The characters are not only complex, flawed, and sympathetic, but they are complexly connected to each other across space and time.

The tone of the novel can be described as haunting and melancholy, which translates well to the screen. Even if you don’t typically like dystopian/apocalyptic fiction, you might like this story because it is so real.

Real in the sense that the characters and situations are genuine. There isn’t a bunch of science fiction you must wrap your head around either. It’s all very authentic.

If, on the other hand, it’s a little too soon to read about a fatal pandemic, consider Emily St. John Mandel’s newest book, The Glass Hotel. It has all the same qualities as Station Eleven as far as complexity and interconnectedness, but is centered on wealth, crime and comprise.

Truth be told, Ms. Mandel could write her grocery list on the back of a napkin and I would read it. That is how good of a storyteller she is.

Obviously, the library has both books in various formats. You can even check out one of our Rokus to gain access to HBO Max and other streaming services.

If you take me up on the recommendation, let me know. I’d love to hear what you think.

Happy Reading!

This article originally appeared in the O’Fallon Weekly.

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