Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is a quiet but powerful study of humanity, art, and hope after the complete collapse of society as we know it. A disease known as the "Georgia Flu" spreads quickly across the globe, killing roughly ninety-nine percent of the world's population. People are not the only thing to go in the collapse, electricity fails, gasoline dries up, and the internet becomes nothing more than a lesson to be learned in history class in the new dark future. The novel jumps back and forth through time, chronicling the events and exploring the lives of it's characters before, during, and long after the world is reset by disease. In the chapters set in the pre-collapse world, the story revolves in wonderful circles around Arthur Leander, a superstar actor living in Toronto, who dies of a heart attack during a stage performance of Shakespeare's King Lear, only hours before the rest of the world would start to crumble. As the circles widen around Arthur's life, we get to know his many ex-wives, his friends, and others affected by his "celebrity." In the years after the collapse, Emily St. John Mandel expresses a dystopian future, unlike anything I've read in a book or have seen on a screen. There are no zombies, no "Mad Max" highway pirates wearing masks made of skulls. A band of survivors who call themselves "The Traveling Symphony" navigate the broken world of North America performing Shakespeare throughout the scattered towns and encampments that now make up society. To them, survival is not enough and their art is the thing keeping them from complete hopelessness. While they do not face the threat of zombie hordes, their world is not a safe one. People still kill for food and ammunition and cults of religious fanatics seem to spring from the ground without much effort at all. In particular, a man who calls himself "The Prophet" presents a very real danger to the symphony. What I loved about Station Eleven are the ingenious way the author is able to connect the past and future together in very clever ways while delivering great images of failing marriages pre-collapse to a quarantined plane sitting still on a tarmac in a world that is turning to dust. I highly recommend this novel and you should trust me because I read it.
The sudden death of a Hollywood actor during a production of "King Lear" marks the beginning of the world's dissolution in a story told at various past and future times from the perspectives of the actor and four of his associates.