A jarring shift in tone and pace.

Author Emily St. John Mandel concludes the novel with a rather jarring change of tone and pace with some character arcs,  which I think proved to be detrimental to the story of Station Eleven.

Previously, in Parts 1-6, the story is told as a kind of commentary to the way people have lived in their respective environments, both pre and post apocalypse. The story had focused more on the mundane, day-to-day activities to show how people have lived out their lives. The storylines of the people pre-apocalypse had more to do with the character’s complex relationships with others, for example, Jeevan’s relationship with his girlfriend and his brother Frank, or Arthur’s relationship with his ex-wives Miranda and Elizabeth. The storylines of people after the apocalypse focused on more complex subjects, like how the characters deal with death, loneliness, longing for the past, survival in a hostile world, and hope for the future. Several examples include Kirsten’s knife tattoos reminding her of her kills (run-ins with death), August’s intense nostalgia for the comforts and amenities of the old world, and Jeevan’s new life living with a wife and son.

In Parts 7-9, I felt like there was a shift in regards to the storytelling of the novel. Unlike the previous parts, in which the narrative was “describing” the story (like a day-in-the-life documentary), the last third of the novel leaned more toward “telling” a story. In Parts 1-6, the story was a very realistic and grounded portrayal of how people would react and act in a post-apocalyptic world, with great descriptions of settlements like the airport at Severn City, the authoritarian cult-town of the Prophet, and a post-apocalyptic version of wandering minstrels in the Traveling Symphony. However, the last third of the novel was written more like an adventure story, and it portrayed several characters unrealistically. Kirsten, who was previously a portrayed as a realistic person dealing with a post-apocalyptic world, suddenly turns into an action hero with throwing knives, which I found to be totally unbelievable in the scope of the novel, especially when it was long established that the author had taken a more realistic approach to the story. One especially jarring instance was with her interview with the newspaper:  “ ‘When you think of how the world’s changed in your lifetime, what do you think about?’  ‘I think of killing.’ ” (265). This was the last thing I expected Kirsten to say, as it was already established that she was very interested in the performing arts, I would have thought she would have said something about the loss of generations of music and theater. It was also established that Kirsten does not remember much of Year One, which she described as very violent so that had established Kirsten’s aversion and/or reluctance towards violence. But in this instance, she comes off as a gruff, edgy killer which was totally at odds with her characterization.

Also I felt that the conclusion of the Prophet’s story arc was rushed and abrupt. The Prophet’s (Tyler’s) motivations were never established; he believes that he is destined to repopulate the earth, but it is never established why he believes that. Tyler is revealed to be deeply religious as a result of his constant reading of the bible, but a person doesn’t become a sociopath with a god complex simply because they were religious. It is never explicitly revealed how and why Tyler becomes a cult leader and prophet. The author also does not finish Elizabeth’s storyline, and she simply disappears from the story after she walks away from the Severn City Airport with Tyler in tow. Is this meant to imply that Elizabeth’s death(?) pushes Tyler to create a cult? Furthermore, in the forest, with the Prophet holding Kirsten at gunpoint, Kirsten is saved by a deus ex machina when a young man has a sudden change of heart and shoots the Prophet, which was an extremely disappointing ending to what was otherwise an interesting character.

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