Station Eleven

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Station Eleven
First edition
AuthorEmily St. John Mandel
GenrePost-apocalyptic fiction, Theatre-fiction
Publication date
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)

Station Eleven is a novel by the Canadian writer Emily St. John Mandel.[1][2][3] It takes place in the Great Lakes region before and after a fictional swine flu pandemic, known as the "Georgia Flu", has devastated the world, killing most of the population. The book was published in 2014, and won the Arthur C. Clarke Award the following year.[4]

The novel was well received by critics,[5] with the understated nature of Mandel's writing receiving particular praise. It appeared on several best-of-year lists.[6][7] As of 2020, it had sold 1.5 million copies.[8]

A ten-part television adaptation of the same name premiered on HBO Max in December 2021.

The book was selected for the 2023 edition of Canada Reads, where it was championed by Michael Greyeyes.[9]

Plot summary[edit]

During a production of King Lear at the Elgin Theatre in Toronto, aspiring paramedic Jeevan Chaudhary watches as the actor playing Lear, Arthur Leander, has a heart attack. Jeevan tries to resuscitate Arthur, but is unsuccessful. Instead, Jeevan comforts one of the child actors in the production, Kirsten Raymonde. After leaving the play, Jeevan goes for a walk in the snow and receives a call from his old friend who is a doctor in Toronto. He warns Jeevan to get out of the city, as the mysterious and deadly Georgia Flu is spreading rapidly and will soon become a full-blown pandemic. Jeevan loads up on supplies and goes to stay with his brother Frank. Many of the actors, actresses, and others that had gathered to mourn Arthur's death die within the next three weeks.

Twenty years later, Kirsten is part of a nomadic group of actors and musicians known as the Travelling Symphony. Kirsten, who was eight at the time of the outbreak, can remember little of her life before Year Zero, but clings to a two-volume set of graphic novels given to her by Arthur before his death, titled Station Eleven. The troupe operates on a two-year cycle touring the Great Lakes region, performing Shakespeare plays and classical music, while Kirsten scavenges abandoned homes for props, costumes, and traces of Arthur in tabloid magazines.

The troupe intends to reunite with two members they left behind – the pregnant Charlie, and her husband, Jeremy – at a small town. Upon arriving, they are disturbed to find that their friends are missing, and that the town is now under the control of the Prophet, who rapes several young girls he claims as his "wives". The troupe quickly leaves, and goes off-route to the Museum of Civilization, a settlement where they believe they might find their missing friends. En route, they discover a young stowaway who fled the town, as she was promised to the Prophet as his next bride. Shortly after, members of the troupe begin to disappear, until finally the entire troupe is gone, leaving only Kirsten and her friend August. Frightened, they continue on to the Museum, hoping to be reunited with others.

Unbeknownst to Kirsten, Station Eleven is an unpublished passion project by Arthur's first wife Miranda. Fourteen years before the collapse of civilization, Miranda left an abusive boyfriend and married Arthur, a friend from her hometown in coastal British Columbia who has since become a famous actor. As Arthur's fame hit its peak, Miranda realized he was having an affair with the woman who would become his second wife, Elizabeth. The night that Miranda discovers the affair, she walks out of her home and asks a paparazzo outside if he has a cigarette; the paparazzo is Jeevan. Years later, when Jeevan is trying to reinvent himself as an entertainment journalist, Arthur gives him an exclusive interview; Arthur tells Jeevan that he is leaving Elizabeth and their young son Tyler to be with another woman. Jeevan reflects on this while he and Frank are quarantining in Frank's apartment. After many weeks, they realize that no one is coming to save them. Frank, who is paraplegic, kills himself to spare Jeevan from feeling responsible for him. Jeevan embarks on a journey south, and after many years, finds a new settlement in Virginia, where he marries and becomes the town doctor.

In Year Zero, Arthur's best friend, Clark, informs Elizabeth that Arthur is dead. Clark, Elizabeth, and Tyler happen to board the same flight from New York City to Toronto to attend Arthur's funeral, but it is grounded at the Severn City Airport due to the pandemic. The passengers, having nowhere to go, create a settlement in the airport, and Clark becomes the "curator" of the Museum of Civilization, where he gathers artifacts such as iPhones and laptop computers. While most of the airport survivors adapt to their new life, Elizabeth and Tyler embrace religious zealotry, believing that the pandemic happened for a reason and spared those who were good. After two years, they leave with a religious cult.

In the present, Kirsten and August find a group of the Prophet's men holding Sayid, a member of their troupe, hostage. They kill the men and free Sayid, who explains that their friend Dieter was killed, while another hostage escaped, warned the troupe, and sent them on another road; this explains how the rest of the Symphony went missing. The trio leave for the Severn City Airport, but Kirsten is soon discovered by the Prophet. Just before he is about to kill her, he refers to the "Undersea," a place from the Station Eleven comics. Kirsten quotes lines from Station Eleven, distracting the Prophet long enough that a younger sentry, having a crisis of faith, shoots and kills him, before taking his own life. The trio continues to the Museum of Civilization, where they are reunited with Charlie, Jeremy, and the rest of the troupe. Clark, who has lived in the museum for twenty years, realizes who Kirsten is, her attachment to Arthur, and that the Prophet was Tyler Leander. Clark takes Kirsten up to the control tower of the airport, where he shows her there is a town with lights, suggesting civilization is beginning to take root again.

Five weeks later, Kirsten leaves with the Travelling Symphony for the town. She gives one copy of Station Eleven to Clark's museum. He begins to read it and recognizes a scene that is borrowed from a dinner party which he, Arthur, and Miranda once attended.

Main characters[edit]

  • Kirsten Raymonde – A former child actor from Toronto who is eight when the Georgia Flu destroys her world. Initially she and her brother are the only survivors in her family, but as they travel, he dies too. She joins the Travelling Symphony as a teenager and becomes obsessed with actor Arthur Leander, whose death she witnessed as a child on the first day of the pandemic.
  • Arthur Leander – A wildly successful film actor originally from the (fictional) Delano Island in British Columbia. Despite his success, Arthur is shiftless, unhappy, and marries three times. He dies onstage of a heart attack while portraying King Lear at age 51, the same night the pandemic takes hold.
  • Jeevan Chaudhary – A former paparazzo, turned entertainment journalist, turned EMT, whose life intersects with Leander's at key moments.
  • Frank Chaudhary – Jeevan's paraplegic brother, a former war reporter wounded in Libya, now a ghostwriter who lives a life of solitude in his apartment.
  • Miranda Carroll – Arthur's first wife, eleven years his junior. She is initially an artist who is obsessed with creating her graphic novel, Station Eleven, about Dr. Eleven, a man who lives on a defunct planetary space station. She later becomes a proficient businesswoman. Shortly before Arthur's death, Miranda gives him two copies of the finally-completed graphic novel, which Arthur gives to his son, Tyler, and the child-actor Kirsten. Mandel has said Miranda is the character she most identifies with.[10]
  • Clark Thompson – Arthur's English best friend, whom he met while they were struggling actors. He then works as a management consultant, and post-collapse, reinvents himself as a curator to a museum of obsolete objects.
  • Tyler Leander – The son of Arthur and his second wife Elizabeth. He grows up in Jerusalem, estranged from his father, and is later stranded in the settlement at the (fictional)[11] Severn City Airport. He and his mother eventually leave with a religious cult, and he grows up to be the religious leader known as the Prophet.


Although many publications classified the novel as science fiction,[12][13][14] Mandel does not believe that the work belongs to that genre, as the novel does not include any instances of fictional technology.[15][16] She said the issue of labeling her work science fiction (as opposed to literary fiction) has followed her through all her novels.[15] Her early work was classified as crime fiction, and she has stated she consciously chose to avoid overtones of mystery and crime in this work in order to avoid being "pigeonholed" as a mystery novelist.[15] Station Eleven has also been discussed as "theatre-fiction".[17]


In 2015, it was announced that a film adaptation of the novel was in development by Scott Steindorff.[18]

On October 18, 2019, it was announced that Station Eleven would instead be adapted into a miniseries for HBO Max. The series premiered on December 16, 2021,[19] with Hiro Murai directing and Patrick Somerville as showrunner and writer. Both also serve as executive producers, alongside Scott Steindorff, Scott Delman, and Dylan Russell. The miniseries stars Mackenzie Davis as Kirsten and Himesh Patel as Jeevan. Gael García Bernal portrays Arthur, and David Wilmot, Clark.[20]


The novel won the Arthur C. Clarke Award in May 2015, beating novels including The Girl with All the Gifts and Memory of Water.[21] The committee highlighted the novel's focus on the survival of human culture after an apocalypse, as opposed to the survival of humanity.[21] The novel won the Toronto Book Award in October 2015.[22]

The novel was also a finalist for the National Book Award, ultimately losing to Phil Klay's short story cycle Redeployment.[23] It was also a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award,[24] as well as the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction.


  1. ^ Gibert, Tiffany (5 September 2014). "Tiffany Gibert on Station Eleven". LA Review of Books. Retrieved 20 July 2015.
  2. ^ Nunez, Sigrid (12 September 2014). "Shakespeare for Survivors 'Station Eleven,' by Emily St. John Mandel". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 July 2015.
  3. ^ Crum, Maddie (11 September 2014). "The Book We're Talking About: 'Station Eleven' By Emily St. John Mandel". Huffington Post. Retrieved 19 July 2015.
  4. ^ Anders, Charlie Jane (6 May 2015). "Station Eleven Wins This Year's Arthur C. Clarke Award!". io9. Retrieved 19 July 2015.
  5. ^ "Book Marks reviews of Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel". Book Marks. Retrieved February 28, 2023.
  6. ^ Washington Post (20 November 2014). "The ten best books of 2014". The Washington Post. Retrieved 20 July 2015.
  7. ^ NPR (30 December 2014). "Best Novels of 2014". NPR. Retrieved 20 July 2015.
  8. ^ Kelly, Hillary (12 March 2020). "The Disaster Artist". New York. Retrieved 19 August 2021.
  9. ^ "Meet the Canada Reads 2023 contenders". CBC Books, January 25, 2023.
  10. ^ Martinez, R.L. (18 August 2014). "No One Stays Forever: An Interview with Emily St. John Mandel". Archived from the original on 13 August 2018. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  11. ^ Mandel, Emily St. John (27 March 2016). "St. John's my middle name. The books go under M." Archived from the original on 2 January 2022. Retrieved 21 November 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  12. ^ NPR Staff (20 June 2015). "Survival Is Insufficient: 'Station Eleven' Preserves Art After The Apocalypse". NPR. Retrieved 20 July 2015.
  13. ^ Andrews, Charlie Jane (30 December 2014). "The Best Science Fiction And Fantasy Books Of 2014". io9. Retrieved 20 July 2015.
  14. ^ Hightower, Nancy (16 September 2014). "Sci-fi & fantasy by Emily St. John Mandel, Robert Jackson Bennett, Lauren Beukes". The Washington Post. Retrieved 20 July 2015.
  15. ^ a b c Charles, Ron (15 October 2015). "Sorry, Emily St. John Mandel: Resistance is futile". The Washington Post. Retrieved 20 July 2015.
  16. ^ St. John Mandel, Emily (15 October 2014). "Great piece. I actually don't think of Station Eleven as sci-fi, but am fully prepared to concede that I may be alone in this..." Twitter / Emily St. John Mandel. Retrieved 20 July 2015.
  17. ^ Wolfe, Graham (2022). "Biopolitical Animation: A Lockdown Reading of Mandel's Station Eleven". Performance Research. 27 (1): 122–130. doi:10.1080/13528165.2022.2092304. S2CID 255750220.
  18. ^ Siegel, Tatiana (10 February 2015). "Best-Seller 'Station Eleven' Acquired by 'Jane Got a Gun' Producer". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 15 June 2015.
  19. ^ Dibdin, Emma (4 November 2021). "Everything To Know About HBO Max's Station Eleven". Town & Country. Retrieved 21 November 2021.
  20. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (19 October 2019). "Mackenzie Davis & Himesh Patel To Star In 'Station Eleven' HBO Max Limited Series". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 1 November 2019.
  21. ^ a b "Arthur C. Clarke Award | 2015 Winner". Arthur C. Clarke Award. 1 May 2015. Archived from the original on 22 July 2015. Retrieved 20 July 2015.
  22. ^ Dundas, Deborah (15 October 2015). "Emily St. John Mandel wins 2015 Toronto Book Award". Toronto Star. Retrieved 21 November 2021.
  23. ^ Alter, Alexandra (19 November 2014). "National Book Award Goes to Phil Klay for His Short Story Collection". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 January 2019.
  24. ^ "Congratulations 2015 PEN/Faulkner Award Finalists!". 10 March 2015. Retrieved 21 November 2021.

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