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Words of a Bibliophile

"It's only words, and words are all I have, to take your heart away." —Bee Gees

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel

This novel stayed with me because of how realistic it felt. Around the time I was reading it, I went on a work trip to a coal-fired power plant. The workers there showed us around the immense plant complex, explaining the processes, resources and manpower required to run the plant. I found myself imagining what would happen if, like in the novel, a deadly pandemic struck and killed 99% of the population.

If there had been 100 people working at the plant and 99 of them died (to put it in simpler numbers), the 1 person left wouldn't have been able to keep the plant running to generate power. Even if that person was, say, a chief engineer, it would be next to impossible to run an operation of that size and complexity all alone; the odds would be even smaller if the survivor was a low-rank, unskilled worker, someone like a plant janitor.

Take that situation and imagine it happening at other operations: food production centers, water facilities, transportation hubs, hospitals, medicine factories, police offices, government agencies. Suddenly everything we rely on in order to live would be taken from us. This novel imagines such circumstances and what happens to the survivors in the wake of such a disaster.

There's a lot more to the story, including the human relationships and the enduring power of art, but it was the aftermath of the pandemic that resonated the most with me. It felt so believable, so realistic that it stuck with me after I closed the book and returned to my comfortable life where I have easy access to such miracles like food, electricity, and running water.