Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
After a virus causes a worldwide collapse, some of the survivors form a traveling symphony and theater troupe. Moving between small settlements in middle-America, these musicians and actors make their living bringing some semblance of culture to a dystopian world because as their motto states “Survival is Insufficient.” Weaving the pre and post-virus stories of several different characters together, Ms. Mandel creates an unnerving and fraught world. Usually, Dori and I have similar thoughts on the books we read, but Station Eleven was an anomaly. It left Dori a little uneasy and frustrated but she admitted it was compelling. She found the plot and world lacking in details and also wanted a clearer philosophy tying the book together whereas I found the open-ended tone to be refreshing. I liked the character development and how the seemingly different characters’ stories connected. Both of us did agree that Ms. Mandel’s writing had a darkly lyrical quality which made for some beautiful prose. I recommend Station Eleven for its haunting yet hopeful look a post-apocalyptic culture.
California: A Novel by Edan Lepucki
This novel is trying to be a hyper-realistic version of future, dystopian America. The rich can afford to live relatively normally but most everything is too expensive for the 99%. In addition, climate change created super storms that killed a lot of people and left the landscape barren in many places. The main characters, Cal and Frida, have moved from Los Angeles out to the middle of nowhere to try to live. They eventually find a community called The Land where the people can offer security but also perhaps dangers of their own. While decently written from a diction and grammar point-of-view, both Dori and I feel just “meh” about this book. It was not very well plotted. The story never really progressed. For awhile I was intrigued by the mystery and danger surrounding The Land but the secrets and “climax” of the story were a letdown. Also, the book really didn’t have an ending. It just stopped. Dori summed it up nicely saying that Ms. Lepucki’s debut novel “suffers from too many ideas and not enough clarity of purpose.” Overall, “California” is a melodramatic, run-of-the-mill, post-apocalyptic story which became increasingly frustrating through its many mini-build ups that resulted in no consequences or plot progression.
April’s entry in Dori & Jess’ Book Club is…
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
Review: A non-romanticized, satirical look at India’s government and culture. Dori called it a book about “the cognitive dissonance between India’s attempt to become a democratic economic power vs. its entrenched caste system.” Dori & I didn’t quite agree on this one. While we both appreciated the fact that it showed a realistic rather than an exotic picture of India, she enjoyed the story more than I. However, while she liked the ruthlessness of the characters and the world in which they lived, I found it hard to care about any of them. While I didn’t feel quite as connected to this novel as I would like, I’m still leaning toward recommending it. The book was well-written in a style that would be hard to pull off without careful attention to the details of the plot and characters. Also, there’s something about “The White Tiger” that felt important as I was reading it.