Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Station 11

Six months of the year has slipped away, we’re on a shallow slope heading towards Christmas, and my book of the year so far? It’s been a good six months. Plainsong by Kent Haruf, The Son by Phillip Meyer and The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt, Pig Iron, by Ben Myers, Dark Star by Alan Furst.

But my book of the first six months of 2015, by some distance, is Station 11 by Emily St. John Mandel. It takes a genre subject – an apocalyptic flu wipes out most of humanity – and treats it in a contemplative, melancholy, compelling way. It makes you nostalgic for a life you haven’t lost, a life involving phones and flights and oranges. King Lear is woven into the narrative, but so is an invented comic book, and Star Trek Voyager (not even the original series.) We follow different characters for a while, leave their stories, return to them, and I found myself convinced, believing in this beautifully evoked world. Most of the characters were decent people, which is something that I enjoyed, it was a quietly optimistic book, or not glibly, cynically pessimistic anyway. It was the mood though, and the style, that most engaged me, I felt like I was liable to wake up and find myself living in this world.

Is it a bad thing that the first five books I mentioned are all by men? Maybe it is, I do read more men than women, I think, and I don’t want to close myself off to that whole other perspective on the world. And as a male writer I want to be read by women as much as by men, (or by girls as much as by boys, since I’m now writing a Young Adult novel). I know a guy who’s reading nothing but women this entire year, having noticed that he’s only been reading men for a while. I don’t want to do that, I don’t think I do, but I am reading Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey next, and perhaps I’ll catch up with How to be both by Ali Smith after that and is The Green Road by Anne Enright in paperback yet? God, I love reading.