Happy 2017 y’all! Maybe in the spirit of the New Year and New Starts I’ll turn this page into a place that dispenses wisdom and helpful tips. Because I have a tip for you: When you are on a night train to Toronto, don’t start reading a book where the end of the world as we know it starts in Toronto. It’s kind of creepy.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is the kind of science fiction that is also literature (my edition had those ragged deckle edges – fancy!) It starts in Toronto when an actor dies on stage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan, a paramedic-in-training who happens to be in the audience comes to his aid but too late. Then he walks home through the streets of Toronto and it gives me this absurd thrill of recognition – Yonge St, Carlton St, Allan Gardens, I’ve been there! But also it’s creepy because meanwhile he gets a call from his doctor friend at the hospital that it seems a disastrously bad flu has come to town. Pandemically bad, even.
Then everybody dies. (Well, nearly everybody.) The lights go out. No phones, no planes, no antibiotics. We flip back and forth through time. The actor before the apocalypse, his ex-wives, the paparazzi, Hollywood. And after, The Travelling Symphony travels around the Great Lakes (hey! I’ve been there too!) performing Shakespeare and symphonies for the towns of survivors. Because, as we have apparently learned from Star Trek, survival is insufficient.
And if you are on a train hurtling through Southern Ontario you might find yourself staring out into the dark, wondering if out there the world has ended already and you just don’t know yet. (Spoiler: It hadn’t.)