Sunday, October 30, 2016

Save the Date for Read-Around-the-Clock: November 10 at 11:10 a.m.

Traditionally the library's Read-Around-the-Clock Book Club meets on the month, day, and hour that coincides with a certain number in the title of a featured book. Since the library is closed on November 11 and unable to meet at 11:00, the club's discussion will take place at the library on November 10 at 11:10 a.m. This date and time was chosen to compliment last month's selection of Wendy Wax's novel Ten Beach Road. Read-Around-the-Clock will feature books with eleven or 11 in the title but will also include a Skype visit from author Wendy Wax whose book was highlighted in October. All are invited to visit and share any book they have read with either a ten (10) or eleven (11) in its title. Even if you haven't read anything lately that fits this criteria, come out and discover new (or old) books. Discussing books and ideas is a great opportunity to socialize and keeps your mind active.

Station Eleven graces the library's wall clock, to represent novels that tell time, as a book that includes the number (11) eleven in its title. This book is a science fiction novel written by Emily St. John Mandel, a native Canadian, and was the winner of the Sir Arthur C. Clarke Award and the Toronto Book Award in 2015. The Sir Arthur C. Clarke Award is given to the best science fiction novel of the year published in the UK. This book also garnered a lot of attention as a finalist for the National Book Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award, and for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction. 

Station Eleven takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where survival includes the necessity of art. My first assumption was that the title reflected a place, but I soon realized as I began reading this book that Station Eleven is the name of a comic novel, that within the course of the story takes on significant meaning to the characters. The story floats between two periods of time; before the disaster and after the fall of civilization due to a pandemic outbreak of bird flu.

While reading I also began to recall a time in 2005 when H5N1, a strain of avian influenza was discovered in Africa and considered a significant pandemic threat. At that time the United States Senate appropriated 4 billion dollars to be used for developing a vaccine against this bird-flu virus. Global deaths resulting from the spread of H5N1 were predicted to reach 150 million. Studies now show that though there have been deaths determined as a result of H5N1, these cases are rare and isolated. The World Health Organization continues to research and monitor the spread of this virus and the Center for Disease Control issues the precaution to avoid wild birds and potentially infected domestic poultry.

Mandel's dystopian novel seemed all the more plausible, knowing about discovery of avian influenza today. I was horrified by the thought that air could be so contaminated that breathing became fatal! After the polluted air dispersed, those who miraculously survived began leading a nomadic life. There were various bands of survivors, including a traveling symphony of musicians and actors whose purpose was to offer distraction from the bleakness of the post-apocalyptic world. One character in the story started a Museum of Civilization at the airport where he was stranded when the outbreak started. The museum represented life before year Zero with artifacts that included everything from cell phones and drivers licenses to laptops and stilettos. One band of nomads was led by a self-appointed prophet who preached that he was chosen to repopulate society. He took multiple wives by force and manipulated his followers by having them kill those who didn't believe.

New York Time Bestsellers reviews Station Eleven as a novel that is “steeped in the anxieties of our era: pandemics, environmental catastrophes, energy shortages, civil unrest.” This book is a gripping story that you won’t want to put down and leads to a great discussion on how each of us might respond to unfortunate circumstances such as the end of the world as we know it.

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