George R. R. Martin Backs Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven for Hugos
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On Monday, I wrote about how the “genre wars” seem to finally be coming to an end. In 2015, it’s increasingly common for so-called “literary” writers to write genre books and so-called “genre” writers to be reviewed and published in literary magazines. Writers and readers are reading across genres like never before, and that’s a great thing!
Perhaps some good evidence of this trend happened this week when A Song of Ice and Fire author George R. R. Martin took to his blog to call Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven the best novel he read in 2014:
One could, I suppose, call it a post-apocolypse novel, and it is that, but all the usual tropes of that subgenre are missing here, and half the book is devoted to flashbacks to before the coming of the virus that wipes out the world, so it’s also a novel of character, and there’s this thread about a comic book and Doctor Eleven and a giant space station and… oh, well, this book should NOT have worked, but it does. It’s a deeply melancholy novel, but beautifully written, and wonderfully elegiac… a book that I will long remember, and return to.
Martin, a titan of the fantasy genre, said he’d vote for Station Eleven for Best Novel in the Hugo Awards, which is one of the most prestigious awards for science fiction and fantasy. Station Eleven was also a finalist the National Book Awards, which is one of the most prestigious awards for literary fiction. The novel is a beautiful and, as Martin says, melancholy take on the post-apocalypse. It follows a band of Shakespearean actors as they move through the ruins of a plague-ravaged North America. It’s the prefect example of a novel that can’t be pegged as purely “literary” or purely “science fiction.” It is both at the same time.
Station Eleven is one of the finest novels I’ve read in some time, a book that succeeds sentence to sentence, scene to scene, and as a piece of philosophical art. In spite of its obsession with Shakespeare’s life and work, this book doesn’t set out to court greatness. But with the restrained brilliance of its prose, the humility of its attention to story and dramatic construction, and its unwillingness to give us easy answers it may have achieved that greatness all the same.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Emily St. John Mandel for the National Book Foundation, which you can read here.