Station Eleven is your weekly reminder that the world is going to end soon


In the precious reading time afforded by my daily commute, the world is often ending. Sometimes its Armageddon by plague (The Stand, The Dog Stars, Blindness); sometimes by zombies or vampires (World War Z, Warm Bodies, The Strain); sometimes by nature (The Age of Miracles). Every so often the end comes by way of nuclear war (A Canticle for Leibowitz), or global destitution (Ready Player One), or deadly sightings of something or someone as-yet unidentified (Bird Box). The method doesn’t matter; what does is the universal consensus among the fiction-writing community that shit is going to hit the fan at some point, and that humans are not emotionally prepared for that cleanup.

Despite a heretofore limitless appetite for end-of-the-world novels, I went into Station Eleven—which served six dutiful months un-cracked on my nightstand—feeling a bit burned out on the genre. What could Emily St. John Mandel say that so many others hadn’t already? What point could she make that would separate Station Eleven from the dozens of post-apocalyptic books that have come before, whose conclusions can be summed up in a few tweets: Fate is fickle; people are inherently bad, or inherently good, depending on the author. Humanity is resilient. These notions—sometimes mixed in with bits of zombie and/or vampire lore—are the main tenets of fiction’s collective Hot Take on the end of the world. Winter Is Coming, and people will do anything for a coat. 

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Laline Paull’s The Bees: Honey doesn’t buy happiness


As highly functional and exceedingly authoritarian societies go, bees are legit. One need only skim some of the mass bee death headlines of the last few years to understand that for animals so small, seemingly innocuous and unwelcome at picnics, bees basically run the world. Or keep the world running.

Given their propensity for hierarchy, bees also seem an apropos topic for the ever-growing canon of dystopian fiction. After all, they’re an all-natural example of the kind of social order foisted on humans in books like 1984, The Handmaid’s Tale and Brave New World. Bees have a ruler, a class system, and a directive (however innate) to stick with the program lest the whole hive suffer for an individual’s absence of industry. Needles to say, I could never be a bee, or any other animal whose entire existence is synonymous with hard work and constant activity. (Given the choice, I’d be a house cat; their lives are 70% sleeping, 10% eating and 20% knocking things off tables.)

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