All three caravans of the Traveling Symphony are labeled as such, THE TRAVELING SYMPHONY lettered in white on both sides, but the lead caravan carries an additional line of text: Because survival is insufficient.
The book opens with the death of an actor on stage: heart attack, completely unrelated to the epidemic of flu which wipes out most of the world’s population, and yet somehow linked with the lives of many of the survivors.
Emily St. John Mandel’s post-apocalyptic book Station Eleven: A Novel has no Mad Max-style warring armies, no mutants or zombies, no underground laboratories of scientists working on new technology to save civilization. The story wanders back and forth from the beginnings of the actor’s career through to twenty years after the epidemic. All of the characters are achingly normal, trying to find fulfillment in their mundane lives pre-collapse, or moments of happiness as they try to survive afterward. Sounds like a fairly sedate, character-study, doesn’t it? Well let me tell you, I finished this one in less than two days. Not kidding here, day-and-a-half tops. Like eating dessert in one bite, owmf, done. The book is beautiful, and scary, and exciting in places, and full of that kind of sadness you only get when you think about lovely things that you’ll never see again.