Station Eleven: Just Surviving a Cataclysmic Plague is Insufficient

Post-apocalyptic scenarios in which the world must recover from some catastrophic event are not new. Often, the catastrophic event is a massive infectious disease of some sort. What I find most interesting about this genre of fiction is what the author choses to place their selective focus on (because the nature of the cataclysm is of relatively little importance). 

Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven, which I read after seeing a recommendation by renowned HIV physician Paul Sax, is one such book that has attracted much attention. 

Set in a world emerging from the ravages of a recent pandemic of influenza--"The Georgia Flu"--Station Eleven weaves together past and present as seen through the experiences of several characters who were all connected to each other pre-pandemic. 

The pandemic, which was said to kill at an unfathomable and unrealistic rate of 99% with an equally implausible few hours of incubation, basically brought the world to a halt literally transforming all modern technology into relics for a museum.

What I find to be the best aspect of the novel is its portrayal of how various members of society respond to such a cataclysm. Do they carry on clinging to any remnant of society, descend into depression, hold out hope for a rebirth of civilization, become mindless acolytes to a "prophet", or go on living? What activities are important in such a society and which are superfluous? All of these facets of post-disaster life are important factors that actually have real-world counterparts and likely occurred in microcosm after major earthquakes, various tsunamis, as well as the West African Ebola outbreak.

The answers given to these questions, as exemplified by the characters in the novel, are, at once, both surprising and reassuring. In short, the book concretizes why, for humans, mere "survival is insufficient".