“The Traveling Symphony: Because survival is insufficient” are the words painted on the side of a caravan. The traveling troupe of actors and musicians who inhabit this caravan risk everything in the name of art and culture. It is years after an apocalyptic pandemic, as the nomadic group of actors travel through the Great Lakes region representing the idea that we need art to thrive in this world.

The story opens earlier when Arthur Leander, the character that binds them all together, suddenly dies of a heart attack one wintry night on stage performing in “King Lear.” Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo turned EMT, jumps at the chance to save a life – a famous celebrity’s life, no less.

Kirsten Raymonde, a child actress in the play, watches in horror as the curtain drops and Arthur’s life drains from his body. The night of this tragedy, the Georgia flu becomes a real threat to North America. It was thought to be contained in Russia and the surrounding countries, but evidence appears to prove the contrary.

Even though the epidemic becomes a pandemic spreading everywhere imaginable, people rush to their cars, clogging the highways, most eventually abandoning their cars and setting out on foot as life deteriorates around them.

Now, 15 years later, Kirsten still belongs to the Traveling Symphony, surviving in the name of art for humanity. Unfortunately, no one can survive without committing some act of violence, usually in self-defense.

A small knife is tattooed on the people who have killed someone, denoting how many kills each person has committed since the pandemic broke out.V_Station Eleven

Kirsten also has a line from “Star Trek” tattooed on her arm, the same quote written on the side of their caravan: “Survival is insufficient.”

In their travels, they encounter a violent prophet, whose name is as mysterious as his past.

He is a master of brainwashing who has many followers.

Mandel weaves stories seamlessly from before and after the pandemic all connected to Arthur.

“Station Eleven” teaches us never to take the world we live in for granted and to stop sleepwalking through life.

Imagine: “No more Internet. No more social media, no more scrolling through litanies of dreams and nervous hopes and photographs of lunches, cries for help and expressions of contentment and relationship-status updates.”

As you read, perhaps you will wonder if you, too, would be able to survive in a barren world void of our technological comforts.

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