Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel
Title: Sea of Tranquility
Author: Emily St. John Mandel
Publisher: Pan Macmillan, Picador
Published Date: April 28th 2022
Length: 215 pages
Genre: Fiction, Science Fiction, Historical Fiction, SFF, Speculative Fiction, Adult, etc.
The award-winning, best-selling author of Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel returns with a novel of art, time, love, and plague that takes the reader from Vancouver Island in 1912 to a dark colony on the moon three hundred years later, unfurling a story of humanity across centuries and space.
Edwin St. Andrew is eighteen years old when he crosses the Atlantic by steamship, exiled from polite society following an ill-conceived diatribe at a dinner party. He enters the forest, spellbound by the beauty of the Canadian wilderness, and suddenly hears the notes of a violin echoing in an airship terminal–an experience that shocks him to his core.
Two centuries later a famous writer named Olive Llewellyn is on a book tour. She’s traveling all over Earth, but her home is the second moon colony, a place of white stone, spired towers, and artificial beauty. Within the text of Olive’s bestselling pandemic novel lies a strange passage: a man plays his violin for change in the echoing corridor of an airship terminal as the trees of a forest rise around him.
When Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, a detective in the Night City, is hired to investigate an anomaly in the North American wilderness, he uncovers a series of lives upended: The exiled son of an earl driven to madness, a writer trapped far from home as a pandemic ravages Earth, and a childhood friend from the Night City who, like Gaspery himself, has glimpsed the chance to do something extraordinary that will disrupt the timeline of the universe.
A virtuoso performance that is as human and tender as it is intellectually playful, Sea of Tranquility is a novel of time travel and metaphysics that precisely captures the reality of our current moment.
I am so glad that I read The Glass Hotel last year because reading that made my experience of this book that much richer and I didn’t quite know that it was going to be. It’s always good to be pleasantly surprised. This book gives the reader a parallel universe of the world from The Glass Hotel and I don’t know why I didn’t know that. This is not to say that you have to read the book in order to understand what’s happening in this one. I don’t think so.
One thing I have understood about this author, the writing is beautiful in a simple way and the pacing might seem slow but not in a way that might bother many people. The book takes its time to tell the story but without being bothersome. The story gives us snippets from different time periods and each one gives us questions about different things. Perspective is an important part of what the author is trying to show us. Each character during those different time periods are trying to understand their place in the world all the while trying to understand the world around them in a way.
“—and my point is, there’s always something. I think, as a species, we have a desire to believe that we’re living at the climax of the story. It’s a kind of narcissism. We want to believe that we’re uniquely important, that we’re living at the end of history, that now, after all these millennia of false alarms, now is finally the worst that it’s ever been, that finally we have reached the end of the world.”
There’s a kind of nostalgic tone to the writing that made me love it and it might not work for some. One key deciding factor is mentioning the current pandemic in the book. Some people aren’t bothered by it like me and some wondered if the book could have existed without it. I am fine either way but if I am being honest that the mention of the pandemic made the immersion better for me? Does that sound bad? Perhaps.
“A life lived in a simulation is still a life.”
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this one. It posed some interesting questions with one of the time periods questioning if the simulation theory is true and if it is, then what does it mean? Is it supposed to be meaningful or is it just supposed to just be, without meaning? After all, the end of the world for us means an ending of us as a species or the earth ceasing to exist but that kind of ending is always happening somewhere in the universe.