Title: Sea of Tranquility
Author: Emily St. John Mandel
Publication Date: April 5, 2022
Sub Genre(s): Science-Fiction
Summary: 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. -From Goodreads
What I Liked: Like most of Mandel’s books, the story in “Sea of Tranquility” is told from the viewpoint of multiple characters. In the hands of a less talented author, this could lead to confusion and an inability to keep track of the characters or when the action is taking place. Not so with Mandel, who manages to tell a cohesive story over the span of hundreds of years. I was never confused about who was who or what was going on, a testament to her storytelling capabilities. She has the unique ability to write a pandemic novel that’s not really about a pandemic, a science-fiction story that doesn’t get bogged down with too much science, and a hopeful story that isn’t too sweet. I love books that can entertain me while also making me think and this book is full of big ideas. I will be thinking about this book for a while.
What I Didn’t Like: Mandel is one of the few authors that could write a door stopper of a book and I would still read it, and “Sea of Tranquility” is a book that I think could have benefited from a few more pages. It would have allowed us to learn more about some of the characters and delve more into their motivations.
Who Should Read It: This is a pandemic novel so while I would recommend this book to anyone, you do have to be in the mood to read about a pandemic….while living through one. There is a connection (that I loved) to her previous novel, “The Glass Hotel,” but it’s not necessary to have read that book before this one.
Review Wrap Up: As is typical of Mandel, there were moments that left my jaw hanging open in this book, especially when all the storylines converged, and I was left with a feeling of awe when I was finished. Those looking for a book that will keep you guessing while also making you think will find much to enjoy here.
Favorite Quote(s): “Look…the thing is, it’s possible to be grateful for extraordinary circumstances and simultaneously long to be with the people you love.”
“It’s been a while since anyone’s told me anything magnificent.”