Emily St. John Mandel
Fiction 2022 | 255 pages
Goodness. We journey in this book to 1912, 1918, 1990, 1994, 2008, 2020, 2203 and 2401. And we travel between Earth, the Moon colonies, and Titan. So, clearly, this is a time traveler's tale. Gasprey-Jacques Roberts is our time traveler, who is on assignment in the 25th century, sponsored by a curious organization called the Time Institute, to explore a vision, a point out of time and place, experienced and witnessed by four characters in some of the years mentioned above. We move back and forth across the years, but Mandel’s skill in speculative fiction is apparent, as she never leaves us behind or confused. (You may recognize Mandel from two of her most famous novels, Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel. Some of the characters repeat in this book. I gave Station Eleven four hearts, and The Glass Hotel two hearts.)
One of the characters in Sea of Tranquility, Olive Llewellyn, is an author who writes about pandemics, in 2203. This novel was written during the Covid-19 pandemic, which influences the writing and makes it quite real. And Llewellyn’s artistic voice helps move us from section to section, and her story is quite compelling.
I liked the writing, the ingenuity, the fantasy, and the time travel. I can’t tell you really what “message” this book offers, thought it does make the reader think about the dimensions of space and time, and how they overlap, wrap around one another, and repeat. Gasprey-Jacques Roberts, as he travels among the time periods, is attempting to determine the meaning of this anomaly, for humankind. Does he find it?
Sea of Tranquility is a fun and ingenious read. I recommend you give it a try.
I surprised myself by enjoying Station Eleven. It was a Michigan Big Read selection several years ago. Its Great Lakes setting helped. I’ll give her new book a try.