Sea of Tranquility – Emily St. John Mandel

Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Knopf
Pages: 272
Release Date: April 5, 2022

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 requested to review Sea of Tranquility on a whim because I enjoyed Mandel’s Station Eleven. All I knew about Sea of Tranquility was that it was a time travel novel.

If you’ve read any of Mandel’s other work you know that her writing is beautifully poetic. Each sentence flows into the next painting a vivid image of the world and characters. The novel opens with three characters who are seemingly not connected. Mandel doesn’t spend a lot of page time developing these characters, but who they are and their hopes and dreams are communicated to readers effectively and efficiently.

One of my favourite parts of the novel follows a character living through a pandemic. Mandel captured the reality of harsh lockdowns. These passages hit close to home as she described the mundane activities that need to be done in order to make it through the day, and how family and work obligations changed.

One of the issues I had with Sea of Tranquility was Gaspery. Gaspery is comically stupid at some points and is just handed the keys to castle, if you will. There is a time jump that I would have liked to see more of to help get a better understanding of his character and his job. This time jump also sped up the novel so that the end it felt like it wrapped up too quickly.

Overall, Sea of Tranquility is a beautifully written novel that spans three hundred years with multiple characters connected in some way to create an atmospheric novel about life, love, and time. All this without mentioning how Mandel captured living through COVID-19 and put it in historical context.

*** I received an arc via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


Will you be reading Sea of Tranquility?

2 thoughts on “Sea of Tranquility – Emily St. John Mandel

  1. I am really looking forward to this one – she’s such a clever author and I love her style and you’ve intrigued me about how she’s managed to include Covid.
    Lynn 😀

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