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Sea of Tranquility

Win a free print copy of this book!

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10 copies available
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Rate this book
A novel of art, time travel, love, and plague that takes the reader from Vancouver Island in 1912 to a dark colony on the moon five 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 best-selling 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 black-skied 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.'

259 pages, Hardcover

First published April 5, 2022

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About the author

Emily St. John Mandel

25 books20.6k followers
Emily St. John Mandel was born and raised on the west coast of British Columbia, Canada. She studied contemporary dance at the School of Toronto Dance Theatre and lived briefly in Montreal before relocating to New York.

She is the author of five novels, including The Glass Hotel (spring 2020) and Station Eleven (2014.) Station Eleven was a finalist for a National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award, won the Morning News Tournament of Books, and has been translated into 34 languages. She lives in NYC with her husband and daughter.

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5 stars
60,749 (36%)
4 stars
69,078 (42%)
3 stars
27,769 (16%)
2 stars
5,262 (3%)
1 star
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 20,496 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,963 reviews294k followers
April 18, 2022
“Isn’t that why we’re here? To leave a mark on wilderness?”

I was one of the few readers (or so it seemed) left underwhelmed by Mandel's Station Eleven when I read it back in 2014. The hype and gushing reviews seemed at odds with the very okay novel I read, which is why I passed on reading The Glass Hotel.

Now I'm wondering: should I go back and read the author's other stuff? Because I have to admit I found Sea of Tranquility riveting and beautiful.

From what I remember, it is not stylistically that different to Station Eleven-- both are quiet, slow-build stories-- but I found the characters here fascinating and the exploration of both the simulation theory and what, if anything, that means for humans, deeply moving.

We begin with several chapters (or "Parts") of seemingly unrelated characters and stories, each set in a very different time and place-- Edwin arrives in Canada in the year 1912, Mirella goes to speak to the brother of an estranged old friend in 2020 NYC, Olive visits Earth for a book tour in 2203, scientists investigate the theory that the world is a simulation in 2401. Similar motifs appear in each story and it is clear they are linked, but how?

As the stories weave together and overlap, we begin to see the recurring theme in each one until it all comes together in a big picture at the end.

I really enjoyed it. There is this nostalgic quality to Mandel's writing that made me feel like I was revisiting places I'd been long ago, even though I obviously hadn't. I don't know if all the pandemic subplots were strictly necessary and I think the author could have achieved the same goal without that being a recurring theme, but this is a small complaint.

The novel touches upon the big questions like the meaning of it all and the nature of reality, as well as exploring the human obsession with the end of the world:
“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.”

And, in the end, it all seems to be saying that maybe there is no meaning, maybe none of it's real, whatever that means, maybe the world is always ending, and maybe the real question is: does it even matter?
Profile Image for Maggie Stiefvater.
Author 88 books168k followers
April 24, 2022
A claustrophobic nautilus of a novel. The summary touts this as a time travel story but to me, it seemed less interested in time travel and more in a novelist's wistful musings on the harrowing transformation from *a writer, quiet observer of the world*, to *a writer, performing being a writer*— on what it means for her identity and time to be consumed as well as her novels.

I understand why the summary lingers on time travel; there is plenty of it in this book. But to me the book really boils down to one scene, one moment: Olive, the writer, has to excuse herself from the hotel restaurant, where she is trying to charge her meal to her room, in order to ask the front desk to remind her what her room number is in this particular hotel, this particular city. She can't remember, all times are one, all times are unreal. That is what this book is about.
Profile Image for Lisa of Troy.
403 reviews3,531 followers
March 16, 2023
Sea of Tranquility is told in shifting timelines with different characters. In the timeline with Mirella, there are a bunch of different characters introduced in a relatively short period of time. To add to the confusion of this, there is a character named Vincent. However, Vincent is a female. I kept reading the passage over and over, not understanding what I was missing because I thought “she” must be referring to someone else.

The first 40% of this book was slow. However, by the 60% mark, I couldn’t put the book down. There were also some interesting concepts discussed.

The ending was not all that I wanted it to be. I still had questions. Three questions to be specific which I won’t post here because I don’t want to spoil this book for anyone. But if you want to know, feel free to DM me.

Overall, a solid fantasy book that took a little bit of time to warm up, and I look forward to reading more from this author.

2023 Reading Schedule
Jan Alice in Wonderland
Feb Notes from a Small Island
Mar Cloud Atlas
Apr On the Road
May The Color Purple
Jun Bleak House
Jul Bridget Jones’s Diary
Aug Anna Karenina
Sep The Secret History
Oct Brave New World
Nov A Confederacy of Dunces
Dec The Count of Monte Cristo

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Profile Image for John Mauro.
Author 5 books406 followers
January 5, 2023
One of my most anticipated new releases of the year, Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel, turned out to be a watered-down rewrite of Cloud Atlas. If I were David Mitchell, I don't know whether I'd feel flattered or just profoundly ripped off.

Sea of Tranquility has exactly the same narrative structure as Cloud Atlas, consisting of interconnected stories that occur across different timelines, starting in the past and spanning into the future. Like Cloud Atlas, the opening storyline centers on a seafaring scholar traveling to the New World, whose "street smarts" pale in comparison to his "book smarts." Like Cloud Atlas, the next storylines involve a composer, an author, and a projection into a sci-fi future. Like Cloud Atlas, each storyline is interrupted partway through to begin the next nested story, and then all the stories wrap up in the second half of the book. The main difference is that the nested stories in Sea of Tranquility are only four layers deep, rather than six layers deep in Cloud Atlas.

Emily St. John Mandel's writing is beautiful, as usual. However, she uses exactly the same writing style for all storylines covering three hundred years of history. The same 2020 writing style is applied to the historical account from 1912 and to the futuristic stories taking place in 2203 and 2401. She doesn't even attempt to alter her writing style to reflect these time differences. This is in sharp contrast to David Mitchell, who dramatically adjusted his writing style to reflect each different time period. This included making a projection of how he thought the English language would evolve in the near and far futures. Mitchell accomplished this task brilliantly, although it certainly made Cloud Atlas more difficult to read than Sea of Tranquility. In this way, the writing in Sea of Tranquility is simultaneously beautiful and lazy. I wish Emily St. John Mandel would have tried harder to capture the differences in writing style that one would expect over a span of 300 years.

Like David Mitchell, Emily St. John Mandel is attempting to build an interconnected universe of characters spanning across books. However, the execution is quite clunky in Sea of Tranquility. The 2020 timeline overlaps with her previous novel, The Glass Hotel, and unfortunately the characters in the 2020 timeline of Sea of Tranquility spend about half of their dialogue recapping key plot points from The Glass Hotel. Also, the interconnections among the nested stories of Sea of Tranquility are made using a rather unconvincing time travel plot device, in contrast to the more subtle connections that David Mitchell provides in Cloud Atlas.

I really wanted to love this book. I gave five stars to The Glass Hotel, which was brilliant in its subtle use of magical realism. Emily St. John Mandel's previous post-apocalyptic novel, Station Eleven, was also vastly superior to Sea of Tranquility. I preordered Sea of Tranquiltiy months in advance, in eager anticipation of its release date. This was such a letdown. I would have been far better off just rereading Cloud Atlas.
Profile Image for emma.
1,825 reviews48.5k followers
March 15, 2023
i do not know how to review this book.

even at the best of times, when i am absolutely on the ball and everything is perfect and life is going my way and i am organized and well stocked in cookies and persian cucumbers (the two best foods), the very best i can hope for in terms of how much time passes between when i read a book and when i review it is 3 weeks.

but that's beside the point, because we are firmly in the two month category on this one.

i just...don't know how to do it. i've never READ anything like this - how would i know how to write about it?

this is just so stunning. so lovely.

the simulation theory and the corresponding idea of SO WHAT, to put it as basically as possible, are two things that have always fascinated me, and now here i find them transcribed so lovingly???

at first i didn't know if i'd like this book - doubted i would, really - as characters from the glass hotel popped up but wow. how different. the two couldn't be more dissimilar.

which is a compliment.

bottom line: a really good book with a perfect ending.

(update: raising to 5 stars 6 months later because i can't stop thinking about this book)

reread update

doing the normal thing i do where i reread a book i think is a 5 star almost immediately as some kind of weird gobliny test


oh, gosh. life is so lovely.

review to come / 4.5 or 5 stars

tbr review

will this be a perfect glorious beautifully written book i never stop thinking about (station eleven) or a confusing mess that makes me almost inexplicably mad (the glass hotel).

only one way to find out
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,203 reviews40.8k followers
May 18, 2023
Breathtaking, mind blowing, complex, serene, intelligent!

Those are the first words pop into my mind when I finish the fascinating journey and one of the best books of 2022!

The main question of the book is not as simple as you may think.

What would you do when you find yourself in the middle of time corruption, a kind of unexplainable derangement where moments in time can corrupt one another?

Four people from different time zones felt the same anomaly and their fates intercepted at the same moment when Alan Sami plays violin the Oklahoma City Airship Terminal on 2200, thirteen years old Vincent in the woods of Caiette, northern Vancouver island in early 2000s to film the forest with her camera as Edwin St. John St. Andrew takes his long steps to the same woods in 1812 and the famous sci-fi author Olive Llewellyn walks in the platform of airship terminal in the same time line with Alan Sami performs the enchanting notes.

Both people feel the music and feel the forest, the background voices of platform and different qualities of their own time zones. But how this could be possible! What’s the reason behind the anomaly?

A man called Gaspery- Jacques Roberts starts connecting with this people asking questions about that moment they heard the violin. What they all felt? How could they visually transport themselves to different time zones?

Gaspery Jacques is also a character name belongs to Olive Llewellyn’s best selling novel. But how did she name her character with the same name of a man she’s never seen before?
Who is this Gaspery Jacques? Why he doesn’t get aged? What is his purpose to interrogate the people?

This book is marvelous symphony for my heart and soul! There are some great references of the author’s previous works: Station Eleven and Glass Hotel. And Olive Llewellyn might be reflection of the author who writes a pandemic book in the middle of the pandemic.

This is spectacular and I don’t know how much I can say more and scream loud to convince you to read it asap! Well, I highly advice you to read it asap! This is one of the best things I’ve truly devoured and enjoyed this year!
Profile Image for jessica.
2,535 reviews32.6k followers
April 20, 2022
nothing makes me feel more dumb than reading a time travel book. lol.

i have no idea what it is, but my brain just cant comprehend the concept enough to enjoy stories that use it as a plot device. which is such a shame because i really love ESJMs writing style - its just as lovely and lyrical in this as it is in her previous books. and i said before, when ESJM wrote about a ponzi scheme (one of the dullest topics on earth), that its not what her books say, but how they say it, that makes her stories captivating. but, unfortunately, even my love for her writing couldnt get me to get on board with time travel.

i think the individual POVs on their own are interesting. isolated, they tell nice stories that are full of heart and character. but when they become connected via time travel and the overall larger narrative becomes predominant, thats when the book lost me. but smarter readers who can grasp the logistics of the science should be able to appreciate this kind of storytelling!

so this is a pretty open-and-close case of “its not you, its me.”

3 stars
Profile Image for Dr. Appu Sasidharan (Dasfill).
1,145 reviews2,182 followers
December 9, 2022
Space travel is always an exciting yet perilous proposition.

Similarly, this journey through space and time by Emily St. John Mandel is an exciting yet precarious way to create a novel. A simple mistake might have made this whole attempt a futile one.

In this book, you will have to get yourself ready for a roller coaster ride transcending centuries, planets, and pandemics.

"I think you'd want to visit all those points in time," Zoey said. “You’d want to speak with the letter writer in 1912, the video artist in 2019 or 2020, and the novelist in 2203.”

The above sentence shows us different things happening in different centuries in this book. The journey of Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, a detective in the Night City, to investigate an anomaly in the North American wilderness will take you through an extraordinary experience that might be way beyond your imagination.

What I learned from this book
1) The impact of pandemics in our life
The pandemic plays an important role in this novel. The author goes into the deeper impacts of the pandemic in our daily lives in this book.
"Pandemics don't approach like wars, with the distant thud of artillery growing louder every day and flashes of bombs on the horizon. They arrive in retrospect, essentially. It's disorienting. The pandemic is far away, and then it's all around you with seemingly no intermediate step."

2) Bureaucracy
Ethical dilemmas of bureaucracy are a widely discussed topic. Dilemmas as to whether bureaucracy should become autonomous or directly accountable and to the extent of adherence to the law are all still debatable. Emily St. John Mandel takes a different approach to defining bureaucracy in this book.
"What you have to understand is that bureaucracy is an organism, and the prime goal of every organism is self-protection. Bureaucracy exists to protect itself."

3) Are human beings as a species narcissistic?
This is a tricky question to ask. The author vehemently criticizes the inherent tendency of human beings to believe and behave in a way that they are at the climax of the story. Proper contemplation after finishing this book will give you a better perspective on this concept.
“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"

My favourite three lines from this book
“Sometimes you don't know you're going to throw a grenade until you've already pulled the pin.”

“This is the strange lesson of living in a pandemic: life can be tranquil in the face of death.”

"You write a book with a fictional tattoo and then the tattoo becomes real in the world and after that almost anything seems possible. She'd seen five of those tattoos, but that didn't make it less extraordinary, seeing the way fiction can bleed into the world and leave a mark on someone's skin."

What could have been better?
The author's writing style is a little different from many contemporary authors, and there is a probability that some readers will not grasp the soul of this novel due to her different writing style.

5/5 This book is a brilliant creation that only very few can understand with its whole essence. If you are one among that lucky few, you are going to cherish the experience of reading this book.
Profile Image for Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer.
1,777 reviews1,262 followers
December 31, 2022
2022 Goodreads Choice Science Fiction Novel of the Year but also a major highlight of my literary fiction year.

"Is this the Promised End" – Shakespeare, King Lear

"August said that given an infinite number of parallel universes there had to be one where there had been no pandemic …… or one where they’d been a pandemic, but the virus had a subtly different genetic structure, some miniscule variance that rendered it survivable, in any case a universe in which civilization hadn’t been so brutally interrupted" - Emily St John Mandel, Station Eleven

“hallucinations is the wrong word, it’s more like a creeping sense of unreality, a sense of collapsing borders, reality seeping into the counterlife and the counterlife seeping into memory" – Emily St John Mandel, Glass Hotel

Emily St John Mandel’s 2014 fourth novel – the post apocalyptical “Station Eleven” (dealing with the aftermath of a deadly swine flu pandemic and beginning with an actor dying from a heart attack in a production of King Lear) was already something of a classic (nominated for various literary prizes in US, UK and Canada and winner of the 2015 Arthur C Clarke Science Fiction award) before enjoying a huge resurgence (for obvious reasons) in 2020 (and getting its own HBO mini series in December 2021).

I came to the book in 2020 when I read it back to back with her fifth novel “The Glass Hotel” – read together (and I think it is by far the best way to read them) the novels were simply brilliantly. “The Glass Hotel” in particular, alongside its exploration of capitalism and white collar crime with its pseudo-Madoff plot, is really an exploration of ideas such as shadow worlds, ghost worlds, lost worlds, counter-factual narratives, doubleness, parallel realities: and what really makes the books work so well together is that “The Glass Hotel” is effectively the parallel universe mentioned in the “Station Eleven” quote where the devastating pandemic does not happen, but the global financial crisis does, but with many other links between the novels.

See my review here https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

This her sixth novel, to be published later in 2022, is I think best scene as a companion novel to both of its predecessors.

It is set in the “parallel universe” of “The Glass Hotel” – one which at least until 2021 mirrors our own (no Georgia Flu, but a Financial Crisis including the Alkaitis Ponzi scheme and its repercussions) and with explicitly repeating characters (particularly the two wives – Mirella and Vincent – their post crash encounter in “The Glass Hotel” where Mirella refuses to acknowledge Vincent is replayed here from Mirella’s viewpoint).

But it also features a character - Olive Llewelyn – who is an author of a novel “Marienbad” (I assume as a nod by Mandel to the film “Last Year at Marienbad” which per Wikipedia is “famous for its enigmatic narrative structure, in which time and space are fluid, with no certainty over what is happening to the characters, what they are remembering, or what they are imagining”). For Olive after “three books that no one noticed” her fourth novel pandemic-based dystopian novel (not difficult to see the parallels) suddenly made her feel that she had slipped into a “parallel world ………. a bizarre upside down world where people actually read my work”. That novel (which in one key moment has a character rehearsing a line from King Lear) is now being made into a film so she is touring to promote it – later her book sales take off even more during an actual pandemic. In further self-referentiality Olive, whose first main section of the novel is set during a book tour and the second during a lockdown virtual book tour answers questions about what it is like to talk about a book about a pandemic in a pandemic, how many additional sales she has gathered post pandemic, admits the “scientifically implausible flu” in her novel and is critiqued for the “anticlimactical” death scene of the prophet (all of course explicit allusions to “Station Eleven”).

Now Olive’s book tour takes place in 2203 and while based on the Earth begins from her home on a lunar Colony – because this book even more firmly than “Station Eleven” is a science fiction book, with I have to say a plot that reminds me of Harry Harrison and Dr Who.

The book has a Cloud Atlas type nested structure – and of course it is increasingly clear that Mandel shares much of the same multiverse approach as Mitchell – while perhaps I think exploring the idea with more depth and empathy.

The first part of the book takes place in 1912 – an 18 year old third son Edwin St Andrew St John of a rich and titled English family is exiled (after some uncomfortable remarks about the Empire and his mother’s beloved and much mourned Raj – the first sign incidentally that this is a book about lost and mourned for worlds) to Canada (as a “Remittance man”) where he ends on the Island of Caiette (later of course home of The Glass Hotel – actually called Hotel Caiette). There he has a weird experience in a forest (involving a violin and an inexplicable loud noise) shortly after meeting a mysterious priest – Roberts - with a strange accent.

The action then moves to 2020 – as Mirelle waits outside a concert by Paul (to see what she can find out about his sister Vincent) they are joined by an odd man – Gaspery Roberts – who is keen to find out about a glitch in one of Vincent’s forest-based videos which Paul has set to violin music, and who Mirelle recognises from a traumatic childhood incident.

We then move forwards to Olive’s book tour – and an encounter with a journalist who shares a name Gaspery-Jacques – with a character in Marienbad and who is keen to understand about an odd scene in her novel (which seems to have echoes of Edwin’s trauma and Paul/Vincent’s video – a man playing violin in an airship terminal and a sudden juxtaposition of a forest) – one she admits may have biographical elements.

And then in 2401 we meet Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, a hotel detective from the Night City on the moon, who is co-opted into a programme to investigate anomalies in time and we return to each of the previous stories in turn.

Interestingly for me this part contains an interesting reflection on bureaucracy “bureaucracy is an organism, and the prime goal of every organism is self-preservation” which had strong (if controversial) resonances for me of some of the ways in which the UK COVID response has played out. I do not think this was in any way intended but (just as with “Glass House” and “Station Eleven”) it is the strength, universality and topicality of Mandel’s writing that it sets of such unintended resonances.

Olive’s sections start with her literary musings on dystopia and pandemic literature (why one would write it, why readers are attracted to it) in ways which beautifully explore why “Station Eleven” has proved so popular. Later we get extremely resonant reflections on a pandemic – how the world of home can feel like a lost world when one is travelling for work, but how the world of work and travel can feel like a lost world in lockdown.

Overall this is a book which in a science fiction sense moves beyond parallel worlds to explore time travel and the nature of reality against simulation, but which really in an thematic sense (and like all of Mandel’s trilogy of recent books) is much more of a both a love letter to and requiem for our current world, an exploration of belonging, loss, of technology, of relationships, of what provides ultimate fulfillment and where value is ultimately found.

As a standalone novel I am not fully sure how this works (and I do not think it matches the complexity of "Station Eleven") – as part of a body of work it is brilliant.

My thanks to Picador, Pan Macmillan for an ARC via NetGalley
Profile Image for Melissa ~ Bantering Books.
207 reviews788 followers
April 4, 2022
Be sure to visit Bantering Books to read all my latest reviews.

“… what she found at that moment, as the lights of yet another ambulance flickered over the ceiling, was that it was possible to smile back. This is the strange lesson of living in a pandemic: life can be tranquil in the face of death.”

Emily St. John Mandel brought me out of a writing slump. This is the first book review I’ve written in months, and not only do I want to share my thoughts regarding her latest novel, Sea of Tranquility, but I feel compelled. Leave it to her to be the one to breathe life back into my words.

Because I’m a huge fan. Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel sit high upon my favorites shelf, and now I will be placing Sea of Tranquility beside them. My very own St. John Mandel literary trifecta.

Sea of Tranquility takes us on a trip through time and space. In typical St. John Mandel fashion, the narrative leaps back and forth across centuries, from Earth to colonies on the moon, and the story touches on the always mind-bending topics of time travel and metaphysics. Your head will not hurt, though, not in her hands, as she never allows the science to overwhelm the story.

Pandemics also run rife throughout the narrative, and it, surprisingly, feels incredibly validating. St. John Mandel really gets it and is able to put onto the page what the whole of humanity has experienced these last few COVID-filled years with great acuity. It’s comforting, even.

To be honest, however, the novel was *only* a four-star read up until the very end. The ingenious final act is what did it. The way St. John Mandel finally threads all the pieces of the story together is not only shocking but, in hindsight, brilliantly inevitable.

I cannot recommend Sea of Tranquility highly enough. Or Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel, for that matter. Just go ahead, read all three, and be done with it.

My sincerest appreciation to Emily St. John Mandel and Knopf for the physical Advance Review Copy. All opinions included herein are my own.

Bantering Books
Profile Image for Holly.
1,430 reviews987 followers
April 14, 2022
I'm not sure how I feel about this one. It's very much a 'written during the pandemic' book. It also almost requires you to have already read The Glass Hotel, and it even has a passing reference to Station Eleven. But both of those prior books are better than this one in my opinion. The plot of this book felt like a hodge podge of ideas - life in outer space, the future, life as an author, living through a pandemic, and the morality of time travel. But what really threw me off was the almost complete lack of character development. None of these characters felt 'real' to me. I will still gladly pick up future books by this author, but I can't say I would necessarily recommend this one unfortunately.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews18 followers
April 9, 2022
WOW….”Sea of Tranquility” is soooooo COOL….
….tender and sweet…. mysterious….sad…..reflective….relevant….
LOVE …..LOVE…..Emily St. John Mandel!!!

Having ‘never’ missed reading one novel by Emily —in order—
…..having read (and own every physical book she’s written)….having the joy of meeting her — Canadian novelist and essayist…..[home schooled until age 15; left high school at age 18 to study contemporary dance]….
….Emily had been writing in her diary daily from a young age….
I started raving about her work- —-each of those first three novels:
“Last Night in Montreal”, “The Singer’s Gun”, and “The Lola Quartet”,
before “Station Eleven” > her brilliant post-apocalyptic novel gave her a Pulitzer Prize nomination and world literary household recognition.
“The Glass Hotel”….was Emily’s fifth novel….a mystery-thriller…shortlisted for the Giller Prize…
And now….for her sixth novel …..”Sea of Tranquility”…..
I am so fully satiated with love and admiration….
So rather than another plot review …..(there are many and the blog is an excellent synopsis itself)…
I’ll leave one excerpt …..(maybe 2….maybe even 3)…..but will only share I’m such a huge Emily St. John Mandel fan …..it’s hard to say which book is my favorite.
on an emotional ‘awwww’ reaction level …..storytelling bliss reaction…. crazy ‘hot damn’ admiration for her unblemished — unpolluted writing, reaction….
I have a special heart for “Sea of Tranquility” …..in the same way I did her first book “Last Night in Montreal”…..
I came away with the feeling of being sparkly clean….bathed in purity of salubrious energy.

A few sample excerpts…..

When Edwin reached his designation in Victoria, he
“slips immediately into the same stasis that overcame him in Halifax. It isn’t quite listlessness. He makes the careful inventory at his stops and decides that he isn’t unhappy. He just desires no further movement. If there’s pleasure in action, there’s peace and stillness. He spends his days walking on the beach, sketching, contemplating the sea from the porch. Reading, playing chess with other boarders”.

“What do you mean? It was a strange opening question. What’s it like writing a successful book? What’s it like being
Olive Llewelyn?”
“Oh. It’s real, actually. I wrote three books that no one noticed, no distribution beyond the moon colonies, and then… It’s like slipping into a parallel universe.
When she published Marienbad, she somehow fell into a bizarre upside down world where people actually read her work. It’s extraordinary”.
I giggled at the symbolically inside joke, with the above excerpt.

“I went to the window, in a daze, and looked out at the sea of green. The farm reached almost to the horizon, field upon field with agricultural robots moving slowly in the sunlight. In the far distance, I saw the spires of . . . “

“No stars burn forever”

5 ….*in love* stars!

Profile Image for Sujoya (theoverbookedbibliophile).
433 reviews963 followers
April 7, 2022
“What it was like to leave Earth: A rapid ascent over the green-and-blue world, then the world was blotted out all at once by clouds. The atmosphere turned thin and blue, the blue shaded into indigo, and then — it was like slipping through the skin of a bubble — there was black space.”

In 1912, eighteen-year-old Edwin St. Andrew finds himself crossing the Atlantic after being exiled by his aristocratic family in England on account of his disparaging remarks on colonialism at his family’s dinner table. His travels take him to Canada and eventually he lands in the settlement in Caitte. Here, one day while walking in the woods, he experiences “a flash of darkness, like sudden blindness or an eclipse. He has an impression of being in some vast interior, something like a train station or a cathedral, and there are notes of violin music, there are other people around him, and then an incomprehensible sound” - an unnatural experience he shares in a letter to his family. In the summer of 1994, thirteen-year-old Vincent Smith is walking through the same woods recording her surroundings on video – a recording that her composer brother shares accompanied with his background score during a 2020 performance in New York City – a video that has a glitch- sudden darkness accompanied by violin music, a "whoosh” sound, a “dim cacophony”- that lasts a few moments. In the year 2203, an author by the name of Olive Llewellyn, a resident of the second moon colony, travels to Earth on a book tour to promote her post-apocalyptic novel, "Marienbad" which revolves around a pandemic. A passage in her novel describes one of her characters who, while traveling through Oklahoma City Airship Terminal stops to listen to a violinist and experiences “a fleeting hallucination of forest, fresh air, trees rising around him, a summer’s day”.

An anomaly? A glitch in a simulated reality? A file corruption? A break in reality? Are discrete realities bleeding into each other?

In the year 2401, Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, a security professional employed with the Grand Luna Hotel in the first moon colony - is hired by the Time Institute and is assigned to investigate these unnatural occurrences . Gaspery travels back and forth through time and space , visiting and revisiting the people and the places, witnessing the mysterious events. He meets the son of the aristocrat, the brother and a close friend of the young girl who recorded the video and the author who admits her passage was based on an experience she had traveling through the same terminal. He also finds a fourth individual – the violinist Alan Sami whose music features in those visions. In the course of his travels, he comprehends the fragility of time travel and the ripples that any anomaly can create and finds it increasingly difficult to exercise the “almost inhuman level of detachment” that is required of him on his mission knowing that any manipulation of the timeline will bring with it dire consequences for himself.

A lot is going on in this relatively short novel (my ebook was 252 pages long) but the author’s narrative is structured such that it never feels rushed or too heavy. The author combines themes of time travel, life-threatening pandemics, space travel and other futuristic elements in a tightly woven narrative. The speculative /sci-fi elements are presented in a light and uncomplicated manner and strike a fine balance with the human element of the novel and the themes of family, survival, hope and humanity. Initially, the multiple threads of this novel may seem a tad disjointed, but the author does a marvelous job building up the suspense and brings everything together with a surprising revelation at the end. I also found the discussion (from the perspective of Olive Llewellyn) on the factors that influence the popularity of post-apocalyptic fiction quite interesting.

“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.”

I fell in love with Emily St. John Mandel’s writing after reading Station Eleven– a feeling that was reinforced after reading The Glass Hotel. Naturally, my expectations were high for Sea of Tranquility. With masterful storytelling , themes that resonate and concise and straightforward prose in a well-paced narrative that keeps you turning pages till the very end, Sea of Tranquility does not disappoint! There are references to events and characters from The Glass Hotel and Olive Llewellyn’s novel "Marienbad" appears to be similar to the author’s Station Eleven .Though I feel reading The Glass Hotel prior to this novel would enrich the reading experience, Sea of Tranquility can be enjoyed as a standalone novel for those who have not read The Glass Hotel . I was thrilled to receive a skip-the-line loan from my local library! I promptly set aside my other 'current'reads and finished this book in a day. I know it is only April but I am confident that this novel will feature among my top 10 reads of 2022!
Profile Image for Kay ☼.
1,967 reviews676 followers
May 8, 2022
No star burns forever.

This time-traveling novel follows characters from 4 different centuries. I thought the future would be my favorite but quite the opposite, 1912 grabbed my attention the most, a young man who saw something strange in a forest. He arrived in Halifax and traveled across Canada, descriptions of the landscape were incredible.

The present-day (2020) story was confusing for me and I had to listen a few times. A woman captures a strange anomaly on video. But she's not any woman, her name is Vincent, a character from the author's previous book with a brother referred to as "the composer". Omg, I was lost quite a bit. This timeline is "cleverly" or "confusingly" woven with characters from the author's 2020 The Glass Hotel.

The future part includes an author from 2200 from a moon colony who did a book tour on earth. She wrote a bestselling Pandemic book. Then the distant future in 2400 with The Time Institute. Another confusing section, but I refuse to relisten. I'm guessing this is the author's Station Eleven.

I find certain times more interesting than others. I usually enjoy time-traveling themes but this one didn't fully grab my attention, a great start then fizzles. Maybe I feel the book is somewhat disjointed. I didn't care for the characters except for Edwin in 1912. Many love her books, but I've come to a conclusion this is not an author for me.

All four narrators were very good, but John Lee was superb!!
Profile Image for Andrew Smith.
1,052 reviews580 followers
January 17, 2023
In the author’s last novel The Glass Hotel we were introduced to Vincent and her half-brother Paul and we learned of a link to a Ponzi Scheme which was to have tragic consequences. Well, we are to meet them again here. It’s not clear to what extent their back story is a pivotal element but this is one of the quirky and interesting things about Mandel’s books: she sets about things in a slightly different way to other writers I’ve come across, teasing and surprising in equal measure.

In addition to the continuing discoveries regarding Vincent and Paul we are also taken back in time to a Vancouver forest and forward to time to when lunar colonies are in place. Each segment offers up sight of a slightly puzzling event. How are these individual moments in time linked, and is there a broader significance? It’s clear from the far future view that pandemics and global warming have, to some extent, driven development and exploration. There’s a lot at play here and we haven’t even gotten to the time travel element yet.

If the first half of the book is a slow scene setter then the second half offers much more in terms of both pace and discovery. Aficionados of time travel tales will spot some of the usual tropes, but (as a reader of many such tales) I believe there’s definitely something new here, a different puzzle to solve. Mandel eschews the need for detailed breakdowns of how it’s all done, preferring instead to focus on the bigger picture and on the plight of the characters she’s introduced us to. I found this approach refreshing, I must admit. It’s a relatively short book, coming in at under three hundred pages, but there’s a good deal packed in.

If I have a grumble, it’s that I’d have liked some of the characters to have been fleshed out a little more and I thought some of the transitions in the second half of the book felt a little rushed - for instance, at one point a major character takes a controversial and determining action, seemingly without any forethought. But these are minor quibbles as I believe that once again Mandel has produced a thoughtful and compulsively readable story, one that certainly ticked a lot of boxes for me.

As a final thought, if you haven’t read The Glass Hotel don’t worry, this one works just fine as a stand-alone piece.

My thanks to Pan Macmillan, Picador for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Carolyn Walsh .
1,477 reviews603 followers
April 30, 2022
This is a wonderful, perplexing novel of soaring imagination. It draws on speculative physics, metaphysics, and science fiction in an original, thought-provoking manner. What if what we consider our reality is actually a manufactured simulation? The controls carry a glitch (or file corruption) that bleeds or melds together moments from the past, present, and future for an instant over the centuries. The theory is with the advance of holograms and virtual reality; this is a technical possibility far in the future. Perhaps the sounds, smells, the people, and the world we see around us, and what we consider the reality of our lives is only a simulation.

In 1912, Edwin St. Andrew was exiled from his family's estate in England and is now living as a remittance man in the wilderness of British Columbia. He is indolent and spends his time wandering in the forest. He is shocked to hear violin music played in an airship terminal, falls ill, and believes he has suffered hallucinations. He is questioned by a man impersonating a priest.

In 2020, a young girl filming old-growth trees experienced an anomaly, disrupting time and place.

Olive Llewellen lives on Moon Colony 2 in the year 2203. She is on a book tour scheduled to take her through the colonies and Earth to promote her pandemic novel that has become a bestseller. This is the beginning of a deadly pandemic, soon to lead to lengthy lockdowns and death.

In the future, at about 2400, a hotel security guard, Gaspery, is finding his work boring. He has learned that his sister and a boyhood friend are employed in prominent positions at the Time Institute. He manages to get accepted there and is given an assignment after lengthy training. Time travel has already been invented but is mainly outlawed. Problems have arisen from time travellers making mistakes or breaking the rules, altering timelines. The Time Institute works at restoring these changes. Those charged are imprisoned or made to vanish.

Gaspery's assignment is to go back in time to different years and places and interview the man playing the violin and three others who have experienced the anomalies. He must be impartial and resist any urges to better his subjects' futures. Can he overcome his humanity? Can he solve what is causing the glitches or disruptions?

Many thanks to NetGalley, HarperCollins Canada, and Sarah Gregory for this splendid, memorable, mind-boggling book.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for karen.
3,979 reviews170k followers
July 23, 2022
day six of my "i have covid readathon!"

i am so glad i finally had time to read this one. thanks, covid! i'm also very pleased that i got the indie bookstore edition with the extra chapter AND that someone sent me the extra content from the BN-exclusive edition, so all my S.O.T. bases are covered.

thoughts TK!


new shower curtain, early copy of Sea of Tranquility:

if you tell me it gets better than this, i will not believe you.

in other news, my side-career photographing literary luminaries is really taking off:

Profile Image for Henk.
851 reviews
July 9, 2022
Enjoyable snippets of life that are tied together via time travel. Far from hardcore science fiction, the focus of the author is on human connection, serendipity, free will and morality
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.

More like 3.5 stars, with for me it being serendipitous how closely some of the core messages of the book, on duty to future people and the weight of choices in the now, are to this recent YouTube video of Kurtzgesagt: https://youtu.be/LEENEFaVUzU

While reading Sea of Tranquility I felt kind of like being immersed in the movie Interstellar. Emily St. John Mandel takes us on a fascinating and daring travel through time, following several characters. I immediately felt a connection and liking towards Edwin, characterised by the author in the following manner: Edwin is capable of action but prone to inertia -and He likes to buy things he doesn’t really need.
He is a shunned younger son of a noble British family (after a rather epic rant that includes this comment: William the Conqueror was a thousand years ago, Bert. Surely we might strive to be somewhat more civilized than the maniacal grandson of a Viking raider), send to Canada. There he encounters a strange phenomena in the woods.

To tell to much of the modern timelines is to spoil a bit of the fun but characters from The Glass Hotel feature prominently in the 2000's timeline, making me giddy to see the author building a kind of meta novel comparable to David Mitchell his "Mitchell"verse. Chapter 5 captures the experience of lockdown and zoom calls very well.
A constant is that humans remain flawed, and aware of their character weaknesses without a feeling of agency (or pure bravery) to change circumstances: … whereas by eleven I already had the first suspicions that I might not be exactly the kind of person I wanted to be
This seems the key, and the heart of the novel and the wider oeuvre of the author, expressed most purely in this thought of one of the characters: If someone’s about to drown, you have a duty go pull them from the water.
Also the general morality of time travel, and knowing everyone’s fate (but not being able to interfere) is well done.

What is time travel if not a security concern? a character muses, and the dynamics are unexplained (can one travel into the future for instance), I think that the scenario in The Anomaly, this year’s Prix Concourt winner, with the government hushing up something so momentous as time travel, is more likely.
Also I highly question that 200 years in the future people still use coins, or 400 years later, with exoplanet colonies underway, people are still being hired (instead of AI video surveillance) for security. In this 25th century St. John Mandel even has someones mom working at a post office, and there are still iris scans and people leaving each other voicemails. I can also hardly imagine someone just be allowed to emigrate when having worked on a time machine and having temporal privileged information.

Still, Sea of Tranquility is a quick paced novel with real heart, big questions and an ambitious scope, and I warmly round my appreciation for the novel up to four stars!

It’s hard to know what we know sometimes, isn’t it?

When have we ever believed that the world wasn’t ending?

No star burns forever.
Profile Image for Charlotte May.
696 reviews1,074 followers
May 29, 2022
Man. I really loved this 💖

An epic novel in less than 300 pages!

We follow several characters in different timelines, from 1912 when Edwin St Andrew makes the trip from England to British Columbia to begin a new life, an author 2 centuries later travelling on her book tour across Earth.

Both characters have one thing in common, they have experienced a strange phenomenon. A break in the universe. Edwin, when he was in a forest beneath a maple tree, but heard a violin playing and a strange whoosh noise. The author, Olive Llewelyn when in an airship station on one of the moon colonies - having a flash of a forest in the middle of nowhere.

Gaspery- Jacques Roberts, is a time traveller. Hired to look into this strange phenomenon and perhaps work out what caused it.

Now, I don’t do time travel ever. So the fact that I enjoyed this as much as I did speaks volumes to the authors writing. She describes things in such a way I felt included and I understood what she was saying. This rarely happens for me with time travel in books.

Overall, this was a beautiful story, blurring the lines between time and space. I was entranced and gripped - this is definitely a book I will return to again.

“I think, as a species, we have a desire to believe that we’re living at the climax of the story…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.”


When my library order isn’t available but I walk in and it’s just sitting on the shelf!

😃 🙌
Profile Image for Jasmine.
235 reviews221 followers
March 31, 2022
Sea of Tranquility will transport the reader throughout time.

Emily St. John Mandel’s latest release loosely connects to her previous books Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel.

This story follows several characters in the past, present, and future. It begins in 1912 when Edwin St. Andrew, exiled from his family for his views on colonialism, experiences something so inexplicable he believes he imagined it.

About a century later, Mirella wants to reconnect with her old friend Vincent and learn more about her possible knowledge of a Ponzi scheme that left many in financial ruin.

In 2203, the story follows a well-known author who previously wrote a dystopian book about a pandemic. A book that is gaining popularity again since the population is currently in the clutches of a real pandemic. Sound familiar?

Two centuries later, Gaspery is bored working as a Hotel Detective and thus takes on a riskier but more enlightening job.

A singular moment ties all of these characters together in a way that is difficult for them to comprehend.

It sounds complicated, but Mandel’s writing is so clear and crisp that it’s relatively easy to keep all the timelines and characters in order.

Even though this has ties to her two previous books, they can all be read as standalones. I’ve read The Glass Hotel but haven’t got around to Station Eleven yet.

In some ways, this book reminded me of Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr. They both cover a broad timeline.

This novel has themes of death, illness, loneliness, and hope for humanity.

This is a relatively short novel, but it leaves a huge impact.

Thank you to HarperCollins Canada for providing an arc via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Profile Image for Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader.
2,127 reviews30.3k followers
July 15, 2022
10 stars!

What a gift to readers bestowed by Emily St. John Mandel. In the last two weeks, I’ve had a marathon reading session of Station Eleven, The Glass Hotel, and Sea of Tranquility (shoutout to my friend, Debbie, for the suggestion). Also, I rarely binge books, but this author is completely binge-worthy. While not a series, there are character cameos and stories that come together between the three books. My reviews of Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel are on @goodreads.

Of the three, this is probably the most challenging to describe, so I’m going to use the teaser here: “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.”

Yes, this book involves time travel, and it’s done in such a realistic way. Every aspect of the story feels real and plausible. What will life be like centuries down the road? Wow, was this a captivating glimpse. St. John Mandel is skilled at the perfect balance between plot and characters. So much plot. Such well-developed, strong characters. So much intrigue and tension. So thoughtful.

Where Station Eleven made me anxious over pandemics while still living in the midst of one, there was hope in the end, and Sea of Tranquility offered some further philosophical hope I was not expecting.

There’s so much here I’m not even touching on because it’s all part of the mesmerizing journey. I hope you’ll give all three books a read, in order, because I can’t imagine reading them any other way.

I received a gifted copy.

Many of my reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com and instagram: www.instagram.com/tarheelreader
Profile Image for Swrp.
665 reviews
April 2, 2023
"Sometimes you don`t know you're going to throw a grenade until you've already pulled the pin."
May 26, 2022
blogthestorygraphletterboxd tumblrko-fi

Cloud-Atlas-esque novels seem to be all the rage in 2022…

“This place is precarious, that’s the only word for it. It’s the lightest sketch of civilizations, caught between the forest and the sea. He doesn’t belong here”

This is my third novel by Mandel and once again I have rather conflicting thoughts and feelings about her work. On the one hand, I recognize how talented a writer she is. Her prose has this cool yet delicate quality to it that brought to mind authors such as Hanya Yanagihara and Ann Patchett. I always found myself appreciating her subtle storytelling and her ability to make her characters retain a certain unknowability. I also find her use of imagery to be highly effective in that these motifs add a certain nostalgic atmosphere to her settings. So much so that I often read of her characters and or the landscapes which she writes of with a strong sense of Deja Vu. Maybe because Mandel often returns to the same issues or even goes so far as to refer to the same characters in seemingly unconnected/stand-alone books (a la mandel-multiverse). Here this sense of familiarity with her characters and their struggles is very fitting indeed given the story’s ‘crucial’ theme.

“[T]hese moments that had arisen one after another after another, worlds fading out so gradually that their loss was apparent only in retrospect.”

The book opens in 1912. Edwin St. Andrew is but a young English lad who after angering his father for the last time has been banished to the ‘new world’. His attempts at making a go of things in Canada don’t quite go as smoothly as he’d hoped. There are some stunning descriptions of the landscapes here and there was something about Edwin that appealed to me. There was almost an otherworldly feel to this section, partly due to the remoteness and vastness of Edwin’s new ‘home’ (i am not at all familiar with that type of environment hence my finding it surreal). This section comes to a close with Edwin witnessing something quite Other.
We then are reunited with a side character from The Glass Hotel. It’s corona-time and Mirella (Vincent’s ‘friend’) has yet to fully recover from the death of her partner and the whole Ponzi fallout. She has a girlfriend but we learn virtually nothing about her or their relationship as this section is more of an ode to Vincent. FYI, I hated Vincent in The Glass Hotel. She was the reason why I didn’t really love that book, and, understandably then, I was not particularly enthusiastic when I realized that she would play a role here as well. Even if she is not on the ‘page’, her presence saturates much of Mirella’s narrative, to the point where it struck me as a bit unfair to Mirella herself. She’s an interesting character in her own right and yet we don’t really get to focus on her. Paul, Vincent’s brother, makes an appearance but his character here didn’t strike me as particularly nuanced. It turns out that Vincent too is connected to the bizarre phenomenon witnessed by Edwin and once again the narrative makes much of her ‘art’ (*cough*banal-as-it-is). That the narrative includes Mirella unfavourably comparing her gf to Vincent was kind of a joke. It really cemented why I did not like Vincent, to begin with. I am sick of Not Like Other People type of characters.
The following section is set in the 2200s. Here we learn that some people now live on colonies on the moon, one of them is this famous author named Olive Llewellyn. She’s now on a book tour on Earth where she discusses her hit book which is, surprise surprise, about a pandemic. During her tour however Olive becomes preoccupied with the news about an actual pandemic…Olive struck me as a self-insert. There were so many lines that just came across as if they were coming from Mandel herself. Particularly the questions about what it feels like to have written a pandemic novel when there is an actual pandemic etc…I find this sort of stuff cringe and there was something slightly self-congratulatory and ‘special about Olive that just made it really hard for me to even believe in her (she was a bit of Vincent 2.0). Additionally, this section is set in the 2200s and I did not buy into it. Moon colonies aside the future envisioned here was not particularly thought out. Many inconsistencies have to do with the tech available (people still have devices?) and the way the characters spoke was just too contemporary, almost old-fashioned even (i could all too easily imagine someone saying 'old chap'). This worked for the sections before but here it was just prevented me from fully immersing myself in the events being narrated. The discussions about pandemics, epidemics, and writing about these things, were rather contrived, which again, pulled me out of the story. It turns out that Olive also is connected to the bizarre phenomenon witnessed by Edwin and Vincent.

The final section is set in the 2400s and once again the world described here did not feel particularly ‘futuristic’. While the author does include one or two details that remind us that the people from this century write and speak differently to say now, these were not enough to establish a believable setting. Anyhow, here we follow Gaspery-Jacques Roberts who is a fairly bland character. The most interesting about him is of course his name. His sister is yet another Not Like Other People type of character (there is something about Mandel’s female characters that really annoys me…). She works for this ‘mysterious’ institution and eventually, Gaspery finds himself joining her ranks. He is assigned a mission: to find out more about the anomaly connecting Edwin, Vincent, and Olive. I was hoping that we would return to the previous perspectives, such as Edwin and Mirella, but the narrative from this point onward favours Gaspery. There was a very funny lil scene about his cat, but for the most part, his story struck me as vaguely predictable. The man was bland and the moral dilemma he faces was handled in a rather simplistic and hurried way.

It would have been nice for the timelines set in the 2200s and the 2400s to be less heteronormative and gender-normative. We get a queer character and a sapphic side character but that’s kind of it (if memory serves). There were some interesting themes at play in the book such as human connection and loneliness, empathy and choice. I appreciated the motifs that were interspersed throughout these interconnected narratives, as they consolidated the connection between these seemingly unconnected people. The conversations around pandemics were rather been-there-done-that kind of thing. I actually believe that they would have suited to an article more than this type of piece of fiction. I did find the execution to be ultimately disappointing. While the truth behind this anomaly wasn’t ‘shocking’ I did like the way it was played out. I do wish however that we could have spent more time with the characters we were introduced to early on in the book (rather than sticking to mr. boring and the cringy self-insert).
As you can probably tell by my somewhat incoherent review I feel rather conflicted about this book. Mandel’s prose is *chief’s kiss*. Her characters and her story however were a bit of a flop. I would have liked for the 'anomaly' to retain a certain mystery rather than it being explained away. I think I preferred the subtle magical realism of The Glass Hotel than the more sci-fi elements that were at play here, which were 1) not really convincing and 2) a bit sci-fi 101.

I would definitely recommend it to Mandel fans (my mother among them). If you are, like me, not entirely 'sold' on her work well, it seems unlikely that this will be the one to win you over (then again, i might be wrong here).
Profile Image for Jenna ❤ ❀  ❤.
789 reviews1,185 followers
May 25, 2022
How would we know if we're living in a simulation? Could we even know?

The Oxford philosopher Nick Bostram posited that one of the following must be true:

"1) All human-like civilizations in the universe go extinct before they develop the technological capacity to create simulated realities; 

2) If any civilizations do reach this phase of technological maturity, none of them will bother to run simulations; or 

3) Advanced civilizations would have the ability to create many, many simulations, and that means there are far more simulated worlds than non-simulated ones."

If number three is correct, we're probably living in a simulation. We could all just be Sims characters playing out in some pimply teenager's computer program.

(Disclaimer: I don't know for sure if alien teens get acne, but until we see them, they both do and don't have acne. Or something like that, right, Shrodinger?)

Ever since I first read about the simulation hypothesis, I've enjoyed thinking about it. What or who is this "god" that created the digital universe we live in, our pixelated selves, everything we know and feel and think is real? 

For some reason, considering the simulation hypothesis makes the negative things in life seem not quite as important. Maybe they feel like they're real and so it doesn't matter if they're real or not, but at the same time, it does my worrying brain a lot of good to think in this way.

Emily St. John Mandel has written a gorgeous novel considering the possibility of a simulated universe. It is imaginative, fun, and philosophical. 

The characters, living centuries apart, come to life in Mandel's lyrical prose. They might or might not be simulations, but they are every bit as real as fictional characters can seem.

There are some fabulous twists that left my brain reeling, but it is not an "action" type of story. It's very much character-driven and introspective.

It's more "science-fictiony" than Mandel's previous novels, with time travel and human colonies on the moon and Titan, but I wouldn't call it science fiction because there really isn't any science. 

I won't say more; you can read the blurb if you're interested... this is a rare case where the GR blurb of the book is more than sufficient -- and accurate. 

If you enjoy speculative fiction, the simulation hypothesis, or just beautiful and well-written novels, this is the book for you. It's a quick read at only 255 pages, but wow is there a lot of story in those few pages!

"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." 
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for JanB .
1,146 reviews2,529 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
April 19, 2022
Dnf at 41%

I loved The Glass Hotel, and it was one of my top books of 2020.

This one is more speculative fiction, and not for me. If I’m not sure by 41% what is happening and why, then it’s time to call it and move on to another book.
Profile Image for Hannah.
592 reviews1,053 followers
January 17, 2022
I have not been able to stop thinking about this book but at the same time I have trouble putting my thoughts and feelings into words. This is brilliant. I knew very little going into this book except that I will read anything Emily St. John Mandel writes and as such the book surprised me again and again. It is losely connected to her most recent two novels, Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel, and I love her extended universe so much. She does this better than David Mitchell, whose writing I also adore, and I cannot wait to read whatever comes next. This book is both perfectly structured and compulsively readable, and as always her characterwork is beyond compare. So yes, I loved this.

I received an ARC of this book courtesy of Edelweiss and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,868 reviews16.5k followers
October 20, 2022
Time travel, but this is not just a time travel book, it’s so much more.

First of all, the real hero here is Emily St. John Mandel’s writing which is warm and melodic and thought provoking, like observing a watercolor painting while listening to a string quartet.

This also reminded me of something David Mitchell would write, though Mandel’s prose is more inviting and accessible. This also made me think, obliquely, of Elizabeth Moon’s fiction.

We are conducted along a capricious storyline, with vignettes from disparate centuries, to unravel a mystery, but also the reader enjoys the tour, and we can relish the erudition and eloquence of our guide.

Science Fiction? Yes, but like the writing of Ursula K. LeGuin, Mandel’s fantasy is one drawn on pastel and her gentle hints and clues open for us a dazzling world of discovery and introspective speculation. Mandel asks some interesting questions and offers us the opportunity to consider different ideas.

I very much enjoyed her 2014 novel Station Eleven and now I’m hooked and am on to my next Mandel work.

Profile Image for Ron Charles.
1,034 reviews48.5k followers
April 12, 2022
Emily St. John Mandel’s wildly anticipated novel, “Sea of Tranquility” is a curious thought experiment that borrows from the plague terror she spun in “Station Eleven” and the perception-bending tricks she played in “The Glass Hotel.” (Fans will even catch some characters from that previous novel flickering through this new one.)

“Sea of Tranquility” is an elegant demonstration of Mandel’s facility with a range of tones and historical periods. The novel opens in 1912 when Edwin, a young Englishman who offended his wealthy father, finds himself exiled to the wilds of Western Canada. He has some vague notion that he’ll take up farming, whatever that might entail. In the meantime, he pouts and drifts. “The trouble with Victoria,” he thinks, “is that it’s too much like England without actually being England. It’s a far-distant simulation of England, a….

To read the rest of this review, go to The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/books/...
Profile Image for Blaine.
749 reviews613 followers
April 25, 2022
“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.”

“What are you working on these days? Are you able to work?”

“I’m writing this crazy sci-fi thing,” Olive said.

“Interesting. Can you tell me about it?”

“I don’t know much about it myself, to be honest. I don’t even know if it’s a novel or a novella. It’s actually kind of deranged.”

“I suppose anything written this year is likely to be deranged,” the journalist said, and Olive decided she liked her.
At the end of my review for The Glass Hotel, I asked “What were the odds that Ms. Mandel would release a book during the aftermath of the Great Recession about a pandemic, and then release a book during a pandemic about the Great Recession? The timing is almost impossible to believe.” But I was asking the wrong question. Because the timing of Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel were, ultimately, unforeseeable coincidences. What I should have asked was “what story would an author as brilliant as Emily St. John Mantel choose to write during a pandemic after having lived the experience of becoming a world-famous author as a result of writing a post-pandemic novel a few years before an actual pandemic”?

Sea of Tranquility takes place in four different timelines. In 1918, Edwin St. Andrew is traveling through Canada after being exiled from his British family. In 2020, Mirella Kessler is in Manhattan looking for Vincent Alkaitis, the central character from The Glass Hotel. In 2203, author Olive Llewellyn—who’s most famous novel Marienbad was about a pandemic (“a scientifically implausible flu”) and its survivors—has left her home in the second moon colony to travel around Earth for a book tour. And finally, in 2401, Gaspery-Jacques Roberts is investigating an anomaly in the North American wilderness that somehow links these threads together.

I do not want to say anymore about the plot of Sea of Tranquility for risk of spoilers. But I do want to get back to my question of what Ms. Mandel would write about during a pandemic, which means discussing Olive, as obvious a stand-in for an author as has happened in literature. On the surface, Ms. Mandel uses Olive to talk about book tours, discuss some of the casual sexism she faces from people for daring to be both a professional writer and a mother, and to talk some smack about a contemporary author that I think is Sally Rooney. Then the book goes further, using the book tour to have Olive defend the subtlety of her writing (deliberately anti-climatic as opposed to falsely cinematic) and to discuss why post-apocalyptic fiction has gotten so popular over the last decade. But ultimately, Ms. Mandel uses Olive to seemingly work through her own feelings of watching the birth of an actual pandemic, and underestimating how bad it would get, from her unique position as a writer most famous for a novel about a pandemic. Olive’s presence in the novel seems to be an attempt to grapple with superstitious feelings that she somehow wrote a pandemic into existence. It is fascinating, all the more so for taking place within a much larger story.

Sea of Tranquility is exactly what you’d expect from Emily St. John Mantel. It’s a beautiful story, and very well-plotted, moving back and forth over different time period to tell the slowly connecting stories. While not forming a trilogy with Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel (because the latter takes place in our world while the former is, at least for now, truly fictional), Sea of Tranquility connects the two in a sort of triangle. The writing is dazzling, with exceptional characterization and descriptions, and without ever feeling forced or pretentious. Once again, Ms. Mantel has written an accessible, thought-provoking, moving work of literary fiction. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for li.reading.
62 reviews2,447 followers
May 23, 2023
everybody say thank you emily st john mandel for single-handedly pulling me out of the reading slump trenches

4.5 stars
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