Book Review – Sea of Tranquility

I had not read any of Emily St. John Mandel’s books until just a couple of months ago. I picked up her newest release–Sea of Tranquility–as an audiobook and made my way through it quickly. While her books are linked thematically and through some of the characters, you can read them in any order. You can find my review of her earlier book, Station Eleven, here.

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Here is the blurb:

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.


While I didn’t like Sea of Tranquility as much as I did Station Eleven, it was still an intriguing story. Both books are told through different points in time, but Sea of Tranquility is actually about time travel. Like in Station Eleven, pandemics are also part of this story, and eventually the different viewpoint characters become interrelated through the actions of the time travelers.

I had a harder time getting into this book because I didn’t find the opening chapters as engaging as I did for Station Eleven. However, once the overall theme and story started to take a concrete shape, I found myself enjoying it more. I don’t want to spoil anything by giving too many details, but the book delves into concepts of what is real in our world and how people act when faced with knowledge of mortality.

The audiobook is narrated by an ensemble cast, featuring John Lee, Dylan Moore, Arthur Morey, and Kirsten Potter. This is always a little odd to me, as I seem to grow attached to one narrator for a book. One of the voice actors (Kirsten Potter) narrated Station Eleven, and I also enjoy John Lee’s narrations, having listened to several of his performances in the past.

Have you read Sea of Tranquility or any of Emily St. John Mandel’s other work? Let me know in the comments above.

Find more of my book reviews here.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. aquavenatus
    Jun 05, 2022 @ 21:01:02

    So, we’re better off reading this book before reading “Station Eleven.” I know the author said all of her novels are interconnected, but I’m still curious as to which book of hers to read first.

    Reply

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