Join BookBrowse today and get access to free books, our twice monthly digital magazine, and more.

Reviews of Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel

Sea of Tranquility

A novel

by Emily St. John Mandel

Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel X
Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Apr 2022, 272 pages

    Paperback:
    Mar 2023, 272 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Butts
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

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 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.

1

No star burns forever. You can say "it's the end of the world" and mean it, but what gets lost in that kind of careless usage is that the world will eventually literally end. Not "civilization," whatever that is, but the actual planet.

Which is not to say that those smaller endings aren't annihilating. A year before I began my training at the Time Institute, I went to a dinner party at my friend Ephrem's place. He was just back from a vacation on Earth, and he had a story about going on a walk in a cemetery with his daughter, Meiying, who was four at the time. Ephrem was an arborist. He liked to go to old cemeteries to look at the trees. But then they found the grave of another four-year-old girl, Ephrem told me, and he just wanted to leave after that. He was used to graveyards, he sought them out, he'd always said he didn't find them depressing, just peaceful, but that one grave just got to him. He looked at it and was unbearably sad. Also it was the worst kind of Earth ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!
  1. What are some of the defining characteristics of society in each of the different time periods/centuries during which the novel takes place? What about how people live, work, and interact stays the same over time in this depiction of our future, and what changes?
  2. Did you identify most with any of the main characters in the novel—Edwin, Mirella, Gaspery, or Olive? What about their story resonated with you?
  3. Does the novel offer a clear explanation with regards to Vincent's role in making the video clip from the forest?
  4. If you were in Gaspery's shoes, would you have changed the past to save Olive and help Edwin? How do you think he felt about the consequences of his decisions? Did you think he did the right thing, despite ...
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Loneliness is a palpable theme in the novel, almost unbearably so. But the web of connectivity among the characters makes them members of a community, even if they don't get to know themselves how they fit into a larger picture. Like The Glass Hotel and Station Eleven, Sea of Tranquility is concerned with deep philosophical questions. The author considers the nature of reality, time and memory, the significance of art in perilous times, and what we owe one another as fellow human beings...continued

Full Review (668 words)

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.

(Reviewed by Lisa Butts).

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
[A] complicated and mysterious puzzle concerning the nature of reality solved perfectly, all loose ends connected...Some of the scenes involving life in 25th-century pandemic quarantine are quite recognizable; this novel is futuristic without being all that dystopian. Perhaps our expectations have changed. Even more boldly imagined than Station Eleven. Exciting to read, relevant, and satisfying.

New York Times
In "Sea of Tranquility," Mandel offers one of her finest novels and one of her most satisfying forays into the arena of speculative fiction yet, but it is her ability to convincingly inhabit the ordinary, and her ability to project a sustaining acknowledgment of beauty, that sets the novel apart.

Publisher's Weekly (starred review)
In Mandel's stunning latest, people find themselves inhabiting different places and times, from early 20th-century Canada to a 23rd-century moon colony…The novel's narratives crystallize flawlessly. Brilliantly combining imagery from science fiction and the current pandemic, Mandel grounds her rich metaphysical speculation in small, beautifully observed human moments. By turns playful, tragic, and tender, this should not be missed.

Library Journal
A distinctly slight work from Mandel, one that is very much enjoyable on its own terms and nails its tonal progression but has too soft a center to hold up to much scrutiny.

Author Blurb Emma Straub, best-selling author of All Adults Here
I could write a thousand words about Emily St. John Mandel, and this book, and this moment but I won't dare spoil it. Truly soul-affirming.

Author Blurb Kiran Millwood Hargrave, author of The Mercies
A spiraling, transportive triumph of storytelling - sci-fi with soul.

Reader Reviews

CarolT

Fascinating time travel
I admit I'm partial to really good time travel. This one is right up there with Connie Willis and Jack Finney. (Odd that Mandel did not include them in her suggested reading list.)

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

Fictional Pandemics

Emily St. John Mandel's Sea of Tranquility features a character Mandel seems to have based loosely on herself: an author named Olive Llewellyn who is famous for writing a novel about a pandemic. Pandemics are a common trope in novels, particularly in the speculative or science fiction genre, with authors considering different imagined scenarios as to how a pandemic might occur and who might be affected. The following is a list of recent novels that feature fictional pandemics as a means of exploring social and political issues as well as human behavior.

Covers of books about fictional pandemics

Station Eleven (2014) – Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven, a finalist for the National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award, and one of BookBrowse's Best of the Year ...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Read-Alikes

Read-Alikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked Sea of Tranquility, try these:

  • Land of Milk and Honey jacket

    Land of Milk and Honey

    by C Pam Zhang

    Published 2023

    About this book

    More by this author

    The award-winning author of How Much of These Hills Is Gold returns with a rapturous and revelatory novel about a young chef whose discovery of pleasure alters her life and, indirectly, the world

  • Harrow jacket

    Harrow

    by Joy Williams

    Published 2022

    About this book

    More by this author

    In her first novel since The Quick and the Dead (a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize), the legendary writer takes us into an uncertain landscape after an environmental apocalypse, a world in which only the man-made has value, but some still wish to salvage the authentic.

We have 6 read-alikes for Sea of Tranquility, but non-members are limited to two results. To see the complete list of this book's read-alikes, you need to be a member.
More books by Emily St. John Mandel
Search read-alikes
How we choose read-alikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Join our inner reading circle, go ad-free and get way more!

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: The Last Bloodcarver
    The Last Bloodcarver
    by Vanessa Le
    The city-state of Theumas is a gleaming metropolis of advanced technology and innovation where the ...
  • Book Jacket: Say Hello to My Little Friend
    Say Hello to My Little Friend
    by Jennine CapĂł Crucet
    Twenty-year-old Ismael Reyes is making a living in Miami as an impersonator of the rapper/singer ...
  • Book Jacket: The Painter's Daughters
    The Painter's Daughters
    by Emily Howes
    Peggy and Molly Gainsborough are sisters and best friends, living an idyllic life in 18th-century ...
  • Book Jacket: Beverly Hills Spy
    Beverly Hills Spy
    by Ronald Drabkin
    When it comes to espionage, not only is truth stranger than fiction, sometimes it can be downright ...

BookBrowse Book Club

Book Jacket
Only the Beautiful
by Susan Meissner
A heartrending story about a young mother's fight to keep her daughter, and the winds of fortune that tear them apart.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The House on Biscayne Bay
    by Chanel Cleeton

    As death stalks a gothic mansion in Miami, the lives of two women intertwine as the past and present collide.

  • Book Jacket

    The Stone Home
    by Crystal Hana Kim

    A moving family drama and coming-of-age story revealing a dark corner of South Korean history.

Who Said...

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

S B the B

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.