Sea Of Tranquility by Emily St.John Mandel
Updated: May 2
Sea Of Tranquility is a smashing fast paced, witty & entertaining read. The plot of time travel is a very popular choice among Sci-Fi novels that got me a little cautious, sometimes there is lack of pace or progress. In this novel, it is an utter surprise of charm & literary exploration that I have not seen in a while.
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Her wit is excellent. There were comments made through Olive - like in the taxi rides during tours - where she would often reference a significant achievement, honesty or plain inner thoughts that could have been said but weren't. Olive was regarded as rational, aware & genuine, possibly burnout & homesick too.
Supposedly, Sea Of Tranquility is a sequel to Station Eleven which I admit to not have read. Yet, I find this book an intimate account of human intrigue to ideas we would explore throughout life. Mandel's ideas poses to have a creative flair like the exploration of Stimulation Hypothesis - an artificial superintelligence amongst timelines. It's juggling plot is about "a person in the forest in the twenty first century sees a flash of darkness and hears a noise from an airship terminal two centuries later. A person in the airship terminal in the twenty third century sees a flash of darkness and is struck by the sensation of standing in a forest" which is all observed by someone in the future ('remittance men'). There are anomalies in the timeline which the remittance men cannot mess with so exploring these colonies and earth are life threatening to all parties.
Mandel cleverly integrates multiple literary devices that play well with her characters. It was simple things like change of timelines, different points of views, transcripts and conversations gave it more of an entertaining appeal that still gave it a muddling twist in places of time. There were witty lines from people who attended the book tour saying "‘There were all these strands, narratively speaking, all these characters, and I felt like I was waiting for them to connect, but they didn’t ultimately … It just ended'" so it's like your now expecting it., I was impressed with the title alone. Sea Of Tranquility is the first landing point on the moon, another world visited by humans hence the plot. It gives off a blue blush colour that has higher metal contents in the area which resembles the ARC cover that is impossible to show how pretty it is. The title also has connotations of peace. I was listening to The Minimalist Podcast where they discuss 'what is tranquility' ultimately concluding it means serenity or a neutral space. Like the plot, everything in time needs to be laid out neatly with no repercussions.
The novel touches up on the overall question of life. Mandel references this in dialogue with the characters, like above, as her main character Olive experiences a spared occasion that could have been lived in an alternative reality. It is the first book I have read referencing the latest pandemic but is not the first time the theme has been played with in the genre. It is important to take the lesson that humanity is never at a constant resting state; we simply live life in a panic thinking about the impending unknown when the world is no longer but each own reality's disasters can have the same effect.
Thank you to Pan Macmillan who gifted an ARC of Sea of Tranquility & Mandel who gave permission for it to be distributed exclusively.