Sea of Tranquility: A novel (Hardcover)
April 2022 Indie Next List
“A gem of a novel, spiraling out of place and time to shape our present hopes and anxieties into a story of peace and resilience. Mandel weaves effortlessly between historical and science fiction and is a master of immersive storytelling.”
— Dan Brewster, Prologue Bookshop, Columbus, OH
“One of [Mandel’s] finest novels and one of her most satisfying forays into the arena of speculative fiction yet.” —The New York Times
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.
“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…project a sustaining acknowledgment of beauty, that sets the novel apart…Born of…empathy and hard-won understanding, beautifully built into language, for all of us who inhabit this ‘green-and-blue world’ and who one day might live well beyond.”
—Laird Hunt, The New York Times
“Sea of Tranquility is broader in scope than any of Mandel’s previous novels, voyaging profligately across lands and centuries…Destabilizing, extraordinary, and blood-boiling…Mandel weds a sharp, ambivalent self-accounting—the type of study that tends to wear the label ‘autofiction’—to a speculative epic. We are shown what two forms can offer each other, and exposed to the interrogating possibilities of science fiction.”
—Katy Waldman, The New Yorker
“‘Reality is things as they are,’ Wallace Stevens declared, and who could argue with that? Well, legions of philosophers and any number of novelists, among them Emily St. John Mandel, who, like an ingenious origami artist, seems determined with each new work to add yet another fold to our perception of what is real and one further twist to what we think of as time…Transcendent.”
— Anna Mundow, Wall Street Journal
“Fusing sci-fi and great storytelling, this imaginative novel from the author of Station Eleven explores how technology might control our fate if we abandon compassion.”
“I didn't just read Station Eleven, The Glass Hotel, or Mandel's latest, Sea of Tranquility. I lived in those novels and felt the remnants of their weird, chill atmosphere long after I had to move on…World builder is a phrase that's rightly used to describe Mandel's immersive powers as a novelist…Sea Of Tranquility is a poignant, ingeniously constructed and deeply absorbing novel that surveys big questions about the cruel inevitability of time passing, loss, the nature of what we consider reality and, in the end, what finally matters…Mandel is an important novelist of our moment, but doesn't settle for merely replicating our moment. She inhabits it even as she sees beyond it.”
—Maureen Corrigan, NPR’s Fresh Air
“Lovely, life-affirming…The project of Sea of Tranquility is about finding meaning and beauty within a world that is constantly dying, about relishing a life that seems always on the cusp of awful and irrevocable change…. Mandel’s prose is shot through with moments of unexpected lyricism…that take you by surprise with their limpid sweetness… Nourishing and needed. The world is always ending, this book says, and there is always beauty to be found in it.”
—Constance Grady, Vox
“‘When have we ever believed that the world wasn’t ending?’ asks a character in Emily St. John Mandel’s Sea of Tranquility… At a time when that fear is so acutely alive, the question is revelatory. While Mandel focuses on many of the things that terrify us, she also illustrates how hope and humanity are flames that can never be fully extinguished.”
—Adrienne Gaffney, Elle
"If you loved Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel, you’ll devour this dystopian novel that’s about time travel and mystery as much as it is about love, the importance of family and how much our individual actions impact the world. With vivid and memorable characters, gorgeously imaginative settings and a plot that will have you gasping aloud, it ping-pongs from an eerie encounter in North America in 1912 to the anxiety of trying to escape a plague-ravaged Earth to moon colonies that feel at once just like home and far from it. This is a triumph of science fiction, so give it a try even if the genre usually leaves you cold."
“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.”
—Emma Straub, best-selling author of All Adults Here
"A spiraling, transportive triumph of storytelling - sci-fi with soul."
—Kiran Millwood Hargrave, author of The Mercies
"An emotionally devastating novel about human connection: what we are to one another—and what we should be."
—Omar El Akkad, Scientific American
“Each character alone could probably carry a book, and so could the picture — not rosy, but hardly hopeless — that Mandel paints of a future Earth…Generous with flashes of wry humor…Mandel’s style is distinctly her own, and she excels at bringing brightness out of the dark. Readers will leave Sea of Tranquility like Station Eleven before it, feeling hope for humanity.”
—Gail Pennington, St. Louis Post Dispatch
"A full-on mind-blower. Inspired by real-world ills and eccentric philosophical theories, Mandel has crafted an enthralling narrative puzzle, plunging her relatable characters into a tale that spans five centuries."
—Kevin Canfield, StarTribune
“Mandel is an easy read…No matter where or when we touch down we feel at home in worlds much like our own….Which may be the point she’s getting at: we’re all, and will always be, part of a larger human story. In the face of pandemic or other catastrophes, all roads lead to home, whether those roads connect to the far edge of the Western world or the Far Colonies of space.”
—Alex Good, Toronto Star
“This slim novel is written in a cool, elegant voice, like that of a singer who never wastes a note and who suggests strong emotion underneath her reserve.”
—Jim Higgins, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“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.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred
"A complicated and mysterious puzzle concerning the nature of reality solved perfectly, all loose ends connected... Even more boldly imagined than Station Eleven. Exciting to read, relevant, and satisfying."
“A time-travel puzzle… Mandel’s prose is beautiful but unfussy; some chapters are compressed into a few poetic lines. The story moves quickly… In the end, the novel’s interlocking plot resolves beautifully, making for a humane and moving time-travel story, as well as a meditation on loneliness and love.”