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Fantasy Friday: Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel

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.

Amazon Link: Sea of Tranquility

Author: Emily St. John Mandel

Genre: Science fiction

Rating: 5/5 stars

This story is not long but it has a lot of layers. It weaves together a wide range of characters and times into a rich tapestry that comes together into a satisfying picture at the end. Despite their differences, I liked all the characters and the little glimpses I got into their lives.

I was curious to read this book after watching and then reading Station Eleven. I enjoyed both, although the novel is very different than the TV adaptation. But I liked this book even better because of the intentional way the plot weaves together. Station Eleven felt a little random and disconnected at times.

Funny enough, I think the author responded to some of the criticism about Station Eleven in this novel. She mentions a character who is a sci-fi author going on a book tour after one of her books suddenly gains popularity because of a movie adaptation. I could imagine many of the characters’ comments might parallel to some of Mandel’s real experiences.

Some people call this type of book “soft” science fiction because it focuses more on characters and their emotional journey (instead of “hard” science fiction that focuses on technology).

I recommend this book to fans of Ursula K. Le Guin’s science fiction, especially A Fisherman of the Inland Sea.


I'm an author, a blogger, and a nerd. I read and write fantasy.