I have been reading Emily St. John Mandel since her much praised Station Eleven, (I know there are many Station Eleven fans on Cannonball as it was a book group selection.) I was eagerly looking forward to her latest novel, Sea of Tranquility, and it did not disappoint.
Sea of Tranquility is told in a non-linear fashion, like Cloud Atlas and Cloud Cuckoo Land, but since this novel is about time travel, it makes perfect sense to be told that way. I saw St. John Mandel being interviewed and she said she was inspired by Cloud Atlas when writing this novel.
The novel spans several time periods from 1912 to the 25th century. The story centers around an anomaly in time that the Time Institute is trying to resolve. Could life really just be an AI simulation that we are all part of?
There are a few familiar characters in this book (Vincent and some of his “friends” from The Glass Hotel), along with new ones like the clueless time traveler Gaspery and Olive Llewellyn, an author based loosely upon St. John Mandel. St. John Mandel has given some of her favorite real life book tour anecdotes to her fictional author, who by the way, also pens a pandemic novel. There are threads of pandemic woven throughout the book – the Spanish Flu, Covid, and other future pandemics St. John Mandel has invented.
The book is short and a fast read. The plot is smartly woven together, the characters are well drawn, and the writing is sharp. I highly recommend this book for those who love to read time travel and those who are Station Eleven fans.