You get the feeling that Emily St. John Mandel is not content to rest on her laurels. She not only one-ups herself with every book, she challenges the reader to accept that she’s not going to do what’s expected of her. These qualities make her a delightful author to follow.
St. John Mandel has taken her usual formula of several characters spread out over geography, woven through time, effecting one another in ways they can neither perceive nor imagine, and inserted a version of herself into it and a pandemic mirroring our own. While Station Eleven explored what its like to be a storyteller who performs, Sea of Tranquility explores what its like to be a storyteller who writes. She touches on the frustratingly banal and insulting aspects of it, while reflecting off of a series of characters who bring meaning to Olive’s interactions in her own timeline.
Olive is an author living in the 22nd century. She grew up in the moon, in a habitat that malfunctioned from the start and became the type of place only the poorest colonists lived in. Meanwhile, back in the 19th century, a young English man travels across the Atlantic and Canada to arrive in British Columbia, only to experience an out-of-time event when he chances upon a vision of the future. In an even-far flung future, Gaspery Jacques-Robert is set to investigate the confluence of time-events and how Olive intersects with it all.
Like all great time-stories, it gets weird and a bit confusing- St. John Mandel gleefully chews up more than one time paradox trope. All I can say is if you liked Station Eleven and Glass Hotel, you’re sure to like this book.