Three people, separately and at different points over three hundred years, experience an anomaly. In the middle of their ordinary lives, there is an instant of blackness, a violin, a strange sound. Then everything reverts to normal. One of these is an exile from England in Canada in 1812; one a novelist visiting Earth on a book tour; one is Vincent, a young woman walking through a wilderness. Also linking them is the detective Gaspery-Jacques Roberts from the 25th century, who is investigating this glitch in time and space.
Sea of Tranquility follows St. John Mandel’s outstanding novel The Glass Hotel (see https://riversidebookshop.co.uk/2020/08/05/the-glass-hotel-by-emily-st-john-mandel/). Several characters, including Vincent and Mirella, appear here. I shouted out loud, I was so delighted to see Vincent again. The humanity and relatability of the characters is clear, so much so that their extraordinary circumstances came to seem normal to me as I read. Off world colonies and multiple worlds are made familiar to us by the concerns of those living in them: fear in the face of danger, suspicion of overarching authorities, affection for home, and the pull of those you love. Olive, visiting Earth and more specifically Salt Lake City, says: “There’s something to be said for looking up at a clear blue sky and knowing that it isn’t a dome”.
Like Octavia E. Butler, whose novels I am belatedly discovering, St. John Mandel uses her futuristic work to explore ideas about ethics and responsibility. If you knew what was going to happen to everyone you met, would you be able to resist intervening in their lives? Who gets to decide what is the ‘right’ world, the ‘correct’ timeline, and why?
The novelist Olive Llewellyn speaks of pandemics to her book tour audiences, and the Covid-19 pandemic features as a historical incident. But as a new virus pops up on the news during the tour, her reactions to it feel very familiar to us. As do her feelings, in 2203, being asked about being away from her young daughter for work. A woman praises Olive’s husband for looking after her daughter. “Forgive me,” Olive said, “I fear there’s a problem with my translator bot. I thought you said he was kind to care for his own child”.
I enjoyed this novel so much. There is also a good cat in this book.