Emily St. John Mandel had already brought thoughtfulness to the pandemic novel with Station Eleven. With Sea of Tranquility, she infuses another classic science fiction trope with soul, hitting the perfect note between poignant and playful.
Were this time travel novel a movie, it would fit smugly between Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys (or rather Chris Marker’s La Jetée, the short that inspired it) and Ryan Johnson’s Looper. Set in multiple time periods and not always on Earth, Sea of Tranquility tells a compelling story from false beginning to richly satisfying end, tying up all loose ends, and avoiding the convolution the genre is known for.
I already want to read it again, forcing myself to read more slowly, moving beyond the clever, complex but crystal-clear narrative, to mull over its gentle philosophical questions. Every reader is generously encouraged to become their own metaphysical detective. As with Station Eleven, we are invited to ponder our responsibility to generations past and future, and the role of art as a thread knitting the history of mankind into a coherent story. Precise, elegant, and ultimately quite moving, it may have the makings of a future classic.