Emily St. John Mandel's sixth novel, Sea of Tranquility--a dazzling philosophical mystery about mental health and human connection--links early 20th-century Canada, contemporary Manhattan and future moon colonies. Gaspery-Jacques Roberts grew up in Night City on the moon's Colony Two. In 2401, the Time Institute hires him to investigate a recurring blip in time, one experienced in a Vancouver Island forest by Edwin, an English immigrant to Canada in the 1910s, and by Vincent, a teenage girl filming there in the 1990s. Gaspery spots the same anomaly, which occurs while a violinist is playing, at the Oklahoma City Airship Terminal in the year 2172. It's a scene that's key to Night City novelist Olive Llewellyn's Marienbad.
Fans of Mandel's The Glass Hotel will recognize some characters, and those familiar with Station Eleven will find similarities in the pandemic plot of Marienbad. This novel, however, stands alone. It surges forward in time and then works its way back, using date headings as cues. Mandel keeps "the anomaly" nebulous, layering the stories in intriguing ways. The "Last Book Tour on Earth" segments, set just as a pandemic hits, resonate with the Covid-19 experience.
"We knew it was coming," Llewellyn's novel notes with prescience. As Gaspery visits the pivotal dates to scrutinize the glitch, he hopes that with hindsight he can change--for the better--the results of the storylines. Mandel's depth of characterization and breadth of social commentary will, once again, attract those who don't normally read sci-fi. How does she do it? One intricate, compulsively readable hit after another. --Rebecca Foster, freelance reviewer, proofreader and blogger at Bookish Beck