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Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel – Review

“In those streets everyone moved faster than me, but what they didn’t know was that I had already moved too fast, too far, and wished to travel no further. I’ve been thinking a great deal about time and motion lately, about being a still point in the ceaseless rush.”

Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel is a book that covers many topics. Mandel touches upon time travel, pandemics, love, loss, and more but she juggles it all with a firm hand. She managing to write a moving and breakneck novel that had me on the edge of my seat the entire way through. Oh and did I mention the book is sci-fi? It is one of the most interesting books I have read in a hot minute and after I put it down I thought about it long after. Here is my review for Sea of Tranquility.


“No star burns forever.”

Like I mentioned in the intro this book covers a broad number of genres. Set in a timespan of about 500 years Sea of Tranquility focuses on 4 different characters. Each of these characters has been effected in some way by a strange event stretching’s across time and space.

In 1912, Edwin St. John’s family sends him away from Britain to the Canadian wilderness. Mirella Kessler is a woman from 2020 dealing with the loss of a dear friend. Olive Llewellyn is a writer in the year 2203 who lives on the moon. While on tour on Earth she will face the threat of a global pandemic. Lastly, Gaspery-Jacques is a man from 2401 who through a turn of events will defy the the laws of time and might just be the one to solve the mystery that connects them all. Mandel handles each of these storylines masterfully intertwining them in surprising ways that will surprise and entertain.


“In the early evenings Gaspery likes to sit on the farthest possible edge of his bunk, almost falling off the end, because from that angle there was a sliver of sky visible through the window, and through it he could see the moon.”

Similar to our other writer Caitlyn, for me stories are made or broken by the characters that inhabit them. Thankfully Mandel is a skilled enough writer to make each of the people that we follow distinct and likable. I love the way that she uses the characters to relate to her own experiences.

I love all of the characters but I would have to say that my favirote are Gaspery and Olive. Gaspery I would say is the most integral character in the book and is what holds it all together. His arc is the most defined in my opinion. As he struggles with who he is in the universe and how he fits into it you grow attached to his scrappy personality. I am being vague because I don’t want to spoil where the book takes him but I will say that he is the focal point of many plot twists and emotional moments.

Olive seems more like a stand in for Mandel. Olive is also a writer who is dealing with the threat of a global pandemic on Earth. Mandel wrote this book during the COVID-19 pandemic so Olive as a character seems deeply personal. As the book progresses you start to feel a certain unease seep into Olive’s sections as the clues of a pandemic start to form. As a reader who has also lived through a pandemic it creates a sense of urgency and dread as you desperately want the people in the book to wake up to what is happening. This creates a tense and engaging journey for Olive that I just loved.

The other characters have their moments too, especially with Edwin. Edwin is the furthest removed from the rest of the characters. However, Mandel manages to make him integral as well. Overall I think that the characters in this book truly soar.


“Life can be tranquil in the face of death.”

Mandel write this book beautifully. Each of the characters feel distinct with their own voices and worldviews, and the different eras that they live in feel authentic. More than anything I just enjoyed how masterful Mandel is with her writing here. One thing that I always love about an author is when they know how to end a chapter. Mandel does not disappoint here as every chapter ends with you wanting more. It makes the book a breeze to get through.

Final Thoughts

“A life lived in a simulation is still a life”

I thoroughly enjoyed Sea of Tranquility. It juggles engaging topics and superb character work with ease. Although it was written during Covid and was meant to reflect on that time, this book is more relevant now than ever. For fans of sci-fi this is truly required reading and even if you aren’t a sci-fi fan Sea of Tranquility will have you questioning reality long after you flip the final page.

Final Rating: 4.5/5

Sea of Tranquility is available at Barnes & Noble and you can also check out your local bookstores!

Don’t forget to check out Jaxon’s thoughts on this years GDC and read Caitlyn’s review for Jade City by Fonda Lee. For everything else geeky stay right here on Geekwave.


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About the Contributor
Ronny Hammond
Ronny Hammond, Director of Online Publication
Ronny goes by he/him pronouns and is a Junior at the U. He loves to read and write and is currently obtaining his Bachelors degree in English and Game Design. He has a deep love for video games and would always be up talk your ear off about The Last Of Us. You can read up on his game reviews and listen to his guest appearances on the Crimson Gaming Corner and Wishful Thinking podcasts right here on Geekwave.