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Sea of Tranquility

Sea of Tranquility

by Emily St. John Mandel

Narrated by John Lee, Dylan Moore, Arthur Morey, Kirsten Potter

Unabridged — 5 hours, 47 minutes

Emily St. John Mandel
Sea of Tranquility

Sea of Tranquility

by Emily St. John Mandel

Narrated by John Lee, Dylan Moore, Arthur Morey, Kirsten Potter

Unabridged — 5 hours, 47 minutes

Emily St. John Mandel

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NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER ¿ WINNER OF THE GOODREADS CHOICE AWARD ¿ The award-winning, best-selling author of Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel returns with a novel of art, time travel, love, and plague that takes the reader from Vancouver Island in 1912 to a dark colony on the moon five hundred years later, unfurling a story of humanity across centuries and space.

One of the Best Books of the Year: The New York Times, NPR, GoodReads

“One of [Mandel's] finest novels and one of her most satisfying forays into the arena of speculative fiction yet.” -The New York Times

Edwin St. Andrew is eighteen years old when he crosses the Atlantic by steamship, exiled from polite society following an ill-conceived diatribe at a dinner party. He enters the forest, spellbound by the beauty of the Canadian wilderness, and suddenly hears the notes of a violin echoing in an airship terminal-an experience that shocks him to his core. 

Two centuries later a famous writer named Olive Llewellyn is on a book tour. She's traveling all over Earth, but her home is the second moon colony, a place of white stone, spired towers, and artificial beauty. Within the text of Olive's best-selling pandemic novel lies a strange passage: a man plays his violin for change in the echoing corridor of an airship terminal as the trees of a forest rise around him. 

When Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, a detective in the black-skied Night City, is hired to investigate an anomaly in the North American wilderness, he uncovers a series of lives upended: The exiled son of an earl driven to madness, a writer trapped far from home as a pandemic ravages Earth, and a childhood friend from the Night City who, like Gaspery himself, has glimpsed the chance to do something extraordinary that will disrupt the timeline of the universe.

A virtuoso performance that is as human and tender as it is intellectually playful, Sea of Tranquility is a novel of time travel and metaphysics that precisely captures the reality of our current moment.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

★ 02/21/2022

In Mandel’s stunning latest, people find themselves inhabiting different places and times, from early 20th-century Canada to a 23rd-century moon colony. Edwin St. Andrew’s wealthy British family banishes him to Canada after his unpatriotic opinions disrupt a dinner party. Walking in the dense forest near tiny Caiette, B.C., in 1912, he suddenly hears haunting violin music and a human bustle. In 2020 Brooklyn, avant-garde composer Paul James Smith shapes a composition around a fragmentary video shot by his late half sister Vincent (both characters appeared in Mandel’s The Glass Hotel). Its footage of the forest outside Caiette, where Vincent was raised, is abruptly interrupted by a black screen and a collage of sounds including violin notes, a “dim cacophony” reminiscent of a train station, and “a strange kind of whoosh.” Author Olive Llewellyn leaves her home on the moon’s second colony in 2203 to promote her bestselling “pandemic novel” on Earth. As a new virus spreads through Australia, she fields questions about a scene in the book, based on personal experience, in which a character listening to violin music in an Oklahoma City airship terminal feels briefly transported to a forest. In 2401, the secretive, powerful Time Institute is concerned by the glitch that Edwin, Vincent, and Olive have all experienced. When they send investigator Gaspery-Jacques Roberts back in time to discover more, the novel’s narratives crystallize flawlessly. Brilliantly combining imagery from science fiction and the current pandemic, Mandel grounds her rich metaphysical speculation in small, beautifully observed human moments. By turns playful, tragic, and tender, this should not be missed. Agent: Katherine Fausset, Curtis Brown. (Apr.)

From the Publisher

WINNER OF THE GOODREADS CHOICE AWARD NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER One of the Best Books of the Year: The New York Times, NPR, Goodreads, The Washington Post, Financial Times, Oprah Daily, LitHub, USA Today, San Francisco Examiner, Glamour, Mother Jones, Esquire, The Millions,, Powell's Books Blog, The Weather Channel, and Kirkus


A MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK: TIME,,, Bloomberg, San Francisco Chronicle, Seattle Times, Fortune, Glamour, Buzzfeed, Good Housekeeping, Vulture, Bustle, Lit Hub, Medium, Parade, PopSugar, Tech Radar, and more

“In Sea of Tranquility, Mandel offers one of her finest novels and one of her most satisfying forays into the arena of speculative fiction yet, but it is her ability to convincingly inhabit the ordinary, and…project a sustaining acknowledgment of beauty, that sets the novel apart…Born of…empathy and hard-won understanding, beautifully built into language, for all of us who inhabit this ‘green-and-blue world’ and who one day might live well beyond.” 
 —Laird Hunt, The New York Times

Sea of Tranquility is broader in scope than any of Mandel’s previous novels, voyaging profligately across lands and centuries…Destabilizing, extraordinary, and blood-boiling…Mandel weds a sharp, ambivalent self-accounting—the type of study that tends to wear the label ‘autofiction’—to a speculative epic. We are shown what two forms can offer each other, and exposed to the interrogating possibilities of science fiction.” 
—Katy Waldman, The New Yorker

“‘Reality is things as they are,’ Wallace Stevens declared, and who could argue with that? Well, legions of philosophers and any number of novelists, among them Emily St. John Mandel, who, like an ingenious origami artist, seems determined with each new work to add yet another fold to our perception of what is real and one further twist to what we think of as time…Transcendent.” 
—Anna Mundow, Wall Street Journal

"Mandel delivers...with an impish blend of wit and dread. The paradoxes of Gaspery’s adventure will be familiar to anyone who’s studied Jean Baudrillard or seen “Back to the Future.” But Mandel has the stylistic elegance and emotional sympathy to make this more than merely an undergraduate bull session. Absent your own time portal to the 1990s, it’s a chance to... wrestle with the mind-blowing possibility that what is may be entirely different from what we see."
—Ron Charles, The Washington Post

"Bold and exciting...Sea of Tranquility is Ms Mandel’s most ambitious novel yet (which is saying something). Inventive and...mind-bending, thanks to her disrupted timelines and fully realised vision of lunar settlements and parallel universes...Her depiction of a future pandemic is recognisable and touching...An illuminating study of survival and, in the words of one character, 'what makes a world real.'"
The Economist

“Fusing sci-fi and great storytelling, this imaginative novel from the author of Station Eleven explores how technology might control our fate if we abandon compassion.”
People Magazine

"St John Mandel’s tender and idiosyncratic novel will undeniably make its own mark on its readers’ imaginations."
—Alexander Larman, The Guardian

"Mandel’s sensational sixth novel offers immense pleasures of puzzle box plotting and high-flying imagination... Masterfully plotted and deeply moving, this visionary novel folds back on itself like a hall of mirrors to explore just what connects us to one another, and how many extraordinary contingencies bring us to each ordinary day of our lives."
—Adrienne Westenfeld, Esquire

"This story is really about the characters, survival, and human nature. You almost forget about the dystopian backdrop and the fact that the world may be ending and instead you focus on the beauty of the storytelling, the absorbing landscape, and the way these seemingly interconnected characters living in different time periods weave together."
—Hannah Loewentheil, Buzzfeed

I didn't just read Station Eleven, The Glass Hotel, or Mandel's latest, Sea of Tranquility. I lived in those novels and felt the remnants of their weird, chill atmosphere long after I had to move on…World builder is a phrase that's rightly used to describe Mandel's immersive powers as a novelist…Sea Of Tranquility is a poignant, ingeniously constructed and deeply absorbing novel that surveys big questions about the cruel inevitability of time passing, loss, the nature of what we consider reality and, in the end, what finally matters…Mandel is an important novelist of our moment, but doesn't settle for merely replicating our moment. She inhabits it even as she sees beyond it.” 
—Maureen Corrigan, NPR’s Fresh Air

"There is both elegance and tenderness in Mandel’s narrative design...For her, science fiction allows us only enough escape from our context to let us regard it from a softening distance."
—Sophia Nguyen, The Nation

“Lovely, life-affirming…The project of Sea of Tranquility is about finding meaning and beauty within a world that is constantly dying, about relishing a life that seems always on the cusp of awful and irrevocable change…. Mandel’s prose is shot through with moments of unexpected lyricism…that take you by surprise with their limpid sweetness… Nourishing and needed. The world is always ending, this book says, and there is always beauty to be found in it.”
—Constance Grady, Vox

"If there is one thing Emily St. John Mandel is going to do, it’s tell a story that’s so good that you’ll keep reading even though the plot includes pandemics and loss and the frightening future of the planet. St John Mandel’s swift storytelling and puncturing emotional truths will leave you wishing it was hundreds of pages longer. She remains an instant-buy writer."
—Jenny Singer, Glamour

“‘When have we ever believed that the world wasn’t ending?’ asks a character in Emily St. John Mandel’s Sea of Tranquility… At a time when that fear is so acutely alive, the question is revelatory. While Mandel focuses on many of the things that terrify us, she also illustrates how hope and humanity are flames that can never be fully extinguished.”
—Adrienne Gaffney, Elle

"If you loved Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel, you’ll devour this dystopian novel that’s about time travel and mystery as much as it is about love, the importance of family and how much our individual actions impact the world. With vivid and memorable characters, gorgeously imaginative settings and a plot that will have you gasping aloud, it ping-pongs from an eerie encounter in North America in 1912 to the anxiety of trying to escape a plague-ravaged Earth to moon colonies that feel at once just like home and far from it. This is a triumph of science fiction, so give it a try even if the genre usually leaves you cold." 
Good Housekeeping

“Terrible things happen in her books—worlds end, lives crash, large numbers of people die—but even as Mandel looks at these events without flinching, she also always finds a way to upend our usual takes on them…. Survival, she has suggested again and again, may depend more on one’s ability to love than on how well-appointed a fortress one’s bunker is….Mandel almost seems to be looking straight at the reader…asking us, in effect, to look beyond the spectacle of apocalypse to the long sweep of history. The point isn’t the end, because there isn’t a definitive end, just a series of endings. The point is what the people left do next.”
—Stacey D’Erasmo, Oprah Daily

"It is the human story that Mandel excels at portraying...Her writing on nature echoes a brutal solitude, the unease that comes when one ascends a mountain, crosses an expanse of golden plains, or finds themselves floating in space."
—Nylah Burton, Shondaland

“Mandel masterfully connects characters’ observations and senses within any given moment….Sea of Tranquility is…for anyone who wants to think about what the end of the world means, and how our lives matter in the face of it.”
—Megan Otto, Observer

"Reading about a pandemic when the real world is still recovering from one would have been heavy going, were it not for the unerring grace of Mandel's prose."
—Olivia Ho, The Straits Times

“A very knowing novel…Powerful…Very enjoyable…A book brimming with a sense of wonder, a sense of humour, and a sense for the weirdness we’ve all been experienc­ing over the last couple of years.”
—Ian Mond, Locus Magazine

“I could write a thousand words about Emily St. John Mandel, and this book, and this moment but I won’t dare spoil it. Truly soul-affirming.”
—Emma Straub, best-selling author of All Adults Here

"A spiraling, transportive triumph of storytelling - sci-fi with soul."
—Kiran Millwood Hargrave, author of The Mercies 

"An emotionally devastating novel about human connection: what we are to one another—and what we should be." 
—Omar El Akkad, Scientific American

“Each character alone could probably carry a book, and so could the picture — not rosy, but hardly hopeless — that Mandel paints of a future Earth…Generous with flashes of wry humor…Mandel’s style is distinctly her own, and she excels at bringing brightness out of the dark. Readers will leave Sea of Tranquility like Station Eleven before it, feeling hope for humanity.” 
—Gail Pennington, St. Louis Post Dispatch
"A full-on mind-blower. Inspired by real-world ills and eccentric philosophical theories, Mandel has crafted an enthralling narrative puzzle, plunging her relatable characters into a tale that spans five centuries."
—Kevin Canfield, StarTribune

“Mandel is an easy read…No matter where or when we touch down we feel at home in worlds much like our own….Which may be the point she’s getting at: we’re all, and will always be, part of a larger human story. In the face of pandemic or other catastrophes, all roads lead to home, whether those roads connect to the far edge of the Western world or the Far Colonies of space.”
—Alex Good, Toronto Star

“This slim novel is written in a cool, elegant voice, like that of a singer who never wastes a note and who suggests strong emotion underneath her reserve.”
—Jim Higgins, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

"Mandel's writing is incredibly fluid and gripping and never failed to keep me reading."
—Piper Coe, The Eastern Echo

“In Mandel’s stunning latest, people find themselves inhabiting different places and times, from early 20th-century Canada to a 23rd-century moon colony… The novel’s narratives crystallize flawlessly. Brilliantly combining imagery from science fiction and the current pandemic, Mandel grounds her rich metaphysical speculation in small, beautifully observed human moments. By turns playful, tragic, and tender, this should not be missed.”
Publishers Weekly, starred

"A complicated and mysterious puzzle concerning the nature of reality solved perfectly, all loose ends connected... Even more boldly imagined than Station Eleven. Exciting to read, relevant, and satisfying."
Kirkus, starred 

“A time-travel puzzle… Mandel’s prose is beautiful but unfussy; some chapters are compressed into a few poetic lines. The story moves quickly… In the end, the novel’s interlocking plot resolves beautifully, making for a humane and moving time-travel story, as well as a meditation on loneliness and love.”
BookPage, starred

"Sea of Tranquility is [Mandel's] airship, offering readers a lifeline, and transporting them on a thrilling, wistful and memorable journey into the stars."
—Jodé Millman, Booktrib

"A thought-provoking novel that will pull readers in."
—Melissa Flandreau, BookBub

Library Journal


The latest in Mandel's evolving uber novel opus once again builds an utterly singular world while remaining tethered to her previous works (characters from The Glass Hotel are instrumental here). The author's most distinctly genre-inflected work yet, it boasts a laundry list of sf elements; time travel, lunar colonies, and simulation theory are corded to the more grounded influences of music, the natural world, family, and, yes, pandemics (though smartly more abstracted here). Initially taking on an unsettled shape of a mystery replete with myriad narrative ellipses, the narrative eventually slows its pace to fill in its early narrative shading, settling into the perspective of Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, a sort-of layabout who finds himself investigating an "anomaly" that manifests across several centuries and lives. What results is a decidedly lighter and looser work for Mandel, recalling some of the paradox-themed playfulness of Sean Ferrell's Man in the Empty Suit or Charles Yu's How To Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, without leaning full-bore into any quantum specificity. But while its littered enigmas and savvy narrative structure make for effortless reading, both the worldbuilding and Roberts are given short shrift. VERDICT A distinctly slight work from Mandel, one that is very much enjoyable on its own terms and nails its tonal progression but has too soft a center to hold up to much scrutiny.—Luke Gorham

Kirkus Reviews

★ 2022-01-12
Characters living centuries apart all have the same brief, puzzling experience—what does this mean about the nature of time?

In 1912, at an estate in the British countryside, 18-year-old Edwin St. Andrew makes a rude comment at dinner and is sent in disgrace to live in Canada. In 1994, a young girl makes a video in the woods near her home; in 2020, after her death, her composer brother screens it during a concert. (These last two are Vincent and Paul Smith, characters from Mandel's last book, The Glass Hotel.) In 2203, author Olive Llewellyn has left her husband and daughter at home on the moon's Colony Two to travel to Earth for a book tour to promote her pandemic novel, Marienbad (reminiscent of Mandel's own bestselling Station Eleven). " 'I was so confused by your book,' a woman in Dallas said. 'There were all these strands, narratively speaking, all these characters, and I felt like I was waiting for them to connect, but they didn't, ultimately. The book just ended. I was like... "Huh? Is the book missing pages?" It just ended.' " This and other annoyances from Olive's book tour seem to humorously reflect Mandel's own experience, but no one will be making a similar complaint about her latest—a complicated and mysterious puzzle concerning the nature of reality solved perfectly, all loose ends connected. To find out why these various people have all experienced the same weird few seconds of sound and sensation, we must go all the way to the 2400s, when there are three colonies on the moon designed to relieve overcrowding on Earth, and where we meet a character named after someone in Olive's novel—yet he is already strangely familiar. Some of the scenes involving life in 25th-century pandemic quarantine are quite recognizable; this novel is futuristic without being all that dystopian. Perhaps our expectations have changed.

Even more boldly imagined than Station Eleven. Exciting to read, relevant, and satisfying.

Product Details

BN ID: 2940176226348
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Publication date: 04/05/2022
Edition description: Unabridged

Read an Excerpt


No star burns forever. You can say “it’s the end of the world” and mean it, but what gets lost in that kind of careless usage is that the world will eventually literally end. Not “civilization,” whatever that is, but the actual planet.

Which is not to say that those smaller endings aren’t annihilating. A year before I began my training at the Time Institute, I went to a dinner party at my friend Ephrem’s place. He was just back from a vacation on Earth, and he had a story about going on a walk in a cemetery with his daughter, Meiying, who was four at the time. Ephrem was an arborist. He liked to go to old cemeteries to look at the trees. But then they found the grave of another four-year-old girl, Ephrem told me, and he just wanted to leave after that. He was used to graveyards, he sought them out, he’d always said he didn’t find them depressing, just peaceful, but that one grave just got to him. He looked at it and was unbearably sad. Also it was the worst kind of Earth summer day, impossibly humid, and he felt like he couldn’t get enough air. The drone of the cicadas was oppressive. Sweat ran down his back. He told his daughter it was time to go, but she lingered by the gravestone for a moment.

“If her parents loved her,” Meiying said, “it would have felt like the end of the world.”

It was such an eerily astute observation, Ephrem told me, that he stood there staring at her and found himself thinking, Where did you come from? They got out of the cemetery with di!culty—“She had to stop and inspect every goddamn flower and pinecone,” he said—and never went back.

Those are the worlds that end in our day-to-day lives, these stopped children, these annihilating losses, but at the end of Earth there will be actual, literal annihilation, hence the colonies. The first colony on the moon was intended as a prototype, a practice run for establishing a presence in other solar systems in the coming centuries. “Because we’ll have to,” the president of China said, at the press conference where construction on the first colony was announced, “eventually, whether we want to or not, unless we want all of human history and achievement to get sucked into a supernova a few million years down the line.”

I watched footage of that press conference in my sister Zoey’s o!ce, three hundred years after the fact. The president behind the lectern with her o!cials arrayed around her, a crowd of reporters below the stage. One of them raised his hand: “Are we sure it’s going to be a supernova?”

“Of course not,” the president said. “It could be anything. Rogue planet, asteroid storm, you name it. The point is that we’re orbiting a star, and all stars eventually die.”

“But if the star dies,” I said to Zoey, “obviously the Earth’s moon goes with it.”

“Sure,” she said, “but we’re just the prototype, Gaspery. We’re just proof of concept. The Far Colonies have been populated for a hundred and eighty years.”


The first moon colony was built on the silent flatlands of the Sea of Tranquility, near where the Apollo 11 astronauts had landed in a long-ago century. Their flag was still there, in the distance, a fragile little statue on the windless surface.

There was substantial interest in immigration to the colony. Earth was so crowded by then, and such swaths of it had been rendered uninhabitable by flooding or heat. The colony’s architects had set aside space for substantial residential development, which sold out quickly. The developers lobbied successfully for a second colony when they ran out of space in Colony One. But Colony Two was built a little too hastily, and within a century the lighting system on the main dome had failed. The lighting system was meant to mimic the appearance of the sky as viewed from Earth—it was nice to look up and see blue, as opposed to looking up into the void—and when it failed there was no more false atmosphere, no more shifting pixelations to give the impression of clouds, no more carefully calibrated preprogrammed sunrises and sunsets, no more blue. Which is not to suggest that there wasn’t light, but that light was extremely unearthlike: on a bright day, the colonists looked up into space. The juxtaposition of utter darkness with bright light made some people dizzy, although whether this was physical or psychological was up for debate. More seriously, the failure of the dome lighting removed the illusion of the twenty-four-hour day. Now the sun rose rapidly and spent two weeks crossing the sky, after which there were two straight weeks of night.

The cost of repair was deemed prohibitive. There was a degree of adaptation—bedroom windows were outfitted with shutters, so people could sleep during the nights when the sun was out, and street lighting was improved for the days without sunlight— but property values declined, and most people who could a!ord it moved to Colony One or the recently completed Colony Three. “Colony Two” drifted out of common parlance; everyone called it the Night City. It was the place where the sky was always black.

I grew up in the Night City. My walk to school took me past the childhood home of Olive Llewellyn, an author who’d walked those same streets two hundred years ago, not too far out from the moon’s first settlers. It was a little house on a treelined street, and I could tell that it had been pretty once, but the neighborhood had gone downhill since Olive Llewellyn had been a child there. The house was a wreck now, half the windows covered up and gra"ti everywhere, but the plaque by the front door remained. I paid the house no attention, until my mother told me she’d named me after a peripheral character in Marienbad, Llewellyn’s most famous book. I didn’t read the book—I didn’t like books—but my sister Zoey did and reported back: the Gaspery-Jacques in the book wasn’t anything like me.

I decided not to ask her what she meant. I was eleven when she read it, which would have made her thirteen or fourteen. By then she was already a serious, driven kind of person who was obviously going to excel at everything she attempted, whereas by eleven I already had the first suspicions that I might not be exactly the kind of person I wanted to be, and it would be awful if she were to tell me that the other Gaspery-Jacques were, say, a strikingly handsome and generally impressive person who was extremely focused on his schoolwork and never committed petty theft. But nonetheless I began to secretly regard Olive Llewellyn’s childhood home with a degree of respect. I felt connected to it.

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