Mandel plays with time in disturbing ‘Sea of ​​Tranquility’ | Book reviews

Bestinau got that-

By Gail Pennington Especially for the postal delivery

“I suspect I’m not the first to ask you what it’s like to be the author of a pandemic novel during a pandemic,” a holographic interviewer asks novelist Olive Llewellyn in Emily St. John Mandel’s Wonderfully Disturbing ” Sea of ​​Tranquility”. †

Olive could be something of a stand-in for Mandel himself, who will follow the sequel to 2014’s “Station Eleven” (a novel about the aftermath of a deadly flu) and 2020’s “The Glass Hotel” with a trippy journey through time, from 1912 British Columbia through the pandemic year 2203 and beyond.

Mandel keeps countless balls in the air in “Sea of ​​Tranquility,” which comes out Tuesday. We first meet Edwin St. John St. Andrew, a third son saddled with two “holy” names and cut off from his father’s wealth. At the age of 18, he leaves England for Canada, where by sluggishness and coincidence he ends up in a small town on Vancouver Island. There, in a forest, he has a split second, deeply disturbing experience.

Then, in 2020, Mirella Kessler attends a concert by composer Paul Smith in Brooklyn, hoping to find out where his sister Vincent is. There, Smith shows a clip from a video recorded by Vincent, then a teenager, in a Vancouver forest where reality shatters for a split second. (Ah, you say.)

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Mandel likes to drag characters through her books, and in fact Vincent was the protagonist in ‘The Glass Hotel’. You don’t need to have read every previous book to keep up, but the character Easter eggs enrich the experience.

The first segment dedicated to novelist Olive Llewellyn finds her on Earth (a key point) in 2203, touring in support of a new edition of her latest book. It’s being adapted for the screen – just like Mandel’s “Station Eleven”, by HBO Max. Olive’s segments are titled “The Last Book Tour on Earth,” which should keep us on the edge of our seats, if not reaching for a mask.

Emily St. John Mandel

Sarah Shatz

How, readers must ask, can all these disparate plots come together? It turns out they are already starting to intersect, and once we meet Gaspery-Jacques Roberts in 2401, we start to see that time is the key.

Going much deeper into the hows and whys of “Sea of ​​Tranquility” would spoil some of the revelations. But plot isn’t the only thing to enjoy. Any character alone could probably carry a book, and so could the picture – not rosy, but hardly hopeless – Mandel paints of a future Earth.

“No star burns forever,” said Mandel, Gaspery’s muse. “You can say it’s the end of the world and mean it, but what’s lost with that kind of careless use is that the world will literally end eventually. Not ‘civilization’, whatever that is, but the actual planet.”

So by the 22nd century, settlements on the moon have been inhabited just in case for so long that the simulated sky on one of them broke. The solution: call the settlement the Night City.

Good news: We travel by airship and hovercraft in the 2200s. Bad: Pandemics are by no means a thing of the past. Ebola X, two characters reflect, led to a 64-week shutdown, and even as Olive Llewellyn is promoting a book about a deadly disease, rumors of a new virus from Australia are brewing.

Mandel is generous with flashes of wry humor. When his sister, Zoey, hands him a 1912 letter, Gaspery can’t read it. “What alphabet is this?” he asks, calling it “almost English, but crooked and crooked.”

“Gaspery,” his sister says, annoyed. “That’s italic.”

“Sea of ​​Tranquility,” and the author who resembles Mandel, were conceived during the COVID-19 shutdown, she has told interviewers. Putting the fictional novelist on the moon was an escape from the Brooklyn apartment where Mandel, raised in British Columbia, now lives with her husband and daughter.

“Sea of ​​Tranquility” might remind readers a bit of Anthony Doerr’s “Cloud Cuckoo Land” because of the way the fragments collide along the way. It also shares sensibility with many books that play with anomalies of time, including “The Time Traveler’s Wife.”

But Mandel’s style is clearly her own, and she excels at bringing brightness out of the dark. Readers will leave “Sea of ​​Tranquility” like “Station Eleven” for it, with hope for humanity.

Gail Pennington is the retired television critic for The Post-Dispatch.

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