Sea of Tranquility, Emily St. John Mandel

Got this last week, and immediately devoured it in two nights. Sea of Tranquility, by Emily St. John Mandel is a clever, minimal sci-fi novel. it leverages the same characters as The Glass Hotel (I was glad I had read that before). In the end, though, the novel is slight (and indeed, some pages just have a single short paragraph… supposed to be somewhat poetic, but just felt like she was under a deadline to deliver and her agent said fuck it your readers don’t really care. But at the end, the reader does care. The craft and amazingly careful composition that went into Station Eleven are absent here, and instead w get an absorbing but very slight novel with quite limited engagement of a major and important sci-fi theme. If you are going to do sci-fi, don’t do it lazily like this, or like that similar novel The Anomaly (the French one about the rupture). Sci-fi isn’t like deciding to have your character visit Rome so you can have a few paragraphs as backdrop… Just because you (the author) thinks that sci-fi should be written as if the sci-fi was just an incidental external trigger for character development, the reader does not.

About mkevane

Economist at Santa Clara University and Director of Friends of African Village Libraries.
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