For a long time I wanted to read Mandel. I picked up her lastest, Sea of Tranquility which had the most gorgeous cover art. Let me tell you that I haven’t read a book as compulsively or as quickly as I did with this in a very long time. I love that the one scene holding this story together takes place in Vancouver Island because having been there several times I can fully appreciate the eerie mood Mandel conjures.
Mandel seems to thrive at the intersection of surrealism and the ordinary. To that extent Sea of Tranquility is science fiction that spans centuries and weaves time-travel and outer-space colonies with plage and war. For a novel that is set across time and space Mandel’s writing is sharp from beginning to end- she rarely falters in holding the reader’s attention. She will take you on this epic saga in a mere 255 pages. That is an incredible feat. I heard somebody describe Mandel’s style in this book as literary chill-pop. Needless to say, I love and second that description.
A couple of weeks before I picked up the book, I listened to this podcast with Mandel which I thought was a great accompaniment to the book if you want to check it out.
Here are some excerpts I loved.
“He spends much of that first day gazing out the window, like a cat. He planned to go west immediately, but it’s so easy to linger in Halifax, where he falls prey to a personal weakness he’s been aware of all his life: Edwin is capable of action but prone to inertia. He likes sitting by his window. There’s a constant movement of people and ships. He doesn’t want to leave, so he stays.”
I visited the Smithsoniain recently which had an exhibit on the evolution of life. What struck me was that our planet has endured five mass extinctions and many more background extinctions. And yet we humans go on living like the world will end with us in it. When in fact it might be only us humans that will end as this planet continues on without us. Madel captures that sentiment brilliantly in this excerpt.
“-and my point is, there’s always something. I think, as a species, we have a desire to believe that we’re living at the climax of the story. It’s a kind of narcissism. We want to believe that we’re uniquely important, that we’re living at the end of history, that now, after all these millennia of false alarms, now is finally the worst that it’s ever been, that finally we have reached the end of the world.”