Sea of Tranquility asks the question of whether this life is real or whether we are living in a simulation. The story is influenced by the COVID pandemic, the increasing importance of artificial intelligence and the rise of authoritarianism.
The story begins in 1912, when Edwin St John St. Andrews is banished from his home in England due to his radical views about England’s presence in India. Edwin makes his way to Canada, where he travels about looking for his place. Ultimately he finds himself in Caiette. One day he goes for a stroll and enters a forest, where he sees a maple tree. “He steps forward—into a flash of darkness, like sudden blindness or an eclipse. He has an impression of being in some vast interior, something like a train station or a cathedral, and there are notes of violin music, there are other people around him, and then an incomprehensible sound—“
When Edwin returns to himself he walks to a church where he meets Father Roberts, a substitute for the Church’s regular priest. Father Roberts asks him to tell him about his experience, but when the church’s real priest arrives Father Roberts disappears.
The story then moves to the year 2020. A composer, Paul Smith, during a performance shows a video his now deceased sister made in Caiette. The video shows his sister walking toward an old maple tree. Then “the screen went black, just for a second, and there was a brief confusion of overlapping sounds—a few notes of violin, a dim cacophony like the interior of a metropolitan train station…” Mirella attends Paul’s performance because she is hoping to track down his sister, Vincent, not knowing that she had died. After the performance, Paul, Mirella and two men, Daniel McConaghy and Gaspery Roberts go for a drink. Mr. Roberts is very interested in the video. Mirella thinks she recognizes Gaspery.
The story then moves to 2202, when Olive, an author is doing a book tour in what we now know as the United States, but in the novel is the Atlantic Republic and other countries. Her travels and the talks make her exhausted. She lives in a moon colony with her husband and daughter and is anxious to return to them. Her husband is an architect and is designing a new university building, which suspiciously includes tunnels attached to the government security building. Olive’s book, Marienbad, is about a pandemic. Her last interview of the trip is in Philadelphia with a gentleman named Gaspery Roberts, which strikes Olive since a character in her book is named Gaspery-Jacques. The interview goes off record.
The book then moves forward to the year 2401 and backward at the same time. In 2401, a gentleman named Gaspery has lost his mother and is working in security. His sister, Zoey, is a physicist at the university. Gaspery goes to work for The Time Institute and becomes a time traveler. It is in this part of the story that everything comes together. I will leave it here and let you enjoy the surprises.
The novel is very enjoyable and thought provoking. “If we were living in a simulation, how would we know it was a simulation?…How do you investigate reality?” If you are a fan of Emily St. John Mandel you will recognize some of the characters from her last novel, The Glass Hotel. You can reserve this book at the Cuyahoga County Public Library by clicking here.