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Sea of Tranquility
Credit: Simon and Schuster

After binging HBO Max's adaptation of Emily St. John Mandel's post-apocalyptic novel Station Eleven, fans of the author won't have to wait long for her next project. Below, EW has an exclusive excerpt from her time-traveling tale Sea of Tranquility (due April 5), which — ever Mandelian — includes a flash to a future era and a few Easter eggs from her previous work.

Excerpt from Sea of Tranquility, by Emily St. John Mandel

The first stop on the book tour was New York City, where Olive did signing events at two bookstores and then found an hour to walk in Central Park before the bookseller dinner. The Sheep Meadow at twilight: silvery light, wet leaves on the grass. The sky was crowded with low-altitude airships, and in the distance the falling-star lights of commuter aircraft streaked upward toward the colonies. Olive paused for a moment to orient herself, then walked toward the ancient double silhouette of the Dakota. Hundred-story towers rose up behind it.

A book tour paradox: Olive missed her husband and daughter with a desperate passion, but also she liked very much being alone in the streets of New York at dusk, and then a day later alone in Salt Lake City at eight thirty in the morning on a Saturday in the bright autumn air, birds wheeling in white light. There's something to be said for looking up at a clear blue sky and knowing that it isn't a dome.

Did Olive wish she could live on Earth? She vacillated on the question. She'd lived all her life in the hundred and fifty square kilometres of the second moon colony, the imaginatively named Colony Two. She found it beautiful—Colony Two was a city of white stone, spired towers, tree-lined streets and small parks, alternating neighborhoods of tall buildings and little houses with miniature lawns, a river running under pedestrian archways—but there's something to be said for unplanned cities. Colony Two was soothing in its symmetry and its order. Sometimes order can be relentless.

"I'm trying not to be pessimistic," Olive said, on the phone to her husband, "but I've barely slept in three days and I doubt I'll be terribly impressive in my lecture tonight."

This was in Red Deer, four days into the tour. Outside the hotel room window, the lights of residential towers glimmered in the dark.

"Don't be pessimistic," Dion said. "Think of that quote I've got pinned up in my office."

" 'It's a great life if you don't weaken,' " Olive said. "How's work going, speaking of your office?"

He sighed. "I got assigned to the new project." Dion was an architect.

"The new university?"

"Yeah, kind of. A centre for the study of physics, but also… I signed an ironclad confidentiality agreement, so don't tell anyone?"

"Of course. I won't tell a soul. But what's so secret about the architecture of a university?"

"It's not quite… I'm not sure it's exactly a university." Dion sounded troubled. "There's some serious weirdness in the blueprints."

"What kind of weirdness?"

"Well, for starters, there's a tunnel under the street connecting the building to Security Headquarters," he said.

"Why would a university need a tunnel to the police?"

"Your guess is as good as mine. And the building backs up on the government building," Dion said, "which, I mean, at first I thought nothing of it. That's prime downtown real estate, so you know, why shouldn't the university build next to the government building, but the two buildings aren't separate. There are so many passageways between them that it's functionally the same building."

"You're right," Olive said, "that seems weird."

"Well, it's a good project for my portfolio, I guess."

Olive understood from his tone that he wanted to change the subject.

She was on an airship over the Atlantic when the answer to the puzzle came to her. Research teams had been working on time travel for decades, both on Earth and in the colonies. In that context, a university for the study of physics, with an underground passageway to the police headquarters and countless literal backdoors into government, made perfect sense. What is time travel if not a security problem?

EXCERPTED FROM SEA OF TRANQUILITY BY EMILY ST. JOHN MANDEL, TO BE PUBLISHED ON APRIL 5, 2022, BY ALFREDA. KNOPF, AN IMPRINT OF THE KNOPF DOUBLEDAY GROUP, A DIVISION OF PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE LLC. COPYRIGHT© 2022 BY EMILY ST. JOHN MANDEL

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