This month, my library book club is reading The Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel. A few of its characters first appear in The Glass Hotel so I decided to read the two novels together. What fascinates me is that Mandel gives the Hotel characters somewhat altered lives in Tranquility—not out of carelessness, but because it fits! The Glass Hotel is very much about how a person's world is created by circumstance and psychology. It has no paranormal threads; but, with a large cast and interlocking plot lines, it offers many, many takes on perception, construction, hiding, disguising, remaking, maturing, drugs, etc. Tranquility, by contrast, is an outright time-travel, sci-fi novel and, as such, opens yet other ways of looking at the worlds, including speculation about the future, (something Mandel did brilliantly in her break-out novel, Station Eleven).
Time-travel fiction always has to face up to (or fudge) the problem that merely by showing up in either the past or the future, a time traveler would change history. Without providing a spoiler, let me say that Mandel's narrative solution in Tranquility is nifty. It raises the fundamental question, how do we know whether we are living in the real world?
For that matter, obviously, no fictional character does!
For two good reviews of The Glass Hotel, click here and here.