Imagine if you generally screwed up and disappointed people your entire life. Your genius father grudgingly employs you at his state of the research facility where he is perfecting a time machine. Imagine you inadvertently destroy his career and his research project. Now imagine you try to do something right for once and you screw up the entire timeline of the world. The utopian world of infinite energy and resources is gone and the world is…well, it is the world we are in. All Our Wrong Todays is Elan Mastai’s exploration of time’s paradoxes. While it seems like science fiction, it is mostly in the here and now, but remember this here and now is not the right one.
You’re Tom Barren. That’s your story and you’re sticking to it even though your family thinks you’re mentally ill. And by the way, your name is John, not Tom, and you’re not a screw up, you’re a famous architect. And that girl you saw disintegrate in front of your eyes is alive here and in love with you. So what’s the problem?
Well, there is the guilt about all the people who don’t exist now, and the wars, the pollution, the climate change, the poverty and everything else that continues because you screwed up the energy revolution that changed the world when you jumped back in time to 1965.
The paradoxes of time travel, causal loops and competing timelines, as well as competing consciousness are all part of what should be an exciting caper through time and time again. There’s an emphasis on humor, on being light-hearted and entertaining that should make this a joy to read.
I say should because for me, this book was a failure. It is narrated by Tom, a thirty-two year old man, and yet the voice in this story seems like Young Adult fiction. I was shocked when I discovered our hero’s age, he would have been more credible as a high school student working for his dad after school. He could have still had a love interest, after all is any love so intense and all-consuming as first love?
I have to say, I loved All Our Wrong Todays at the beginning. I began to lose interest as Mastai dived deep into speculation and explanation, into interminable monologues of maybes. I was increasingly bored. There is far too much repetition. When his love interest Penny has a chapter-long monologue reprising a horrible incident from her perspective, I was just so tired. Yes, she deserves a voice, especially after what happened, but why can’t people have conversations instead of speeches? This is a book full of declamation instead of dialogue and it got tiresome.
I want so much to like All Our Wrong Todays . I like time travel stories. I like paradoxes. I like books that imagine a better world. The ideology appeals to me. I want so much to love this book and the disappointment is worse because I think there is so much that was good about his concept. His vision of a better world is entrancing, but it’s all so shallow, so glib, and so juvenile. It it had been envisioned as Young Adult, I think it would have been a better book because Tom is immature, not just emotionally, but in how he talks. He does not sound like an adult. Since he’s the narrator, that’s a problem. It would be easier to accept and believe him as a sixteen-year old than a thirty-something.
To Mastai’s credit, the story is original and creative. He’s got wild ideas about the future, time travel. The problems and challenges should be interesting and they were—the first time I read them.
All Our Wrong Todays will be released on February 7th, 2017. I was provided an advance e-galley by the publisher through NetGalley.