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Elan Mastai's acclaimed debut novel is a story of friendship and family, of unexpected journeys and alternate paths, and of love in its multitude of forms. It's 2016, and in Tom Barren's world, technology has solved all of humanity's problems--there's no war, no poverty, no under-ripe avocadoes. Unfortunately, Tom isn't happy. He's lost the girl of his dreams. And what do you do when you're heartbroken and have a time machine? Something stupid. Finding himself stranded in a terrible alternate reality--which we immediately recognize as our 2016--Tom is desperate to fix his mistake and go home. Right up until the moment he discovers wonderfully unexpected versions of his family, his career, and the woman who may just be the love of his life. Now Tom faces an impossible choice. Go back to his perfect but loveless life. Or stay in our messy reality with a soulmate by his side. His search for the answer takes him across continents and timelines in a quest to figure out, finally, who he really is and what his future--our future--is supposed to be. Filled with humor and heart and packed with insight, intelligence, and mind-bending invention, All Our Wrong Todays is a powerful and moving story of life, loss, and love.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-11-14
- Reviewer: Staff
In Mastais imaginative debut novel, Tom Barrens version of 2016 is a technological utopia based on a model popularized by 1950s science fiction. There are flying cars, robot maids, jet packs, teleportation, ray guns, and space vacations. Thanks to an experimental time machine, Tom travels back to the moment this glorious future was bornthe 1965 invention of the Goettreider Engine, a clean-energy source that transformed mankind. Unfortunately, Toms presence causes the experiment to go haywire. He disappears, and when he rematerializes he is in an alternate timeline, socially and technologically backwardin other words, our own 2016. Horrified at what he sees, Tom tries to come to terms with his new environment, which is only made bearable by a bookstore owner named Penny, with whom he promptly falls in love. In order to prove to her where he is really from, Tom is forced to track down the scientist who invented the clean-energy device. From here, the story takes several startling turns as Tom tries to make things right by using another time machine to change the future of this timeline. Mastai has fun with all the usual conventions of time travel and its many paradoxes, and the cherry on top is his dialogue, reminiscent of Douglas Adamss The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Agent: Simon Lipskar, Writers House. (Feb.)
Stumbling into a much different 2016
Amid the deluge of unreliable, devious narrators that compose so much of recent fiction, meet Tom Barren. He’s refreshingly truthful, completely forthright—and an abject failure. In the debut novel from Toronto author and screenwriter Elan Mastai, Tom would like to tell you how he screwed up the future.
Tom’s self-effacing memoir opens with a dose of physics, as our apologetic hero does his best to explain just how he got stuck in the “dank, grimy horror” that is our 2016. Tom is from an alternate reality, the kind of utopian future that Americans dreamed of in the 1950s. In this technological paradise, the groundbreaking Goettreider Engine uses the Earth’s rotation to power all of humanity. Below-average Tom might be a disappointment to his genius father, but things are generally pretty good for humankind in his 2016. That is, until—in a fit of rage, guilt and grief—Tom defiantly hops into the time machine his father has built and accidentally halts the creation of the Goettreider Engine.
Mastai’s utopian worldbuilding is complex and imaginative, but some of the book’s most memorable sections are when Tom attempts to navigate our “retrograde” world. Here, his family is different: His mother is still alive, his father is kind, and he has a sharp-witted sister. His love is different, and his failures are different. This isn’t your typical time-travel story where the wrong reality needs to be righted.
An entertaining rom-com of errors, All Our Wrong Todays backflips through paradoxes while exploring provocative questions of grief and the multitudes we contain within ourselves. Ultimately, it’s a story about love—and the stupid things we’ll do for it.