All Our Wrong Todays, by Elan Mastai (2017)
2017/03/11 Leave a comment
What a lot of fun this first novel turned out to be! Tom Barren lives in Toronto in a version of 2016 that is the future as it was envisioned in the 1950s – flying cars that rely on clean and unlimited energy, food replicators, disposable clothes that fit perfectly and are recycled into new ones, robots and peace. Oh, this world isn’t without its troubles, of course. His dad is a jerk, and his beloved mother was killed by a runaway hover car. (The robot that entered the programming error was dismantled.) Tom struggles with relationships and despite being 32 and the son of one of the smartest physicists around, who happens to invent a time travel device, he has not yet found his vocation. His job is thanks to Daddy, understudy to Penelope Weschler, training to be the world’s first chrononaut. After a series of mishaps both happenstance and caused by Tom’s poor decision-making, he lands in our reality; 2016 Toronto with its wars, stinky cars, doors that may need to be pushed open, power outlets and clothes that require the wearer to choose well. But it also has his mother still alive, a gentler version of his dad, a sister Greta, and another version of Penelope who runs a bookstore and is quite attracted and attractive to our hero. The music is also better in our world. After discovering his emotional meets are better met in our world, Tom finds himself struggling with the predictable dilemma – does he try to correct the error and return to the future as it should be, or stay in this one? It’s not as simple as that of course; and Mastai uses smart writing, terrific characters and brilliantly complicated plot twists to guide the reader into cheering for this young and imperfect protagonist, all the while enjoying the fruits of his imaginative futures that are quite simply the wrong todays. The book gets off to a bit of a slow start as Mastai sets up the story. Tom isn’t particularly sympathetic – he’s quite frankly a self-indulgent whiner at times. But I was intrigued enough to keep going and soon found myself immersed in this quirky, accessible, “sci-fi light” time travel story that challenges our understanding of reality. It’s a good choice for those who enjoyed Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter, though more fiction than sci-fi. Kirkus gave it a starred review. My thanks to publisher Penguin Random House Canada for the advance reading copy provided through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
More discussion and reviews of this novel: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27405006