Wednesday, September 04, 2019

All Our Wrong Todays - Elan Mastai

With the exception of time travel novels, science fiction is not a genre that I’ve done a whole lot of reading in in recent years. But I love time travel stories so much that I jump at every new one I can find, including this 2017 offering from Canadian author Elan Mastai. The best thing about All Our Wrong Todays is that it takes enough of a different approach to some of the usual paradoxes of time travel that it seems relatively fresh no matter how many time travel novels a reader may have already read. The basic question being explored in All Our Wrong Todays is just how easy it would be for a time-traveler inadvertently to change the present-day world by visiting the past. Just how much interaction in the past would it take to do something critical  enough to alter the present in significant enough a way to impact the lives of billions of people – for good or bad?

Just ask his father; Tom Barren is kind of a loser. Despite living in almost exactly the world anyone growing up on that old cartoon seriesThe Jetsons hoped we would have by the year 2000, Tom really hasn’t done much with his life. “Flying cars, robot maids, food pills, teleportation, jet packs, moving sidewalks, ray guns, hover boards, space vacations, and moon bases” (page 7). It’s all there. Now, Tom’s father, on the other hand, is a recognized scientific genius on the verge of sending the very first team of six time-travelers back into the past, so it’s easy to understand why he is so frustrated by having an only child who has failed miserably at every single thing he has ever attempted. 

Elan Mastai
But Tom’s old man hasn’t seen anything yet because Tom is about to make the biggest mistake of his life, one that will change “the fabric of the universe” in ways no one could have imagined possible. One oversight Tom makes as he leaves present-day 2016, compounded by a careless move he makes when he arrives in 1965 to witness a major event in world history for himself, completely changes the planet’s history. And when Tom returns to 2016 there are no flying cars, moving sidewalks, robot maids, or jet packs to be found. Instead, he finds himself living in what he considers to be the rather primitive conditions of 2016 as the rest of us know it today. 

Tom’s old life, however, was not perfect. He had a few close friends, but he had no meaningful work; his father was a complete jerk who just barely acknowledged Tom’s existence; and his mother spent every waking hour taking care of his father’s needs, pretty much ignoring Tom’s problems in the process. But it was a damn comfortable lifestyle, and Tom misses it. On the other hand, in this new world created by Tom’s foolish mistakes his father is a nice guy whom everyone loves; his mother is a highly respected professional; he is a celebrated Canadian architect; he has a sister who didn’t exist in the old world; and he thinks he has found the love of his life.

So, what’s the guy to do? On the one hand, he has caused the world to be a much harsher place in which war is still common, and he has caused billions of people never to be born at all. On the other hand, he really, really prefers this version of his family to the one he had before his time travel blunders – and he is hopelessly in love. Does he go back to 1965 and try to fix things or does he leave well enough alone? What would you do?

Bottom Line: All Our Wrong Todays is a fun, often thriling, read, but it’s a book that the reader has to pay close attention to while reading it because of the complicated theories of time travel being tested and contrasted throughout the novel. Too, it does have one of those endings in which several years of plot are summarized as kind of a “where are they now” moment. I’m not fond of those and would have much preferred a second book to this kind of ending. That said, I still recommend this one to fans of the genre.

2 comments:

  1. I'm not a huge sci fi/time travel reader, but I do like the sound of this one. I've heard good things about it. Glad you enjoyed!


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    1. I'm fascinated by the paradoxes of time travel and how various authors handle them in their stories, so this one was particularly interesting to me because it focused on some of the biggest problems with the whole theory of time traveling. It has a lot going for it other than just its science fiction aspects, too, so I think you'll probably like it.

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