Monday, November 28, 2016

All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai

 I give All Our Wrong Todays 4.5 stars. I deducted half a star only because the ending wasn’t perfect (although I don’t have a suggestion for a better ending). Otherwise it is mostly 5 stars  because I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book.

The narrator, Tom Barren, is straight with us right from the first chapter. He lives in our world in 2016. But it’s not supposed to be like this. An unlimited energy source invented in 1965 is supposed to have changed everything, leading to peaceful lives, plenty of food and health care for everyone, transport for all, and plenty of other cool things. But it’s not like that in our current timeline – and Tom himself is to blame. A stupid mistake while stupidly time travelling has changed everything.

Not everything is worse though. Our world is as messed up as we know it to be. But Tom’s personal situation is much, much better. This causes him some highly believable angst, since he knows he need to restore the timeline if possible, no matter what it costs him personally.

Everything in this book seems so plausible, and the time travel science seemed real (whether it is or not) and not too confusing for a nonscientist. I felt I got to know Tom well, given his complicated personal circumstances (I don’t want to spoil anything by saying more), and every now and then Tom hit me with something that I found insightful.

After finding a damaged pocket watch in his original timeline world:
 In the early twentieth century, railroad accidents were commonplace because trains running on the same tracks weren’t accurately synchronized. Keeping time was actually a matter of life or death. A watch like this was made to protect people. Every piece of technology in my world shared a global chronometer, coordinated to the microsecond, a planet of people all living in unison. But this pocket watch was from an era of temporal isolation, a planet of people each inside their own definite of time. (pp. 67-68 of the advance reader copy)
Wow, temporal isolation. What a great concept.

About the new timeline world (our world):
Part of the problem is this world is basically a cesspool of misogyny, male entitlement, and deeply demented gender constructs accepted as casual fact by outrageously large swaths of the human population. Where I come from, gender equality is a given. I’m not talking about absurdly fundamental things like pay equality. I mean that there is no essential difference in the way men and women are perceived in terms of politics or economics or culture. (pp. 159-160)
Maybe the author put this in as a ploy to appeal to his female readers, maybe it’s sincere, but I loved it either way.

At one point he describes his mom as “rereading The Time Machine with what I guess you would call passive-aggressive literary exasperation.” (p. 215) Ha, what a great turn of phrase!

I found this book cleverly constructed and very very entertaining. The author kept me guessing with the plot and threw in twists I didn’t see coming. This would be a perfect book for a long plane ride. Also, it is separated into nice short chapters if you read in short bursts, always a plus for easily finding a place to stop reading.

I read an advance reader copy of All Our Wrong Todays. It will be available for checkout at the Galesburg Public Library in February 2017.

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