Friday, March 10, 2017

All Our Wrong Todays

Great cover, though! Love the Toronto skyline
All Our Wrong Todays / Elan Mastai
Toronto: Doubleday Canada, c2017.
384 p.

This book has been getting a lot of buzz, so when it was my turn to take it home from the library I was really excited. 

And I read it very quickly, and enjoyed it. It features a young man who is a bit of schlump; he uses his father's time machine to try to go back to witness the moment that sparked the technological marvel that is his utopian 2016. But of course things go badly wrong, and he ends up in *our* 2016, having destroyed his own timeline. And ours is a poor copy. Now he has to decide if he should stay put in a 2016 in which his family loves him and he has a girlfriend, or restore his own timeline in which he personally doesn't come off so well.

It's lively and entertaining, with lots of sciencey bits on the elements of time travel that the author carefully researched for veracity. The back and forth of time travel and its effects is essential to the story; but unfortunately the ethical dilemma he faces is kind of undercut in the last part of the book when it becomes clear that his original timeline is gone and not restorable no matter what he does. And in the last pages it's revealed that a disastrous dystopia was another timeline option that he narrowly avoids bringing into reality, so it's all evenses, I guess. 

If I don't delve too deeply into the logic, and don't think too hard about how much I disliked the bro-ish main character (and for that matter, many of the male characters) I'd say this is a fun, light read. Tom is a bit of a sad sack in his perfect life though, having achieved nothing and working for his brilliant scientist father as a pity hire. The way he mopes about and feels sorry for himself I assumed he was 20 at most, but later in the story he's revealed as being in his early 30s. What? There's really no character to this character and despite the huge events he causes later, he doesn't really seem to grow up very much through his experiences. 

Anyhow, I do like a good time travel story, with all its emphasis on technology and the difficulties inherent in changes to the timeline and what that means for individual lives. So I mostly liked this one but it's probably not going to find a permanent home on my own bookshelves, even if I do live in Tom's miserable 2016 in which real paper books still have a useful existence. 

If you like fast-moving stories that depend on technological gadgets and sciencey interludes for excitement, you might also find this one a mostly engaging read, however.

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Readalikes:

Two other books I'm most strongly reminded of by this novel are:

Charles Yu's How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, in which a young man (also with issues in his relationship to his father) travels in time, as a time travel technician. With added philosophizing.

Robert Charles Wilson's Last Year, for its focus on futuristic tech which allows for time travel, even though neither the present nor the past is too hot in regard to social conditions.

4 comments:

  1. Yes, I recall it was a bitter and telling joke just a few months ago: 2016 is the result of time travellers going back to try and fix things, and making them worse.

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    1. That's for sure. Feels like *something* happened!

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  2. This sounds like fun. I used to love time-travel stories, flat-out, but now I'm less likely to pick them up. Although I did read Stephen King's alternate history about trying to avoid the JFK assassination last year, and that was really quite entertaining. (But, then, Stephen King: good stuff.)

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    1. This was fun, but with a few drawbacks. I do like time travel -- my favourites are Connie Willis' Oxford series, by far.

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