“Entertainingly mixes thrills and humor.”—Entertainment Weekly “[An] amazing debut novel....Dazzling and complex....Fearlessly funny...
“Entertainingly mixes thrills and humor.”—Entertainment Weekly
“[An] amazing debut novel....Dazzling and complex....Fearlessly funny storytelling.”—The Washington Post
“Instantly engaging....A timeless, if mind-bending, story about the journeys we take, populated by friends, family, lovers, and others, that show us who we might be, could be—and maybe never should be—that eventually leads us to who we are.”—USA Today
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.
From the book
So, the thing is, I come from the world we were supposed to have.
That means nothing to you, obviously, because you live here, in the crappy world we do have. But it never should've turned out like this. And it's all my fault-well, me and to a lesser extent my father and, yeah, I guess a little bit Penelope.
It's hard to know how to start telling this story. But, okay, you know the future that people in the 1950s imagined we'd have? Flying cars, robot maids, food pills, teleportation, jet packs, moving sidewalks, ray guns, hover boards, space vacations, and moon bases. All that dazzling, transformative technology our grandparents were certain was right around the corner. The stuff of world's fairs and pulp science-fiction magazines with titles like Fantastic Future Tales and The Amazing World of Tomorrow. Can you picture it?
Well, it happened.
It all happened, more or less exactly as envisioned. I'm not talking about the future. I'm talking about the present. Today, in the year 2016, humanity lives in a techno-utopian paradise of abundance, purpose, and wonder.
Except we don't. Of course we don't. We live in a world where, sure, there are iPhones and 3D printers and, I don't know, drone strikes or whatever. But it hardly looks like The Jetsons. Except it should. And it did. Until it didn't. But it would have, if I hadn't done what I did. Or, no, hold on, what I will have done.
I'm sorry, despite receiving the best education available to a citizen of the World of Tomorrow, the grammar of this situation is a bit complicated.
Maybe the first person is the wrong way to tell this story. Maybe if I take refuge in the third person I'll find some sort of distance or insight or at least peace of mind. It's worth a try.
Tom Barren wakes up into his own dream.
Every night, neural scanners map his dreams while he sleeps so that both his conscious and unconscious thought patterns can be effectively modeled. Every morning, the neural scanners transmit the current dream-state data into a program that generates a real-time virtual projection into which he seamlessly rouses. The dream's scattershot plot is made increasingly linear and lucid until a psychologically pleasing resolution is achieved at the moment of full consciousness . . .
I'm sorry-I can't write like this. It's fake. It's safe.
The third person is comforting because it's in control, which feels really nice when relating events that were often so out of control. It's like a scientist describing a biological sample seen through a microscope. But I'm not the microscope. I'm the thing on the slide. And I'm not writing this to make myself comfortable. If I wanted comfort, I'd write fiction.
In fiction, you cohere all these evocative, telling details into a portrait of the world. But in everyday life, you hardly notice any of the little things. You can't. Your brain swoops past it all, especially when it's your own home, a place that feels barely separate from the inside of your mind or the outside of your body.
When you wake up from a real dream into a virtual one, it's like you're on a raft darting this way and that according to the blurry, impenetrable currents of your unconscious, until you find yourself gliding onto a wide, calm, shallow lake, and the slippery, fraught weirdness dissolves into serene, reassuring clarity. The story wraps up the way it feels like it must, and no matter how unsettling the content, you wake with the rejuvenating solidity of order restored. And that's when you realize you're lying in bed, ready to start the day, with none of that sticky subconscious gristle caught in the cramped folds of your...
November 14, 2016
In Mastai’s imaginative debut novel, Tom Barren’s 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 born—the 1965 invention of the Goettreider Engine, a clean-energy source that transformed mankind. Unfortunately, Tom’s presence causes the experiment to go haywire. He disappears, and when he rematerializes he is in an alternate timeline, socially and technologically backward—in 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 Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Agent: Simon Lipskar, Writers House.
Starred review from December 1, 2016
Screenwriter Mastai's debut novel is the story of the world's first and, unfortunately for us all, most unqualified time traveler.July 11, 1965, is the day the world changed. It's the day that physicist Lionel Goettreider turns on his new creation, the Goettreider Engine, which works better than he or his 16 witnesses ever imagined: the machine generates an unlimited source of clean energy. How does it work? "It has something to do with magnetism and gravity and...honestly, I don't know...it just works. Or it did. Before, you know, me." This me is Tom Barren, who comes from "the world we were supposed to have." Tom is not from the future but rather a wildly different and more advanced 2016. His reality is a place marked by the "absence of material want," and yet Tom isn't happy. His career and love life are going nowhere, and, considering he is the son of the foremost scientist in the field of time travel, he is pretty much a failure. But then his father intervenes and hires him to become the understudy of Penelope Weschler, the insanely driven woman preparing to become one of the world's first "chrononauts," the fancy term for time traveler. Tom is there in case Penelope royally messes up, which would never happen. But then Tom falls in love with Penelope and Penelope notices, and everything unravels--so much so that Tom finds himself emotionally broken and activating the time machine without permission to go back to July 11, 1965, the moment his world began. And since Tom is not Penelope, things go horribly wrong. Mastai's novel is both charming and wondrously plotted--Tom's self-deprecation in the beginning seems to limit his potential as a character and yet, in the end, he's an impressive feat of memory and consciousness. Mastai considers not only the workings, but the consequences (and there are many) of time travel, packing so much into the last 100 pages it feels as if there's literal weight pressing on your mind. "Existence is not a thing with which to muck around," and yet that's exactly what fantastic storytelling attempts, warping reality, perception, and truth--and hopefully entertaining us as well as this novel does.
COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
September 15, 2016
It's 2016 as imagined in the 1950s; cars fly, the moon is inhabited, and punk rock never existed because, hey, life is good. Not quite at home in this shiny utopia, Tom Barren makes a rash decision that changes the world around him and lands him in our 2016. Should he try to make a go of it in this chaotic new setting he rather likes? A big debut that buzzed at Frankfurt, with rights sold to 25 countries and film rights sold to Paramount.
Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.
PublisherPenguin Publishing Group
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